That’s Ascertainment! Fate of Nation Rests on One Person Sending a Letter

Culture
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emily murphy testifies before us senate subcommittee

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Today, Emily Murphy, administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA) and a person of who you probably had never heard before she became the central figure in the slow-motion destruction of our democracy, part number 759, is scheduled to appear at a congressional hearing to answer for the grave crime of not hitting send on an email. Murphy’s office, an independent, supposedly apolitical agency, is in charge of greenlighting the process of presidential transition, which provides funds and access to the staff of the president-elect. The GSA begins the process with a letter sent after the agency has ascertained who won the election. Unfortunately for my nerves, when it comes to clarifying how the GSA is supposed to ascertain the results of the election, the Presidential Transition Act of 1963 is as vague as a repressed parent trying to give their teenager The Talk. The Presidential Transition Act is says “When a country and a candidate love each other very much… or if they sort of just find themselves together at the end of a very long night… they… will… hug.”

At present, Emily Murphy claims that she hasn’t made the ascertainment and has not sent a letter. Apparently our nation rests on a general feeling of election instead of, you know, votes. It’s like when people debate when is an appropriate time to put up holiday decorations and some people are hollying and jollying on November 1st and others can’t get into the spirit until mid-December. Emily Murphy, apparently, is just not in the mood for a new president this year. Ah well. What can be done? She won’t send the letter of ascertainment so I guess we have to wait for three ghosts to visit her on Christmas Eve. It’s what the founders intended.

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The American people expressed their will that Joe Biden become the next president but unfortunately someone you’ve never heard of replied “No ❤️.” So… I guess, no president? Unclear. The haziness is really what’s making this situation dangerous. It’s like in An Affair to Remember when Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant expressed their desires to get out of their toxic relationships and unite at the top of the Empire State Building but then they didn’t because Deborah’s character got hit by a kerr and she refused to send word to Cary Grant about why. But here the American people are Deborah Kerr and Joe Biden is Cary Grant and the Empire State Building is the White House and the GSA is the car and I’m Rita Wilson in Sleepless in Seattle sobbing while I take too long to explain the plot of An Affair to Remember and how it relates to the subject at hand. And that’s civics!

It is perfectly within an individual’s right to not be in a mood for a new president. Change is hard! But, I have to say, it does seem like a small-to-medium flaw in the general construction of our society that one person’s flagging commitment to Sparkle Motion could effectively dismantle the entire operation. Never fear, however! She’s been asked to testify before a congressional committee today at which Rep. Katie Porter will surely pull out her whiteboard and write “WHAT GIVES?” and all of this will be solved.

That is, if Murphy shows up, which she probably won’t, which—again—feels like something shouldn’t be able to happen. But what do I know? I’m not a constitutional scholar; I’m just a regular American who briefly interrupted my daily googling of “Is The Queen’s Gambit real” so that I could google “The Presidential Transition Act of 1963 spark notes” and “coup question mark”. It’s been a full day, but I’m willing to do it for democracy. Unlike some people. (Have we tried being passive-aggressive to the GSA yet? Maybe that will work.)

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I’m just going to say it: the process of ascertaining is not entertaining. Zero stars. Would not recommend. The entire country is like “please, could you maybe acknowledge reality?” and Emily the Scrivener is like “I would prefer not to.” And because of the way the government is set up, our only response is “Oh. Okay. Well… let us know!” This doesn’t feel manageable! We’ve got elected leaders tweeting at GSA Emily about a piece of correspondence and, folks, I don’t think she’s checking her mentions. So what now?!

Charles Ascertainment Cheese is over here insisting that she doesn’t know who won the election, which is distressing because it means she’s stuck in a time warp somewhere around 11:30 pm on November 3rd and someone really should work on freeing her. The election was 20 days ago, and also 19 days ago, and 16 days, and four days ago when Joe Biden won Georgia for the fourth time. What does she think she’s doing? Choosing a new pope? Emily Murphy is over here talking about how she hasn’t seen the white smoke yet and meanwhile the room is filling with fire. This is fine question mark.

The one good part about all of this is that Joe Biden seems totally unfazed by the fact that one person with too much power just doesn’t believe in the concept of “Pennsylvania.” The Biden-Harris administration has so far shrugged off all of the Trump administration’s failing attempts to stall the transition, calling them an embarrassment, which is putting it nicely.

biden

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Meanwhile Joe and Kamala are spending every day sitting on that huge stage in their transitional transition White House that they’ve set up in a Wilmington bar and music venue called The Queen. I am truly obsessed with the energy of assuming control of the country one performance venue at a time. Maybe that’s what GSA Emily is waiting for: the election isn’t over until Biden takes over Philly’s Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and the Hard Rock Café in Savannah with a popular open mic night. It’s as plausible as anything else.

There’s a part of me that thinks “I cannot believe that in order for us to live in a functioning democracy I, personally, have to know the name of the person General Services administrator.” But then there’s another part of me that screams “This is why we’re in the mess we’re in! Americans aren’t engaged enough! You need to be able to recite the name, office number, fax number of every staff member at every government agency.” I guess it’s better to be engaged. But let this be a warning, once this mess with Emily Murphy gets sorted out, I’m going to have very strong words with Chip, the office manager at the EPA, about the number of paperclips he’s ordering. I’m an American with an opinion! And apparently that’s all it takes to bring this country to a full standstill. Democracy!

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