Who but marginal Democrats pulled off this howling cliff-hanger?
Want unbearable suspense? High drama? Come from behind triumphs? Nail-biting tension spawned by unholy terrors? How about narrowly escaping another norm-blasting nightmare? How about a deranged antagonist, ripping out orange bangs while raging with fact-free insinuations against hijacked state vote counters? No one can complain this election finale isn’t delivering highs (and lows) of an epic horror/adventure/mystery movie wherein the unflappable protagonist faces down the looming apocalypse? Is this an election or a manic soap opera – and a travesty of democratic self-rule?
Too bad the ever-cautious Democrats, so adept at stealing the White House, failed to foment a serious Senate takeover battle. What happened to likely GOP senate losers in winnable Maine or North Carolina? How could such conniving Democratic knaves take down the “greatest president since Lincoln,” endorsed by divine ordination and irresistible logic (“it’s rigged if I lose”), without picking off low-hanging Senate fruit?
That mystery outcome is less about the quality of candidates than resistance to, if not fixated alienation from Democrats out of touch with legitimate grievances. How do 70 million fellow citizens endorse the bottom of the leadership barrel? Was front-page Republican malfeasance, with Trump adding a once a century opportunity, not enough to defeat two weak Republican senators in purple states? Or was the clear insufficiency of Democrats this time around simply switching the face and gender topping the ticket—not stressing the kitchen-table issues pushed by Sanders and Warren?
What, agreeing with Trump?
Yet, after four years, everyone can agree with Donald the Destroyer, reincarnation of Vlad the Impaler: if we only counted legitimate (read: Republican) votes, he’d have won going away. Say what? Nothing new here as Trump again impugns officials insistent on counting Democratic votes, which “everyone” knows are loaded with illegals—like the three million who lifted Hilary’s plurality. What happens when Biden tops Trump by the estimated seven million this year? Gosh, the actual majority was right. Curious how Trump never talks about any other rigged elections—only when he’s named. Did his Senate majority get fraudulently elected?
Stands to reason, by Trumpist logic: how can 70 million older, rural, white, “true Americans’ (in Sarah Palin’s immortal phrase) be wrong? “It’s such a big number,” Trump would bellow, “way more than Obama ever got, more even than attended my packed inauguration.” Thus are sneaky, election-stealing Democrats (in GA and AZ?!) pulling off the greatest fraud ever perpetrated on mankind, no doubt in league with radical Antifa renegades. Or leftwingers pulling all the strings. Ain’t paranoia fun?
Second marginal agreement with the Deranged Donald: the longer this rigged election goes on, the greater the chances Trump loses – plus dump trucks of more demagoguery against routine voting. Why not go back to Monday when he was not behind, or just use sacred 2016 numbers since “everyone” knows they were perfect? Why have elections at all when “perfection” rules? Here’s an irony of historic monumentality: our least legitimate, most dishonest president, flagged with lawless violations and 25,000 lies, dares to cry “Foul! I am being screwed! Proof? Because I say so.” Here’s a president, who brags about underhanded tactics, foreign and domestic, blessed by voter suppression and intimidation, now convinced he’s the one and only victimized loser. Will this bluster ever end?
I judge Trumpers not for the obvious—being intellectually brainwashed by Trump and FOX—but for insisting their guy deserves a second term, thus encouraging the manias. Surely, one term by the only president never to reach the 50% approval threshold, was a generous trial to see how a “non-politician” outsider who “tells it like it is” performed. Today’s majority says no way: “End this failed experiment. Time to dump this dangerous deviant. Who needs a second dose of double-dealing demolition?” By hook and by crook, the Electoral College gifted Trump his chance to remake America, promising deliverables he himself raised: yes, drain the swamp, create better paying jobs, fix a broken immigration system, grow the economy with infrastructure programs, produce better, cheaper, more inclusive health care, and regain U.S. stature overseas. By his own Trumpian measures, why would anyone but a know-nothing glutton for punishment want a replay?
The final guffaw
So, knowing Trump can’t stand to lose, incapable of putting public interest first, he will lash out in all directions. He will undermine confidence in elections and the Democratic winner, just as he assaulted Obama at every turn (indeed, that’s the only consistent thread unifying his reign of chaos). The good news is about the even greater damage on the Republican brand. He’s already commanded his children to threaten any Republican who opposes legal wrangling destined to fail. Hardly news, this misfit can’t stand any rules that reign him in—so when blocked goes into destruction mode. He will try to burn down the store because he can’t understand why it stopped handing out free candy. Watch your fingers.
When in doubt, fabricate an enemy and go to court. Isn’t it bad enough that Trumpers believe Twitter posts are reality? As MSNBC’s Chris Hayes just said, “A lawsuit without a factual basis is just a tweet with a filing fee.” No surprises here as Trump is doomed to leave in a disgraceful hurricane of dead-end litigation, fantasizing forever there were invisible “hanging chads” on all mail in ballots.
For Clausewitz, war is an extension of politics by other means. For Trump, everything is a war, and there is only one righteous side: his. That makes politics an extension of warfare by other means. Since he is only a celebrity T.V. phony (hardly a great businessman), Trumpian politics must be an extension of low-brow entertainment, whether faux outrage, subterfuge, bad faith or repetition of the Big Lie. When politics descends to mere entertainment charades, Trump relies only on absurd melodrama, the same way he thinks he’s helped by inciting domestic terrorism.
His right-wing Chaos Cacophony needs political disorder to serve its manipulative ends, all the better to pitch his alternative universe where only he exists. Fair elections have always been front and center for his demolition derby for they are his only ultimate foe. This master of delusional, magical thinking is stuck in a house of mirrors, but he’s only dangerous is he succeeds. That way lies the autocratic dominance portrayed by the brilliant movie, “Wag the Dog,” where machinations are indistinguishable from bad faith Hollywood fabrications.
Trumpism, here to stay
Whatever other insights this election belched up, what’s clear is that 2016 was no fluke. Again, we must endure the undemocratic, soap opera mayhem of the Electoral College, where states wrestle to be the critical winning lever. This folly would have ended Wednesday morning had the popular vote reigned supreme. Until we banish the Electoral College, elections will maximize the needless melodrama and, worst still, minimize the sovereignty of the people. That this election is undecided days later is an outrage in itself, considering Biden’s growing four million vote plurality. One wonders what could be worse: right, not counting all the votes.
Thanks to the Electoral College, we have weeks of perverse entertainment: high suspense, a spate of false clues (called polling), a sleazy, arrogant antagonist ready to spew out lawsuits, and an avuncular protagonist trying to get elected as if Trumpian chaos never appeared. After four grueling, awful years, we needed a definitive comeuppance for a crook who should never have tarnished the presidency. And thanks to Republican infamy, a Senate reversal. Instead, Dems have fewer House seats, we have gridlock, and an election squeaker that does not represent a mandate for rational change, let alone systemic reform. That it could be worse is underwhelming solace.