Donald Trump’s loss to Joe Biden was a fitting denouement to a presidency replete with hateful policy, deliberate neglect, and slothful governance. The vote count looked good for Trump on Election Day, in part because he’d discouraged his own supporters from using the postal service he’d sabotaged to mail in their ballots. As the count went on, Biden benefited, and Trump behaved as if math was magical.
Trump didn’t see the punch coming, or acted like he didn’t, because he was fighting an opponent he didn’t see. Not an apparition or someone who could bend light, but someone whom he simply refused to recognize. As if he were a villain in Ralph Ellison’s great American novel, Trump lost to the invisible voter. During the campaign, Trump was never subtle about his preference: he’d rather lose as the president of white people than even attempt to be the president of the United States. So those of us whom he erased, along with our allies, were fine with that. In this election, by a considerable margin, we got him squared away.
As the election came to its end on Saturday, it was clear that voters of color were carrying the day. Indigenous tribal nations were key for President-elect Biden in Arizona, as were Latinx voters in Nevada and Muslims in Michigan. Turnout in cities such as Detroit, Atlanta, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia became a threat to Trump. These were places that had been ignored by many a politician before Trump, but he’d compared them to Middle East war theaters, all to scare white suburbanites and cement false stereotypes about urban crime. It was somewhat poetic, then, to see a man who got his start discriminating against black tenants in New York City evicted from the White House by black and brown votes.
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This likely has at least partly to do with Trump can’t handle the result. Perhaps he thought the regressive MAGA nation he’s been trying to turn America into is what the nation actually is. Or, even more curiously, he could have believed that he had committed enough sabotage with his vandalism of the postal service and planted Supreme Court picks that he could just order up a fixed election, as one might a fast-food meal. Whatever he is attempting, whether it be revenge on Biden or an actual coup, the backdrop for it — the surge of marginalized voices at the ballot box amidst a deadly pandemic and Republican voter suppression and intimidation efforts — is what someone like Trump must truly lament having as a political epitaph. The very kinds of people he spent four years attempting to silence and suppress came forth to paint him forever as the one thing he cannot stand to be known as: a loser.
It is vital that we understand this kind of insecurity as we look at what Trump and the Republican Party are doing now during this epilogue of the election. As they quixotically attempt to challenge a decided contest, it is evident things have gone well beyond Saturday’s moment of exhaustive relief and declarative delight, during which those of us who voted for both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and against Trump and his training-wheels totalitarianism could freely indulge in our schadenfreude.
Trump was just whining then. It’s gotten real now.
William Barr just gave the green light for federal prosecutors to take seriously Trump’s rectal-sourced claims of voter fraud. It prompted Richard Pilger, the director of the elections crimes branch in the Department of Justice, to immediately resign. The White House is blocking Biden from receiving his Presidential Daily Briefing, a custom that, while not mandated by law, has been vital to presidential transitions and to actual safety — both of those who have been newly elected and the American people. Trump and his minions aren’t much for actual governance, especially in the midst of a pandemic that has now infected more than 10 million people in this country. But they sure can mobilize when it’s time to cover the president’s ass and mete out punishment to his enemies. There are names for such organizations, but not in politics.
Republicans may think that echoing Trump’s rubbish is a way to placate the anger of a colicky president in his final two months. One senior Republican official told the Post, “What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time? No one seriously thinks the results will change,” adding, “It’s not like he’s plotting how to prevent Joe Biden from taking power on January 20. He’s tweeting about filing some lawsuits, those lawsuits will fail, then he’ll tweet some more about how the election was stolen, and then he’ll leave.”
That Republicans don’t care that much about how Trump’s lies about the election results damage our democracy, how they sow distrust amongst his supporters whom Biden will have to govern. But this is the purpose of modern Republicanism, distilled. It makes use of the emotional entitlement, resentment and bigotries of its predominantly white base to make the nation ungovernable. They aren’t terribly interested in public service so much as maintaining power or exploiting public resources for private industrial profit. And for the last four years, they’ve had this president as a mascot for their cause. A mascot with the nuclear codes. Why not just let him ride for two more months, they say? Use the mascot to get the crowd riled up, no matter the damage he may cause.
Trump isn’t on the ballot in Georgia, where two run-off elections in early January will decide the balance of the Senate. But McConnell, who has supported the president’s refusal to concede the election, likely wishes that he were. The Washington Post’s Robert Costa on Monday, tweeted that, based on conversations with Republicans last weekend, “most everything McConnell does from here isn’t about January 20th … but January 5th,” the date of the run-off Senate elections when incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler will face Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, respectively. “To win the latter,” Costa wrote, “Rs believe the base must be stoked, esp in a fast changing state.”
That “fast changing state” surely refers not merely to the racial demographics of Georgia, but to its dramatic change in its approach to voting. In 2016’s presidential election, 22% of the eligible population wasn’t registered. This year, that number went down to 2%, and the overall percentage of those who actually cast a ballot increased by 8%. Republicans tend to lose when more people are registered and more people vote, and Biden won the state — the first Democrat to do so since Bill Clinton in 1992.
If Republicans lose again in Georgia’s Senate run-offs, that would yet another comeuppance. Many would surely enjoy seeing Harris, the incoming Senate president, be able to break a tie on every partisan-line vote, right in front of newly minted Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. However, there isn’t enough schadenfreude in the world to make up for their enabling of the boy-president who couldn’t give a damn about the country, about the job he claims he wants to keep, and certainly not about the 75 million people who fired him from that position.
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