Last night, the NY Times noted that "Trump's attempts to overturn the 2020 election are unprecedented in American history and an even more audacious use of brute political force to gain the White House than when Congress gave Rutherford B. Hayes the presidency during Reconstruction. Mr. Trump’s chances of succeeding are somewhere between remote and impossible, and a sign of his desperation after President-elect Joe Biden won by nearly six million popular votes and counting, as well as a clear Electoral College margin." Actually, right now the count stands at 79,641,365 (51.0%) to 73,661,779 (47.2%), giving Biden 306 electoral votes to Trump's 232.
It's worth realizing-- about our fellow Americans-- that Trump has almost 11 million more votes than he had in 2016 when he won with 46.1% of the vote. Trump garnered more electoral votes than Romney (206), McCain (173), Dole (159), and George H.W. Bush in his 1992 reelection bid (168). Our fellow Americans. So sad.
Why is Trump acting out the way he is? My own theory is that it's part of an elaborate negotiation for a blanket pardon-- or at least a no-prosecution promise from Biden. The other extreme is that he actually thinks he can steal the election. In between, he is the theory that he is setting himself up as the wrongly aggrieved party who can run for reelection after Biden fails to deal with all the chaos and disaster Trump has baked into his presidential cake.
Yesterday, reporting for CNN, Gloria Borger and Dana Bash put forward another theory: "Trump," they wrote, "told an ally that he knows he lost, but that he is delaying the transition process and is aggressively trying to sow doubt about the election results in order to get back at Democrats for questioning the legitimacy of his own election in 2016, especially with the Russia investigation, a source familiar with the President's thinking told CNN on Thursday." He's refusing to concede "from his perceived grievance" that Hillary and Obama "undermined his own presidency by saying Russia interfered in the 2016 election and could have impacted the outcome [and that] Trump continues to hold a grudge against those who he claims undercut his election by pointing to Russian interference efforts, and he has suggested it is fair game to not recognize Joe Biden as the President-elect, even though Clinton conceded on election night in 2016 and the Trump transition was able to begin immediately."
As always, it's always about him personally, never about the country. He's abandoned all pretense of doing his job-- "continuing to process the emotional scars of losing to a candidate he repeatedly said during the campaign was an unworthy opponent whose win would amount to humiliation. He again made no public appearances on Thursday, skipping the first coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in more than six months."
Another theory of what's happening is that a desperate and humiliated Trump "is buying into Giuliani's false claims that his legal efforts can change the election's outcome. He has shown no signs of backing down, even as those around him continue indicating that the end is near. Those allies have expressed worry that a sizable faction of the country thinks the election was stolen from Trump and that Biden isn't receiving national security briefings... They have told him he is making it harder on himself, that he'll have a hard time getting people to stay at his hotels, or even borrowing money if he continues this behavior. He will hurt his brand, they have told him. The President thinks that's wrong."
AP has been covering Trump's machinations pretty well. Yesterday Zeke Miller, Christina Cassidy, Colleen Long wrote that, getting nowhere in the courts, he's targeting vote certification to block Biden, pressuring Republicans on "obscure election boards" in counties in swing states to stand with him regardless of actual vote counts.
There is no precedent for the Trump team’s widespread effort to delay or undermine certification, according to University of Kentucky law professor Joshua Douglas.
“It would be the end of democracy as we know it,” Douglas said. “This is just not a thing that can happen.”
Also yesterday, AP's Julie Pace, asserted that for Trump sowing post-election chaos is the actual goal, "trying to turn America’s free and fair election into a muddled mess of misinformation, specious legal claims and baseless attacks on the underpinnings of the nation’s democracy. The resulting chaos and confusion that has created isn’t the byproduct of Trump’s strategy following his defeat to Democrat Joe Biden. The chaos and confusion is the strategy. Trump’s blizzard of attacks on the election are allowing him to sow discontent and doubt among his most loyal supporters, leaving many with the false impression that he is the victim of fraudulent voting. That won’t keep Trump in office-- Biden will be sworn in on Jan. 20-- but it could both undermine the new president’s efforts to unify a fractured nation and fuel Trump in his next endeavor, whether that’s another White House run in 2024 or a high-profile media venture... Rather than overturn the election results, Trump allies say the goal is to help keep the president’s most loyal supporters engaged and energized for whatever he might pursue after he leaves office-- even if that means leaving them ill-informed about the reality of what has unfolded in the election. Trump has long relished blurring the lines between truth and fiction and taking advantage of the confusion that creates. If anything, his presidency has only emboldened those tendencies, given the ways in which the Republican Party and friendly media outlets have helped propel his versions of events, even when they are indisputably false.
“This is all about maintaining his ego and visibility,” said Judd Gregg, the former Republican governor and U.S. senator from New Hampshire. “He’s raising a lot of money and he intends to use it.”
The effects of Trump’s strategy are already starting to emerge. A Monmouth University poll out Wednesday showed that 77% of Trump supporters said Biden’s victory was due to fraud, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
And this morning AP reporters Zeke Miller and Colleen Long were back on the case, this time with David Eggert and Jill Colvin, making the case that Trump and his allies are "taking increasingly frantic steps to subvert the results of the 2020 election, including summoning state legislators to the White House as part of his longshot bid to overturn Biden's victory. "Among other last-ditch tactics: personally calling local election officials who are trying to rescind their certification votes in Michigan, suggesting in a legal challenge that Pennsylvania set aside the popular vote there and pressuring county officials in Arizona to delay certifying vote tallies. Election law experts see it as the last, dying gasps of the Trump campaign and say Biden is certain to walk into the Oval Office come January. But there is great concern that Trump’s effort is doing real damage to public faith in the integrity of U.S. elections."
In her Washington Post column today, Jennifer Rubin went to the heart of the problem: Trump and Gouliani are the Republican Party and that "in spouting their bizarre, incoherent conspiracy theories about voter fraud, have made clear they want to overturn the election in large part by excluding ballots from Black voters... What is clear is that this is the level of sheer insanity and irrational propaganda that passes for Republican 'thinking.' Plainly, Giuliani is representing the president’s views, and because the vast majority of Republicans say Trump should be allowed to exhaust his legal claims, his performance has, in effect, been endorsed by Republican House and Senate leadership, much of right-wing media and the Republican National Committee... Republicans, with help from cynical right-wing propaganda outlets, have convinced a great many Republicans that their delusional poppycock is true.
As a result, Republicans have undermined the essence of democracy and made a mockery of our international commitment to free and fair elections.
We may not be able to prevent Giuliani from spouting crazy allegations, but there is plenty that responsible, patriotic Americans can do.
First, respectable networks should not cover live any of the Trump lawyers’ events. (They do not cover insane people ranting on a street corner, do they?)
Second, news outlets must hound every Republican lawmaker, official and candidate either to denounce or condone the abuse of the courts to disenfranchise voters. The two Senate Republican candidates in Georgia, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, have joined in the spurious claims of fraud with baseless attacks on the state’s Republican secretary of state; their opponents should tie them to Trump and Giuliani’s antics.
Third, state and federal officials and the Biden transition team should vow to investigate any efforts by Trump, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-SC) or any other Republican politician who attempts to sway election officials or otherwise undermine free and fair elections.
Fourth, private actors (TV advertisers, business leaders, social media) need to stop enabling anti-democratic activities and slanderous accusations designed to deprive millions of Americans of their right to have their votes counted. Instead of being “labeled” as disputed, Trump’s tweets and Facebook posts should be removed for habitual violation of the platforms’ self-imposed terms of service. Business leaders must recognize Biden as president-elect (as Business Roundtable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others have done), deplore abuse of the courts and pull financial support from Republicans who refuse to accept the results of a lawful election.
The horrifying spectacle playing out before our eyes should leave little doubt of how far down the rabbit hole the Republican Party has gone and how cowardly and detached from reality Republican elected leaders have become. Clarity is enlightening, but in this case, it is also dispiriting. We have only one functional, rational political party. It’s not enough.