All 50 states and the District of Columbia have certified their votes and named slates of electors. As members of the Electoral College, those electors will meet today in their respective states to formally cast their ballots for President and Vice President — the next step in the process of finalizing Biden’s victory. Each of the state’s top election official will then send those ballots to Washington, where Congress will count them on January 6. Once that happens, Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th President on January 20 at noon. Sadly, however, I believe Donald Trump will continue to cry about the 2020 presidential election being stolen from him until his dying day. Just because we elected Joe Biden as President doesn’t mean we are rid of the cancer that is Trumpism and Donald Trump.
Paul Waldman wrote an editorial recently in the Washington Post in which he asked, “If you were dropped in from another country without knowing anything about the United States and surveyed our current political moment, what would you conclude about the Republican Party and the broader conservative movement it represents? As 2020 comes to an end, what is conservatism about?” On a side note, this question reminds me of an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine titled “Little Green Men.” In the episode, a temporal anomaly sends Quark, Rom, and Nog to 1947 Earth, where they are held prisoner in Roswell, New Mexico. The episode is an interesting look at what an outsider would have seen if they found themselves on a military base in the United States at the beginning of the Cold War. If Ferengis landed in the United States today, they would probably love the idea of a Donald Trump presidency because Trump represents the worst of Ferengi society. The Ferengi civilization centered around the concept of greed and earning profit and was built on free enterprise, in which earning profit was the sole meaningful goal in life, superseding all other endeavors no matter the cost to others.
Putting my Trekkie geekiness aside, let’s get back to Waldman’s question. During the nearly four years of Donald Trump’s presidency, no misdeed has been deemed too vulgar or corrupt for conservatives to defend. Now the Trumpists are waging outright war against democracy itself. You might be tempted to answer the above question with “Nothing.” I have said this numerous times, the Republican Party barely exists today and has been replaced by the delusional ideology of Trumpism built solely upon greed and hatred. Before the rise of the Tea Party, the Freedom Caucus, and Donald Trump, a Republican running for any office from dogcatcher all the way up to President would respond when asked what it meant to be a conservative by saying some version of the same four ideas: small government, low taxes, a strong military, and traditional social values.
While conservatives still believe in those principles, no one today could seriously argue that they are any longer the primary goals of the Republican Party. Instead, the one thing that unites the right and drives the Republican Party is hatred, especially of liberals. For years now, Republicans, and some Democrats, have not run on what they believe but what they hate. Negative partisanship — being more motivated by your dislike of the other party than by affection for your own — has consumed American politics. Republican hatred has consumed every policy goal, every ideological principle, and their commitment to this country. The difference between Republican hatred and Democratic hatred is that Democrats hate inequality and discrimination. In contrast, the Republican Party hates anyone that doesn’t fit their idea of a homogenous American society (i.e., white Christian superiority). Democrats believe in fundamental fairness; Republicans do not.
Republicans have now turned their hatred of liberals into the hatred of democracy, the Constitution, and decency. When 18 Republican state attorneys general, more than half of House Republicans, and multiple conservative organizations all demand that the results of a presidential election where no fraud was found be simply tossed aside so that Trump can be declared the winner, something more profound has been revealed. The Republican Party has proved that its hatred of liberals is so foundational that it will abandon any pretense of commitment to democracy if democracy allows for the possibility that liberals might win an election. They have come to regard Democratic voters as essentially undeserving of having their will translated into power, no matter how large their numbers. This hatred of democracy for all may not be new to the Republican Party, but now, they’re willing to proclaim it even after they lost a presidential election by 7 million votes and a 306-232 electoral college margin. Forget all that inspiring talk about the genius of the Framers and their vision for democracy; if having an election means that the people Republicans hate might win, then the election must simply be nullified.
Everyone probably knows by now that the Texas Attorney General tried to have the Supreme Court throw out the election results — which the justices rejected Friday evening. However, we can’t get complacent and believe it was the final blow to Trump’s attack against democracy. It is not a matter of all’s well that ends well. What was alarming about the Texas effort was that it gained the support of so many others. Seventeen of 26 Republican state attorneys general. Nearly two-thirds of House Republicans, including the minority leader, Kevin McCarthy (Calif.). Every one of these individuals has forfeited any claim to believe in anything but fealty to Trump and their own political self-interest. (Who were these men and women who signed legal briefs supporting treason? Click “Read More” at the end of the post to see all of the names.) Because nothing could be less conservative, less consistent with supposed Republican principles, than urging a court to overturn a democratic election. For decades, Republicans have condemned what they saw as activist judges, but now, they are begging judges across the country and even the Supreme Court to become activist judges if it gets them what they want. Nothing could be less consistent with conservative principles than contending that one state should be able to instruct another about how to conduct its elections — or that federal judges should referee such claims.
You might think that the Republicans signing on to a profoundly anti-American crusade against democracy are doing so out of fear as much as conviction, but the two are not mutually exclusive. All elected officials worry about contradicting their base, but in today’s Republican Party, that worry is almost wholly divorced from policy. Yes, you’d get flak if you voted to raise taxes, but the greatest danger comes from failing to fight the left with sufficient vigor. Horrifyingly, that danger is not only electoral but physical. The Republican leader in the Pennsylvania state Senate said she was told that if she refused to sign a letter demanding that Congress toss out her state’s votes in the presidential race, “I’d get my house bombed tonight.” It might not actually happen, but the point is that Republican officeholders understand well what their party values above all else and what kinds of transgressions will not be tolerated.
Trump has often cited the extraordinary loyalty he has received from his party’s voters; it’s one of the few things he says that’s true. But it isn’t because of Trump’s conservative policies and actions. If you ask a typical Trump supporter what they love about him, they don’t mention some substantive policy position (though some will say he is anti-abortion, but I think that’s because they are ashamed of their homophobic and racist reasons). They will usually answer that he is a fighter. The petty squabbles, the insulting tweets, the deranged conspiracy theories — the things that the Never Trumpers and most other Americans find repulsive and offensive are exactly what endears him to the Republican base, which speaks volumes about their character and morality. Trump fights angrily, bitterly, and endlessly because he is driven forward by his hatred of the people his supporters hate and the adoration he receives from their support. That’s what the base loves, and every other Republican knows it.
The fundamental Republican rhetoric for the 2020 campaign, starting with Trump but going all the way down the ballot, was that if Democrats were elected, then it would not be bad or even terrible, but apocalyptic and the end of everything you cherish. Towns and cities would burn, religion would be outlawed, America as we know it would cease to exist. These horrors were not presented as metaphors but as the literal truth, and the voters ate it up. In the face of that potential apocalypse, who could possibly care about mundane policy goals? The importance of everything else pales next to the urgency of stopping the cataclysm that would engulf us all if Democrats were to hold power. I received a call from my mother a few months back saying almost this exact thing. The Republican Party and the conservative movement are all about hatred today, and it might take a long time for them to change.
With all of the lawsuits and attempts to overturn the election, Republicans have gone beyond the indulge-the-toddler-while-he-cries-it-out phase of this election debacle to a dangerous new stage: Incentivize the toddler. Reward his bad behavior. Encourage his belief, as poisonous to democracy as it is delusional, that the election was stolen. Republicans are laying the groundwork for a contentious new phase in American democracy.
Even when all of their tactics fail and Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th President, they will move on to another phase of legal and political guerrilla warfare in which no tactic, no lie, no baseless claim is off-limits. Democracy cannot function this way.