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This Is Extremely Dangerous
More than 72 million people voted for Trump. Many of them are armed.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: As regular readers know, we usually publish our weekly digest ‘The Banter Brief’ on Fridays. We have decided to temporarily pause this in the wake of the election as we make some changes to the newsletter in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more, and thanks as always for your support!
(image: Andrew Selsky/AP)
by Michael Luciano
Toward the end of Enemy of the State, starring Will Smith and Gene Hackman, two tech nerds are interrogated by the FBI about their recently slain boss – a corrupt intelligence official played by Jon Voight (who happens to be a major supporter of Donald Trump nowadays). It’s a short and forgettable scene, but I’m reminded of it in light of Republicans’ cowardly reaction to Trump plainly losing the 2020 election and refusing to concede. The henchmen in the movie play dumb and insist they have no idea what their dead, villainous boss was up to.
Looking on in disbelief from an adjacent room, one agent asks another, “Do they know [he’s] dead?”
“Yeah,” comes the reply.
“They know all that?”
“They’re still stalling.”
“They’re still stalling.”
Trump’s presidency isn’t dead yet, but it is certainly moribund. He has fewer than two and a half months left in the White House thanks to his grueling defeat at the hustings. In the reality-based world, whose population is unfortunately not nearly as large as it ought to be, Joe Biden is the undisputed President-Elect, while Trump is the undisputed Loser-in-Chief. But not surprisingly, Trump is baselessly and pathetically insisting that if only “legal” votes are counted, he is the winner. In other words, the election was rigged against him.
This isn’t true, and yet almost a week after the race has been called, most prominent Republicans are still stalling when it comes to recognizing Trump’s loss. Not a single member of the Republican congressional leadership in the House or Senate has publicly acknowledged the result. In fact, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise took a page out of Trump’s playbook and cast doubt over the legitimacy of the election, tweeting, “There are still serious legal challenges that have been made.”
The word “serious” is doing some Herculean labor in that sentence. In several swing states, the Trump campaign has filed weak sauce lawsuits over mail-in ballot deadlines, alleged voter fraud, access to polls and vote counting, and other so-called violations that supposedly tipped the election in Biden’s favor. Courts have consistently rejected his campaign’s arguments, even before the race was called. Now that it’s over, Trump is going to have one hell of a time finding judges who will rule in ways that will discount tens of thousands of ballots across numerous states, which is what would need to happen for Trump to “win reelection.”
This hasn’t stopped the Trump campaign from filing more lawsuits, demanding recounts, and continuing to cast doubt on the election. He’s fired off several tweets calling into question the results in Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania – states that, had they all gone for Trump, would have won him the election. But they did not. Trump currently trails Biden in Arizona by more than 11,000 votes, in Georgia by more than 14,000, in Wisconsin by more than 20,000, and in Pennsylvania by more than 55,000. Any recounts Trump is seeking in these states would need to overturn or discard an unprecedented number of ballots. Put simply, recounts cannot save Trump’s presidency. Again, he would need the judiciary to make not one, but several highly dubious decisions in his favor. That’s just not going to happen.
Despite Trump’s exercises in legal futility, his supporters in Congress and the media continue to indulge his autocratic tendencies. Scalise is hardly alone. Usual suspects Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz, and far too many others have followed Trump’s lead by breathing more life into allegations of fraud, for which they offer no evidence. Georgia senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who both face runoff elections in January, issued an absurd joint statement on Monday, demanding the state’s Republican secretary of state resign for unspecified election malfeasance. Meanwhile, Fox News ghouls Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, and Mark Levin are all in on the voter fraud narrative.
It’s not just the carnival barking, though. The Trump administration is acting as though it’s not going anywhere. The White House director of personnel has threatened to fire anyone who he hears is looking for another job. The General Services Administration is refusing to cooperate with President-Elect Biden’s team to facilitate a transition of power. All of this is disturbingly abnormal. Worse, it’s extremely dangerous.
More than 72 million people voted for Trump. Many of them are armed. Many of them are upset that their hero president who made America great again, lost. Many of them take the president at his word when he says the Democrats cheated and rigged the election. According to an Economist/YouGov poll, a whopping 86 percent of Trump voters think Biden didn’t win the 2020 election legitimately. Eight-six percent of 72 million people is about 62 million people – or roughly the equivalent of everyone in Texas, Florida, and Nebraska combined. That many people believe a coup d’etat is underway. In this scenario, what’s a patriot to do when faced with an illegitimate government that’s about to ascend to power by nefarious means? The possibilities are endless and the justification for them will be an illusory tyranny that has befallen America.
And then there’s the QAnon faction, which this election got its first member of Congress. QAnon conspiracy theorists think Trump is working to uncover and end a vast child sex trafficking ring run by Democrats and Hollywood elites. Needless to say, if you sincerely believe that this noble effort has been thwarted by a rigged election, you can justify any action against those you think are responsible. That is a terrifying thought. As we have seen over and over in this country, it only takes one disturbed person to inflict mass death and carnage.
Trump has lost. His presidency is on life support and is slipping away. Rather than resign themselves to this fate, Republicans play along and massage Trump’s fragile ego by insisting a last minute remedy involving recounts or court decisions is coming when it isn’t. Yes, as a one term president Trump is eligible to run again in 2024 and perhaps Trump will still be the de facto leader of the party even after Biden is sworn in. But this doesn’t change the fact that Trump was rejected by voters and is about to lose all the trappings of gravitas and legitimacy that are bestowed upon him by being president of the United States. Trump will still be a cult of personality, but he will be a cult of personality with no actual authority.
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