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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

A clear majority of Americans want Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to cancel the Senate’s August vacation and pass gun safety legislation, according to a USA Today/Ipsos poll released Wednesday. Even Republicans are more likely than not to support these ideas. But thus far McConnell has refused to do either.

The new poll was put in the field after this weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, and shows gun safety legislation has the support of Democrats, Republicans, and independents.

A solid 67 percent of Americans want the Senate to pass the universal background check bill passed by the House of Representatives. That figure includes a majority of Republicans (59 percent), Democrats (79 percent), and independents (53 percent).

While Americans support the bill, it has sat on McConnell’s desk for more than 160 days, and Trump threatened to veto the bill if it ever made it to his desk.

When asked what is responsible for mass shootings, a majority of Republicans, Democrats, and independents agreed that both loose gun laws and racism/white nationalism were responsible. A majority of Americans also laid blame on the mental health system and the NRA.

Half the country said Trump, who regularly employs white nationalist rhetoric, bears some level of responsibility.

When it comes to McConnell canceling the Senate’s August vacation time to address gun violence, 52 percent of Americans support the idea. More Republicans support the idea (43 percent) than oppose it (37 percent), and an overwhelming majority of Democrats (62 percent) support the notion.

The same poll showed Americans overwhelmingly want stricter gun laws, by a 72 percent to 11 percent margin. The House of Representatives has already passed major pieces of gun safety legislation.

In the past, conservatives like Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) made public declarations demanding McConnell cancel the August recess so the Senate could work. But when it comes to addressing gun violence this year, both Ernst and Tillis are silent.

One Republican, Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, used an appearance the day after the Dayton shooting to say he does not support any gun safety legislation at all.

The only person standing in the way of giving Americans what they want in McConnell.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

Photo by expertinfantry/ CC BY 2.0

At this moment, the president of the United States is threatening to "throw out" the votes of millions of Americans to hijack an election that he seems more than likely to lose. Donald Trump is openly demanding that state authorities invalidate lawful absentee ballots, no different from the primary ballot he mailed to his new home state of Florida, for the sole purpose of cheating. And his undemocratic scheme appears to enjoy at least nominal support from the Supreme Court, which may be called upon to adjudicate the matter.

But what is even worse than Trump's coup plot — and the apparent assent of unprincipled jurists such as Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh — is the Democratic Party's feeble response to this historic outrage. It is the kind of issue that Republicans, with their well-earned reputation for political hardball, would know how to exploit fully and furiously.

They know because they won the same game in Florida 20 years ago.

During that ultimate legal showdown between George W. Bush and Al Gore, when every single vote mattered, a Democratic lawyer argued in a memorandum to the Gore team that the validity of absentee ballots arriving after Election Day should be challenged. He had the law on his side in that particular instance — but not the politics.

As soon as the Republicans got hold of that memo, they realized that it was explosive. Why? Many of the late ballots the Democrats aimed to invalidate in Florida had been sent by military voters, and the idea of discarding the votes of service personnel was repellent to all Americans. Former Secretary of State James Baker, who was overseeing the Florida recount for Bush, swiftly denounced the Democratic plot against the soldiers, saying: "Here we have ... these brave young men and women serving us overseas. And the postmark on their ballot is one day late. And you're going to deny him the right to vote?"

Never mind the grammar; Baker's message was powerful — and was followed by equally indignant messages in the following days from a parade of prominent Bush backers including retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, the immensely popular commander of U.S. troops in the Desert Storm invasion that drove Saddam Hussein's army out of Kuwait. Fortuitously, Schwarzkopf happened to be on the scene as a resident of Florida.

As Jeffrey Toobin recounted in Too Close to Call, his superb book on the Florida 2000 fiasco, the Democrats had no choice but to retreat. "I would give the benefit of the doubt to ballots coming in from military personnel," conceded then-Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Gore's running mate, during a defensive appearance on Meet the Press. But Toobin says Gore soon realized that to reject military ballots would render him unable to serve as commander in chief — and that it would be morally wrong.

Fast-forward to 2020, when many of the same figures on the Republican side are now poised to argue that absentee ballots, which will include many thousands of military votes — should not be counted after Election Day, even if they arrived on time. Among those Republicans is Justice Kavanaugh, who made the opposite argument as a young lawyer working for Bush in Florida 20 years ago. Nobody expects legal consistency or democratic morality from a hack like him, but someone should force him and his Republican colleagues to own this moment of shame.

Who can do that? Joe Biden's campaign and the Democratic Party ought to be exposing the Republican assault on military ballots — and, by the same token, every legally valid absentee ballot — every day. But the Democrats notoriously lack the killer instinct of their partisan rivals, even at a moment of existential crisis like this one.

No, this is clearly a job for the ex-Republicans of the Lincoln Project, who certainly recall what happened in Florida in 2000. They have the attitude and aptitude of political assassins. They surely know how to raise hell over an issue like military votes — and now is the time to exercise those aggressive skills in defense of democracy.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at