Retired colonel with Ph.D. in history couldn’t pass a 9th grade civics test

Douglas V. Mastriano (photo, left) is a retired Army colonel with big political ambitions and small understanding of democracy.

Born in 1964, son of a Navy lifer, he graduated from a tiny Baptist college in Pennsylvania (info here) and received an Army commission at age 22. (His bio — read it here — doesn’t say so, but he must have been an ROTC student.) Serving primarily in Europe and Washington D.C., but also in Iraq and Afghanistan, he retired after 30 years of service, and then immediately began pursuing media and political careers.

Before delving into that, let’s back up a little. While in the military, Mastriano acquired four master’s degrees, all of them in military specialties, and a Ph.D. in history from the University of New Brunswick — a respectable, but small, Canadian institution (8,300 students, >900 grad students; info here) — and wrote a biography of Sergeant Alvin York. So, he has some minor academic credentials, all of them in military matters, which earned him an instructor post at the U.S. Army War College, but he’s definitely not mainstream academia. (Nor could he be, with his closed-minded and partisan biases; see below.)

Less than a year after retiring from the military, Mastriano ran for Congress in a safe GOP district, finishing 4th in a crowded primary field, and began seeking appearances on conservative radio and TV shows. The following year, in 2019, he won a special election to a vacant state senate seat in a district that last elected a Democrat in 1932.

In his first year as a legislator, he sought to establish a high profile and made himself into a poster boy for the usual rightwing nutcase causes: Anti-gay, anti-Muslim, a “reopen” advocate and anti-masker. He blamed the Notre Dame Cathedral fire on “Islamic terrorists” (it was accidentally started by workmen); and, last week, presided over a “hearing” on Pennsylvania’s election results, which was in no way an honest inquiry, but rather a grandstanding of Trump’s baseless claims that massive voting fraud stole that state’s electoral votes from him. This got Mastriano flagged by Twitter for spreading disinformation.

So, here you have a guy steeped in military culture and rightwing ideology, who has some education and has written a book, but isn’t much of a thinker. He isn’t fussy about truth or proof, and while he probably has a good grasp of the top-down authority structure of  military hierarchies, his understanding of 7th-grade civics is wanting. To wit:

“Saturday morning, Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano — who Trump has taken to retweeting recently — added to the state Republican voices attempting to challenge the outcome of the election in a series of tweets. Without citing any proof, Mastriano claimed, ‘there is mounting evidence that the PA presidential election was compromised. If this is the case, under Article II, Section 1.2 of the US Constitution, the state legislature has the sole authority to direct the manner of selecting delegates to the Electoral College,’ he said in one of his tweets. ‘Therefore, we are introducing a Resolution to exercise our obligation and authority to appoint delegates to the Electoral College,’ he said.”

(Read story here.) In other words, Mastriano is making himself a zealous party to an attempt to overthrow our system of government and install a strongman who was just voted out of office by the American people. Which, by the way, isn’t going anywhere; because even if the legislature passes it, the Democratic governor will veto it.

This guy is of a piece with the mentality that pervades today’s Republican Party. A graduate of a Bible college, like many other Republicans, he thinks he’s doing God’s work. (The “Gott mitt uns” syndrome; if you don’t know what that is, look it up here. Some people refer to such people as “the Christian Taliban.”) Steeped in military culture, he has an authoritarian mindset; immersed in rightwing ideology, he’s bigoted, anti-democratic, and blows off doctors and health experts. What you have here is a plateful of hubris and arrogance combined with intellectual dishonesty. That’s all too typical of what Republicans are today, and is what you’ll get by voting for them.

Finally, Trump lost. Period. The people have spoken. The American people voted him out of office, and had every right to do so. I’m a veteran myself, and I respect Mr. Mastriano’s service, but his present attitude is extremely disrespectful to Pennsylvanians who chose Biden, and disrespects everything America stands for. Shame on him.

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  1. Mark Adams #

    Looks like a member of the Pennsylvania legislature which is one of the three parts of government in Pennsylvania doing his job. The US constitution set up a Republic and not a democracy. The US Constitution puts the selection of delegates into the hands of the Pennsylvania legislature. Not judges and not the governor. the legislature may select electors or put in place how they will be selected. If the PA legislature decides to appoint electors itself it may, and those selections are not subject to the veto of the governor. The legislature may not do much of anything, but if the other branches have overstepped it should at least make some noise, which is happening.

    If Pennsylvania were a pure democracy then Biden and Trump would each get half the delegates from the state, That would be truly democratic, and the legislature could do that. Not likely because Republicans and Democrats are both fixated on a winner take all system.

    If for some reason the system in PA cannot manage to certify the races and resolve court challenges then the legislature may have to step in or PA gets no votes in the electoral college. That would be a matter of law, and upholding the integrity of the US Constitution rather than democracy. So there are principles in friction. The partisanship increases the friction. I guess the folks in PA will resolve the matter so their citizens are not deprived of any electoral votes in the college.

  2. Roger Rabbit #

    These people are plotting to overthrow our elected government. Stop making excuses for them. Shame on you.

  3. Elijah SFA McDotcom #

    “If the PA legislature decides to appoint electors itself it may”

    This is true. But missing context and important background. Because of that you are leaping to an incorrect conclusion.

    The Constitution leaves it to each state to determine how it will select it’s electors. PA has done so, passing state legislation choosing to hold a general election in accordance with federal law. That election has been held and the results are now certified.

    Neither the constitution, nor PA law grants the state legislature the authority to CHANGE the results if they don’t like the outcome. In fact, that would be forbidden under both federal and PA state law.

    Regardless of whether a government entity is a “pure democracy” or a “constitutional republic”, under our system the law prevails over the will of even the most strident partisans.

    Pennsylvania is perfectly free to change the law and select their state electors by a different method in THE NEXT election in 2024. It may not travel back in time.
    And neither can you or Trump.