So how come so many things still seem surprising?
I think the answer is, in short, that no one wants to drink poison. And we all knew Trump was going to make everyone drink poison before this is done. Many millions of his supporters will do so willingly. In fact daily they ask for more and more poison please.
Because they’ve apparently decided the President’s rule breaking is always a show of strength and never a virulent corrosion of civil society. And that their entire life and identify depends on him.
Trump always makes everyone pay for his failures. This is something for which we can be hardened to, but never really be prepared.
I’d love to be writing about the opportunities President-elect Biden will have whether or not Democrats have control of the Senate. And the challenges. And it p*sses me the hell off that I can’t quite manage to do it right now. Because every time I sit down to do it—and I will soon, I promise!—another piece of crazy flashes onto my news feed.
At the same time, if I ignore what’s happening on the ground right now today politically, and just try to leap past to pressing issues for the present (like soaring COVID-19 and a struggling economy), and visions of a possible future, that also may be a disservice. Possibly a fatal disservice.
At the same time, I also know Trump wants continuous focus on the election, and if I feel compelled to stay focused on it too, I’m kind of giving him what he wants.
You would think Trump & Family celebrating as completely true when the Associated Press or New York Times or Fox News calls a win for him in Alaska (3 electoral votes), which it is, but howling at the exact same organizations–“dirty, fake, fraud”–when they call a Biden win in Arizona (11 electoral votes), would be enough of a signal to anybody that something’s not kosher about where the President’s head is at.
But no. Simply, no.
That’s why the New York Times story where they called up elections officials in all 50 states—many of them Republican—and found no reports of voting irregularities, is of such importance. Or the Washington Post’s story about the different procedures for election certification in different states.
Or this rather remarkable statement emanating from inside the Trump Administration and some of its own high ranking cybersecurity officials, saying among other things that:
“The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history.”
“There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.” (The bolding is theirs.)
“While we know there are many unfounded claims and opportunities for misinformation about the process of our elections, we can assure you we have the utmost confidence in the security and integrity of our elections, and you should too.”
But it’s also infuriating because those stories and statements should absolutely be unnecessary. (And a lot of people aren’t even coming close to seeing those stories and statements. And even though I track a lot of toxic stuff, I’m probably not seeing a lot of stories those folks are.)
A big part of the reason why they are necessary is top-ranking Republicans, even those who are not part of the White House cabal or golfing buddies, are refusing to speak up to acknowledge just one thing: Joe Biden won.
Most are mum. Some are edging a Biden win, but in the most lukewarm way possible. Pennsylvania Republican Senator Pat Toomey, for instance:
“We’re on a path it looks likely Joe Biden is going to be the next president of the United States. It’s not 100 percent certain but it is quite likely. So I think a transition process ought to begin.”
In our estimation, those Republicans could only possibly be thinking one of 2 things, and maybe both:
Scenario #1 (Best possible):
“It’d be political suicide to come out and publicly oppose Trump even if he is directly threatening Democracy, given his tens of millions of followers. So let him go nuts, and let the process take care of itself. The eventual outcome will be the same; he lost either way. So no need to get involved in a way that might damage our own political careers.”
Scenario #2 (Worst possible):
“Let Trump run with it and if his crazy train gains enough momentum, jump on!”
Or, as the Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan more succinctly puts it, it’s:
“Something that, at worst, lays the groundwork for a coup attempt and, at best, represents a brazen lie that could be deeply damaging to American democracy…”
And there is no in between. Any other thought process would mean believing there’s a middle ground—room for a “deal”—in this situation. Which would be ridiculous.
When Trump has gone bankrupt or come close in the past, he’s been able to wriggle out of it by being so unceasingly annoying and litigious that the people and institutions to which he owed money got so fed up with him, they eventually just let him slide, in one way or another. There’s no similar resolution available now.
He can’t keep power and walk away.
Actually, maybe he can: although he’ll lose the ability to rule by edict—or rather Executive Order—if he leaves the White House, he will still have his millions of adoring fans for whom he can act as a kind of “shadow President”. At least for a while. Hope to hell some of the people around him might be putting that message in his ear.
That certainly would be preferable to a potential scene—if we get that far—of Trump physically refusing to leave office. Far fetched? Maybe. But also maybe worth thinking about. Especially if you start asking yourself who’s going to do that? The Secret Service would be the ones who would by definition have the job. But they’re part of the Department of Homeland Security, which is filled to the brim with the lackiest Trump lackeys there are. So toxic that the #2 guy there couldn’t even get cleared by a Republican led Senate. The military? Trump just fired the Secretary of Defense this week, as well as a bunch of other top people at the Pentagon and has already replaced them with a bunch of Trump fanatics. Among them, similarly, the guy who’s now suddenly #2 at the Pentagon is someone Republican Senators were also not willing to approve.
Former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is pretty sanguine about this in an interview with Military Times, especially about being tagged as a “yes man”:
“My frustration is I sit here and say, ‘Hm, 18 Cabinet members. Who’s pushed back more than anybody?….Who’s going to come in behind me? It’s going to be a real ‘yes man.’ And then God help us.”
All this firing and reshuffling and deliberate extension of uncertainty, leaves Americans with no point of reference besides what they’re seeing on TV and consuming on social media, and that differs greatly depending on where you’re going for your info, and what your desires are in terms of what type of info you’re most hungry to consume.
And maybe Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is just having a little fun with us when he says, “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration”.
Still, we’ve got to be able to do a little better than hope for the best as each new day passes and dates for certification and the Electoral College vote near.
Is time on Democracy’s side or is it on Trump’s?
Because Democracy is not quite broke. But we’re also not quite certain what we’ll find when we turn the next corner, and then the next one.
Do we have confidence that people are actually going to do the jobs they were hired or elected to do? Which in the case of elected officials at least, is very often tied to an oath to protect “the Constitution of the United States”. Not to protect Trump.