A Republican friend joked with me that this week’s “Full Speed to Port” would be a jubilant victory lap for Joe Biden’s victory.
I wish that things would be normal. I wish they would be predictable. That the platforms upon which we’ve built our national system of (good) governance and trust would hold and be sustained by all parties in our elections.
Mary Trump, Donald Trump’s estranged niece, told us that Trump would destroy everything possible on his way out the door. That more than anything, Donald is a terrible loser, and if he must lose, so must everyone else. Post-election loss, this means all of America and our international reputation, as well.
Said Mary Trump of Trump’s lawsuit arguing Pennsylvania has an unconstitutional voting system, “President-elect Joe Biden won legitimately and decisively. No matter how much Donald and his enablers lie and spin, nothing will change that. But they’re going to break as much as they can on the way out. Stay vigilant — this is an attempted coup.”
Indeed, as unbelievable as it seems, there’s a building momentum to coup-up the election. The General Services Administration refusing to cooperate with the president-elect. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence insisting, this ain’t over. And just today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying, “there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”
Usually, American elections are celebrations of peaceful transfers of power — the will of the people, realized. Parties may win or lose, but America has always won because we’ve exercised our freedom and right to vote.
Not so, this time. Trump had telegraphed for years he wouldn’t accept any outcome other than a victory for himself as legitimate. Any losing would be due to “stolen elections.” A win is legit, a loss is stolen. This dark bravado was in the past excused as “Trump riling his base.” Just “getting the troops worked up for the electoral battle ahead.”
But Mary Trump assured us Trump was not posturing. Rather, if Trump was going down, he would tear everything down with him, including our democracy itself and our republic established on the will of the people.
Elections are hard. There’s always winners and losers. It hurts to lose. But candidates face it and move along.
This election was a tough one on all sides. Red and blue won some and lost some. It can be said Democrats had a tougher go, losing seats in the House and failing to flip the Senate. And quite a few statewide elections failed to go their way. We win some, lose some.
And President Trump lost. By this writing, he lost by nearly 5 million popular votes and counting. By 290 to 214 Electoral College votes, with Georgia, North Carolina and Alaska yet to be called. It’s not a particularly close election. According to the counts as of this writing, Biden led solidly by 37,000 votes in Pennsylvania, 150,000 votes in Michigan, 20,400 in Wisconsin, 36,000 in Nevada, 13,400 in Georgia, and 15,000 in Arizona. Not huge margins any, but neither small, either. These are not even close to “recount close.” Past Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker even said a recount would yield at most, 300 votes, one way or the other.
Yet now comes the Trump democracy-wrecking machine. “The vote wasn’t transparent.” “Fake ballots.” “Dead people voted.” “Vote counters marking ballots.” “Need to recount.” “Stop the steal!” On and on.
Except that vote counters are surrounded by inspectors from both parties during the count process. Except that most voting areas are videotaped and even livestreamed. Except that these elections are conducted by leadership both red and blue. And Arizona and Georgia are Republican-controlled states.
Trump would have us believe that fully six states staged a coordinated conspiracy under the noses of tens of thousands of election monitors, thousands of vote count inspectors, and God-knows-how-many lawyers… to steal the election away from a man voted out by over 5 million Americans. That it is simply impossible that an incredibly divisive president could, straight up and simple, lose.
All this defies reason. And now, by undermining our process, undermining and disrespecting the president-elect, by throwing roadblocks into the transition process, Trump undermines American democracy itself.
Today, all this election disputing is annoying and frustrating. In coming weeks, it could render the nation should this go unchecked. Fully 70% of Republicans already believe the election wasn’t fair nor free. Trump is egging this fear, rather than building trust in democracy. And when large swaths of citizens disbelieve the system, chaos and disruption will surely follow.
Trump is working to delegitimize our electoral system. Trump will lose, but even win or lose, Trump will succeed in delegitimizing the next presidency. There is no winning for America in this. There is no good in this. One side or the other will believe the contest was stolen, and in the tumult, it’s our democracy that’s really lost.
Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.