Subverting Democracy

I think most of us knew that Donald Trump had no respect for democracy or the Constitution. So, it should come as no surprise that he’s lying, and lying, and lying again to claim he prevailed in the election that President-elect Joe Biden won decisively, fair and square. What no one knew for certain was whether the Republican Party would once again genuflect before Trump’s corruption and his indifference to the fate of our republican institutions. Some of us suspected they would, though I’d hoped they’d all have jumped ship by now. Sadly, the Republican Party has turned out to be as despicably ready to validate Trump’s falsehoods and authoritarian behavior as their worst critics feared. With precious few exceptions, Republican leaders have been quite happy to be complicit in Trump’s subversion. It’s absurd enough that managing Trump’s illusion that he didn’t lose is of such all-consuming importance in some quarters that we must endure even the possibility of extensive civic and governmental damage, all so that it can be slowly put out of its misery. That’s what we’ve come to, but it won’t be for much longer.

If it weren’t for Republicans trying to destroy the democratic ideals of the Constitution, all of this would be a comedy of errors, a satirical political movie filled with the absurd. But it’s very much real. When news broke last Saturday that Trump’s reign of terror was ending, the president was on a golf course that he owns in Virginia, playing his final round as a non-loser. In Washington, about 125 of his worshipful supporters gathered on the stoop of the Supreme Court to “stop the steal,” then circled the U.S. Capitol seven times, because that’s how the Israelites conquered Jericho, according to the Book of Joshua. And a pair of Trump’s most loyal surrogates made a defiant stand on the gravelly backside of a landscaping business (Four Seasons Total Landscaping that was likely mistakenly booked by the Trump campaign thinking it was the Four Seasons hotel). However, this Four Seasons is in an industrial stretch of Northeast Philadelphia, near a crematorium and an adult-video store called Fantasy Island, along State Road, which leads — as being associated with Trump sometimes does — to a prison. Trump’s campaign began on a golden escalator and ended in a dingy parking lot between a porn shop and a crematorium.

On every front, these legal efforts are already falling apart. Indeed, the Associated Press reports that senior officials and allies privately admit that claims of large-scale voter fraud — the basis for efforts to overturn the results — aren’t actually meant to be proved. The strategy to wage a legal fight against the votes tallied for Biden in Pennsylvania and other places is more to provide Trump with an off-ramp for a loss he can’t quite grasp and less about changing the election’s outcome, the officials said. That’s extraordinary: Trump allies are claiming in many high-profile forums that the lawfully cast votes of millions of Americans are illegitimate, mostly to create space for him to process his rage and grief over losing. It’s extraordinary that Republican senators and members of Congress, most of the conservative news media, and leaders of industry are all pretending like they think there might be election fraud just because the president’s feelings are hurt. All this sets up another possibility. With Trump unlikely to formally concede, you can see a kind of Lost Cause of Trumpism mythology on the horizon, in which many supporters continue believing the election was stolen from him and squeamish Republicans betrayed him by not fighting hard enough against it. These same people will ignore the fact that federal, state, and local election officials have said the election “was the most secure in American history” and that there was “no evidence” of any compromised voting systems. It simply won’t matter to them as they will see it as fake news, doing as Trump has trained them to do: ignore news they don’t like by claiming it’s fake news.

Republicans are backing Trump’s childish claims to make sure his voters in Georgia turn out for two Republican senators in the January 5 runoff election. For the next month and a half, Georgia is going to get nasty. The Republicans have already started their subversion of democracy. In Georgia, two GOP senators called on the state’s Republican secretary of state to resign, alleging irregularities and mismanagement without offering evidence. Only four of 53 Senate Republicans have congratulated Biden on his projected victory. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin recently told reporters, “there’s nothing to congratulate [Biden] about,” while Missouri’s Roy Blunt said the president “may not have been defeated at all.” It’s the latest sign of the Republican Party destabilizing our democratic ideals and practices. The journey towards authoritarianism predates the Trump administration, but Trump has accelerated these efforts. Now, according to data released by an international team of political scientists just before the November 3 election, we know it’s possible to quantify the extent to which the Republican Party no longer adheres to principles of democracy, the rule of law, and their commitment to free and fair elections. Under Trump, they have abandoned respectful treatment of political opponents and the avoidance of violent rhetoric. The Republican Party under Trumpism is dangerously close to fascism.

Republicans are turning their back on democracy, not only because of the Senate races in Georgia but also because they fear Trump. True to form, they are also doing it to weaken Biden and make it harder for him to govern. Republicans feel that if the party doesn’t fight for a recount and investigations of non-existent voter fraud, the Trump loyalists will leave the party. It seems to be less about the president than it is his voters. The Republican Party has to realize that Trump supporters need to be left behind. If the Republican Party wants these voters, they are encouraging their racism, homophobia, misogyny, conspiracy-driven hatred, etc. They represent the worst in America, and as long as the Republican Party humors them and Donald Trump, they are destroying the very fabric of American society and ideals. Sure, the Republican Party might lose ground, but then they could concentrate on rebuilding the party into a party that believes in the good of the country, even if we disagree on what that means.

Over the last few years, the willingness of many American voters to elect any clown with an R beside his or her name on a ballot, especially in my home state of Alabama and other solidly red states, has considerably dumbed down the already scarce pool of competent conservative candidates. But what I suspect is happening here is that this is merely another in a long line of absurd pandering from Republicans, hoping that fluff over substance will again win the day. When will Republicans in this country get tired of the constant bickering and nastiness? Many Democrats already have. Now, we are about to have a Democratic president who is agreeable to many people, especially blue-collar workers, because he’s promising to tone down the hatefulness and hostility, restore respect and decency to the White House, and be a president to all of America. Decency doesn’t keep the “oh my God, the liberal president is going to …” money rolling in.

Biden will very likely be a very popular president, even in very red places. It is clear to most voters that Biden won’t run for re-election so that he won’t be beholden to anyone. Republicans need a way to make Americans hate him. There’s a new day coming to America. There’s a chance for people to stop this insanity and put an end to the mind-numbing idiocy that has thrived in this country. We’re never going to agree on everything. Conservatives are still going to be conservative. Progressives are still going to be progressives. Moderates will still sway one way or another. But, hopefully, we can all agree that these sorts of stunts — in which elected officials blatantly lie and play upon phony emotion to sow division and anger — are intolerable. Because if these Trumpists are willing to lie to you about something as important and as sacred in this country as the election process, if they’re willing to undermine democracy and raise bogus questions about our elections, what won’t they lie about? What lie won’t they tell you to get your vote or your money? We all deserve better than this. And we should all demand it.

As Kenny Rogers sang:

You got to know when to hold ’em,
Know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away,
And know when to run.

There are words of wisdom there for Donald Trump. He’s holding onto a hand that he’s going to lose. He needs to fold and walk away. A lot of Trump’s resistance is his overinflated ego, but I suspect he’s also scared.  His creditors are about to call in his millions of dollars in debt. Four hundred million of which is about to come due, but Forbes estimates that he has a total debt of $1 billion.

Clifford Berryman’s cartoon depiction of Debs’ 1920 presidential run from prison

Furthermore, the State of New York will be indicting him, and even if he pardons himself, which has dubious legal standing anyway, he would not be pardoned for any state crimes. So, when he leaves office, he may need to know “when to run” to a country without extradition treaties with the United States. His gamble in defrauding his creditors, the American people, and our allies are not going to pay off. Even if he is privately saying he will run again for president in 2024, it might just be from a prison cell. After all, Eugene V. Debs, the American socialist and five times presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America, ran for president from behind bars in 1920, but that was a different world back then. Still, he received 919,799 votes (roughly 3.4%).

The end is near for Trump. His resistance to come to terms with the truth and his juvenile efforts to resist Biden’s transition are undermining democracy and endangering our country’s national security. Intelligence operatives have already admitted that the instability and confusion caused by the 2000 election were part of the reason they missed all the signs of the terrorist attack on 9/11. Trump is endangering all Americans for his fragile ego. The Republican Party needs to move on from Trump and expel him from the party to save the Republican Party from the destructive nature of Trumpism. It’s a house of cards at this point, and it’s about to come crashing down. Let’s just hope it doesn’t cause more damage than we can repair.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

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