November Meeting Report – Protecting Our Democracy with Joel McCleary

By Reggie Jue —

Our speaker this month was Joel McCleary, co-founder of Keep Our Republic (KOR) and a former Deputy Assistant to President Carter. Keep Our Republic is a non-profit, non-partisan organization interested in monitoring threats to our democracy. This month’s talk is particularly relevant, as some national politicians and commentators believe that democracy is under more threat now than at any time since the Civil War.

Because so much of the discussion is nuanced and controversial, and to honor the speaker’s request, we are not publishing the video of this meeting. Instead, we are providing this synopsis, with the author’s attempt to fill in blanks in the conversation resulting from time constraints.

Mr. McCleary started by describing the importance of organizations like the Palos Verdes Democrats because politics starts at the local level, a lesson long recognized by Republicans, but being re-discovered by Democratic leadership. State legislatures and state election officials are on the front line of protecting our elections from abuse and bias. Author’s aside–for members who want to volunteer to help campaigns for local offices, but who are fortunate to live in a local district that (at least in 2022) is safely Democratic, Sister District is an organization that coordinates volunteers to support key races in state legislatures and state offices across the country. The work of our local chapter, Sister District South Bay LA, is now being coordinated through the Los Angeles Chapter. To volunteer, visit their website at .

KOR is interested in monitoring non-conventional threats to democracy. For example, two potential Supreme Court of the US (SCOTUS) decisions could have significant sway in the
outcome of a future presidential election:

1.  On December 7, the court will hear arguments on Moore v Harper. Our current court favors States rights, and an adverse decision could relegate election outcomes to state legislatures in key states, such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Minnesota. For background, the challenge resulted from a North Carolina Supreme Court ruling that the Republican legislature illegally gerrymandered congressional districts in violation of the state constitution. The SCOTUS will hear arguments on December 7 on whether the State Legislature has the absolute and final word on how elections are held in the state. For additional reference:

Brennan Center for Justice Video
NPR Story
Erwin Chemerinsky Opinion Piece

2.  January 6 was in large part about the 12th Amendment. For background, the 12th Amendment changed the way that the electoral college selected President and Vice President.  Significantly, one of the provisions allowed for the House of Representatives to select the President if no one candidate received a majority of the electoral college vote.  If that came to pass, each state would get one vote–whether it is Idaho or California. In 2021, that vote would have favored Donald Trump, and the decision would have gone to the SCOTUS.  One outcome of the 2022 midterms that many of us failed to recognize is that even though the Democrats lost seats and control of the House, Democrats flipped congressional districts in key states such that a 12th Amendment vote with this version of the House in 2024 would favor the Democratic candidate. As Mr. McCleary put it–Victory has many definitions.

Mr. McCleary also discussed the dangers of Presidential Emergency Powers and the potential for them to allow unbounded power by a president. Rather than attempting to describe the threat here, the author suggests that members go to the Keep Our Republic website and watch the video on this topic .

Mr. McCleary closed his remarks by encouraging members to be proud of the work that was done for the 2022 midterms, but to be vigilant for threats in the 2024 elections and to not let up in the fight to protect our democracy.

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