Ending With a Whimper

The New York Times and other media have called all the states now, with Arizona and Georgia going to Joe Biden and North Carolina to Trump. This gives us Electoral College votes of 306 to 232. I believe these are the same numbers won in the 2016 election — Trump 306, Clinton 232. The vote in the Electoral College was slightly different because of faithless electors.

Trump’s lawsuits to challenge the vote are going nowhere, and now the law firms representing him — and becoming the butts of jokes — are distancing themselves.

Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, the law firm leading the Trump campaign’s efforts to challenge the presidential election results in Pennsylvania, abruptly withdrew from a federal lawsuit that it had filed on behalf of the campaign. That followed a similar move by an Arizona law firm that was representing the Republican Party as it challenged that state’s results.

And on Friday, a top lawyer at Jones Day, which has represented Mr. Trump’s campaigns for more than four years, told colleagues during a video conference call that Jones Day would not get involved in additional litigation in this election.

No evidence of fraud has yet come to light, in spite of the tireless efforts of MAGA-heads to create some.

See also Paul Waldman, Trump’s strategy to have the courts swing the election lies in tatters.

Oh, and the pandemic is out of control. Trump stopped even pretending to do anything about it awhile back. Mike Pence, the head of the pandemic task force, went on vacation somewhere.

Meanwhile, more than 130 Secret Service officers assigned to protect Trump are either infected or quarantined, and at least 40 people in Trump’s inner circle have caught the virus, the latest being Corey Lewandowski.

A couple of days ago, David Nakamura at WaPo wrote,

On Thursday, six American service members were killed in a helicopter crash during a peacekeeping mission in Egypt. Tropical Storm Eta made landfall in North Florida, contributing to severe flooding. The number of Americans infected with the novel coronavirus continued at a record-setting pace, sending the stock market tumbling.

At the White House, President Trump spent the day as he has most others this week — sequestered from public view, tweeting grievances, falsehoods and misinformation about the election results and about Fox News’s coverage of him.

It’s not like Trump ever did the job, but now he’s not even going through the motions. He did show up at Arlington this year (unlike, say, in 2018), but other than that he’s been blessedly out of view.

In spite of being utterly disinterested in the job of president, Trump is still refusing to let go of it. The Biden transition is still being denied briefings and resources. At some point Trump’s got to be forced to cooperate with reality. CNN reports that Joe Biden is not waiting for the White House but is setting up an independent network of governors, health professionals and businesses to prepare to take over the pandemic response. That may be just as well, come to think of it.

Maybe, some time next year, we’ll find out what Jared Kushner did with all the PPE and generators and whatnot his crew confiscated.

Trump is still fighting the election. Even today. Quint Forgy just wrote at Politico,

In a new interview, Trump refused to acknowledge that he had been beaten by President-elect Joe Biden, insisting that his campaign’s election-related legal challenges would reverse the race’s outcome and arguing that Americans should “never bet against me.”

The unrealistic prediction from the president, published in the Friday edition of Washington Examiner correspondent Byron York’s newsletter, represented some of Trump’s first remarks to a member of the news media since Biden was declared the winner of the election last weekend.

Chalres Pierce: This May Be the Most Singularly Petty Bullsh*t I’ve Seen in All My Born Days.

There’s supposed to be a Million MAGA March in Washington DC tomorrow. I’m hoping counter-demonstrators stay away and just let the asshats parade around awhile and go home. Whatever violence or vandalism happens will be on them.

If Congress doesn’t act next week to force Trump to cooperate with the transition — well, I’m not sure what can be done. I’m a bit tired of listening to comments about how Trump needs time to “process.” Nobody else ever needed time to “process.”

Trump can still do a lot of damage, if the Senate lets him, but for the most part there’s not much left to the Trump Era but the whimper. Oh, and the grift. I’m sure there’s still some money that can be bilked out of the faithful somehow.

Nate Beeler-Counterpoint

 

The Dastardly Things Trump May Yet Try to Do

On this Armistice Day let us consider all the awful things Trump might do to shit on the country that rejected him.

There’s a lot of talk of a coup, in particular since Trump is busy screwing the Pentagon. This article at Politico explains:

The firing of Defense Secretary Mark Esper kicked off a rapid-fire series of high-level departures at the Pentagon on Tuesday, setting off alarms on Capitol Hill that the White House was installing loyalists to carry out President Donald Trump’s wishes during an already tense transition.

In quick succession, top officials overseeing policy, intelligence and the defense secretary’s staff all had resigned by the end of the day Tuesday, replaced by political operatives who are fiercely loyal to Trump and have trafficked in “deep state” conspiracy theories.

The question is, can these Trump loyalists in the Pentagon conspire to somehow force the military to back up a Trump coup? I don’t see how. The brass hates Trump, and the military is not supposed to obey unconstitutional orders, even from the President. But that doesn’t mean damage isn’t being done.

Tuesday’s exodus led one top Democrat to accuse the administration of gutting the Pentagon in a way that could be “devastating” for national security.

“It is hard to overstate just how dangerous high-level turnover at the Department of Defense is during a period of presidential transition,” said House Armed Services Chair Adam Smith. “If this is the beginning of a trend — the President either firing or forcing out national security professionals in order to replace them with people perceived as more loyal to him — then the next 70 days will be precarious at best and downright dangerous at worst.”

If Trump is destabilizing the Pentagon to set up something, it would more likely be some kind of sabotage by a foreign power. But chances are there is no plan and Trump is just being a jerk.

At The Guardian, Sam Levine writes Can Trump actually stage a coup and stay in office for a second term? Like me, Levine doesn’t think a military coup is likely. But here’s a scenario I’ve seen in several places:

There is a long-shot legal theory, floated by Republicans before the election, that Republican-friendly legislatures in places such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania could ignore the popular vote in their states and appoint their own electors. Federal law allows legislatures to do this if states have “failed to make a choice” by the day the electoral college meets. But there is no evidence of systemic fraud of wrongdoing in any state and Biden’s commanding margins in these places make it clear that the states have in fact made a choice.

In order to make this work, Trump’s less-than-crack legal team would have to find a way to stop the certification of votes in key states, says Andrew Prokop at Vox. If elections aren’t certified by deadline, which varies by state, it is possible for a Republican legislature to overrule the state’s voters and appoint Trump Electors. So far, Prokop says, there seems to be no serious movement in the states to go along with this, but read Prokop for details.

Trump’s attempts to throw out votes or stop the counting (in states in which he’s behind?) by claiming fraud have come to nothing. See the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Associated Press for details. So far, it seems the election and the vote counting have been conducted by the books in every state. It’s actually kind of astonishing that more actual hinkiness hasn’t been found. I suspect election officials everywhere realized they had to be extra careful this election.

The most worrisome thing I’ve heard is that Trump may spill state secrets after he’s been evicted from the White House. Bess Levin at Vanity Fair points out that Trump is, by his own admission, $421 million in debt. And a lot of smart people have speculated he’s in a lot more debt than that. It’s not that much of a leap to think he’d sell out U.S. national security for the right price.

“Of course, that might sound crazy and delusional if not for the fact that Trump has spent nearly his entire term in office making the solid case that he’s a national security risk, a threat that would seemingly become more acute once he leaves office,” Levin writes.

Shane Harris at the Washington Post:

As president, Donald Trump selectively revealed highly classified information to attack his adversaries, gain political advantage and impress or intimidate foreign governments, in some cases jeopardizing U.S. intelligence capabilities. As an ex-president, there’s every reason to worry he will do the same, thus posing a unique national security dilemma for the Biden administration, current and former officials and analysts said.

Trump cares nothing about the United States and would sell us all out in a heartbeat for enough money. So this last one is genuinely worrisome.

Mike Thompson, USA Today

How Fox News Foiled Trump’s Reelection Plan

A week after election day, a dwindling number of votes are still being counted and few states remain uncalled. They are still counting votes in Arizona, where Biden’s lead is shrinking, and a few media outlets are leaving the state uncalled. However, Fox News called Arizona for Biden on election night. And that may have been significant, no matter who eventually wins the state.

Trump’s plan– which he had publicly spelled out — was to capitalize on an expected Electoral College lead on election night. He would declare victory and then send in teams of lawyers to stop the count of mail-in votes. Nancy LeTourneau writes that Trump was expecting to lose Wisconsin and Michigan, but he didn’t need them to pull off the scam as long as he was ahead in the remainder of the “swing” and red states on election night. But when Fox called Arizona for Biden, the plan was spoiled. “With Arizona gone, Trump would have no clear path to 270 electoral votes,” LeTourneau said.

Over the past week a number of journalists covering the Trump campaign have written that the election night mood went suddenly sour when Fox called Arizona. See McKay Coppins at The Atlantic, When the MAGA Bubble Burst, at the Atlantic, for example. Yesterday Sarah Ellison and Josh Dawsey at the Washington Post added more details about what went down when Fox called Arizona.

Trump erupted in anger, telling others in the White House to “get that result changed,” a senior administration official said. His chief of staff, Mark Meadows, phoned Fox News’s decision desk repeatedly. Top aide Hope Hicks, who had returned to the White House earlier this year after a stint at Fox Corp., messaged Raj Shah, a former Trump White House staffer whom she hired at Fox, about how to get the call reversed. Kellyanne Conway got in touch with Fox News chief political anchor Bret Baier to complain. Jared Kushner reached out to Fox Corp.’s billionaire owner, Rupert Murdoch.

But even as White House officials vowed to Fox executives that they had data from Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) demonstrating that Trump could still win, and as all the other major networks continued to hold off on a call, Fox decision-desk chief Arnon Mishkin remained unmoved. Stick with us, he and his deputies told the anchors. We’ll be right. And that was the path Fox News chose.

Since then, while some of its most virulent bobbleheads have continued to push allegations of fraud and irregularities and dastardly Democratic tricks, the news side of the Fox organization has stood by the Arizona call. On Saturday Fox declared Biden the winner sixteen minutes after CNN had done so. WaPo’s Ellison and Dawsey write that Trump appeared to be angrier at Fox than he was at losing.

I doubt Trump has completely given up on the plan to use the courts to flip enough states to pull off a win, but doing so would be beyond messy at this point. The Administration is not conceding or cooperating in the Biden transition. A headline at the Independent (UK) worried me — Mike Pompeo says there will be a ‘smooth transition to second Trump administration’ — but then it appears Pompeo was joking. Maybe.

See also Republicans Escalate Effort to Challenge Biden Election Victory from Bloomberg. My guess is that Barr, McConnell, et al. don’t seriously think that they can overturn the election but are trying to undermine the Biden Admnistration. I also suspect a lot of Republicans are waiting for Trump to signal that he’s adjusted to losing before they acknowledge Biden’s win. Whether that happens before inauguration day is anybody’s guess.

Here’s an interesting story that says Trump may try to cut some kind of deal with somebody before he accepts defeat and vacates the White House.

So what does a former New York City real estate developer demand when 75 million voters, the Constitution, the Electoral College, and 238 years of peaceful transfers of power stand in his way? My friend wonders: “Maybe he believes he can trade for a favorable resolution on his $86 million IRS tax audit. Or a pardon on his New York State investigation. Who knows?”

There has been less acting up by Trump supporters than I expected, although of course they are still all over social media declaring the election ain’t over. And the infamous Q has been silent since Election Day, which is beginning to cause panic among the faithful.

Over the next few days I expect a continued struggle between the Biden transition team and the Trump Administration. However, the wheels of tradition will continue to turn, and the attention of the nation is likely to move on to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Georgia Senate races. My biggest question is whether Trump will actually remain in Washington for Biden’s inauguration or skip town ahead of schedule. I think the latter is more likely.

Nobody Move Digital Art by Barry Kite

 

Taking a Break

Yesterday, shortly after Biden was declared the winner of the election, my beautiful daughter in law gave birth to a healthy baby boy. A new grandson! So I’m kind of happied out right now. We’ve got some bumpy weeks ahead, but I’ll start thinking about that tomorrow. Enjoy the rest of the weekend. That’s an order!

Finally

I just wish I were in New York so I could dance in the streets somewhere. I could dance in the streets here, but I’d be by myself.

Take the rest of the weekend off and do something enjoyable. We’ll have a lot more stress to deal with before January.

Getting Closer

Biden has pulled ahead of Trump in Georgia and Pennsylvania, and Business Insider, at least, has called the election for Biden.  That may be premature. It also may be that we won’t be completely beyond doubt in the presidential election until early next week. It’s awfully close. The overseas military ballots probably haven’t been counted yet. Last night, before I changed the channel, Steve Kornacki was saying that it was not impossible for Trump to take over the lead in Arizona. But he hasn’t yet as of this morning.

I don’t want to talk about the Senate yet. It is possible the majority (assuming Biden wins) will be determined by two runoff elections in Georgia in bleeping January. Maybe some nice friendly normal country can invade us and take over before then. Canada? New Zealand? They seem nice.

Some time I am going to have a lot to say about state races and why Republicans did better than expected. Here’s a preview:

In Missouri, where all but one Democrat I was rooting for lost (and that one exception is a Black U.S. House candidate from Ferguson, so … ), the Dems were hammered primarily on two issues — defunding the police and Medicare for All. It didn’t matter how many times the Dems were on the teevee saying they did not want to defund the police and did not support Medicare for All; the Republicans ran ads over and over and over slamming their opponents on defunding the police and Medicare for All. And, apparently, this worked.

The Dems tried to nail Republicans on their support for overturning the ACA and ending protection for people with preexisting conditions. But then all the Republicans ran ads in which they so sincerely pledged to protect people with preexising conditions, even though they have no plan to do so if the Supreme Court overturns the ACA. I don’t think running primarily on the health care issue helped Dems any. Next time, maybe they should just run ads showing the candidates shooting up cornfields with artillery.. That seems to work in these parts.

Our Experiment in Democracy Is Failing

Although it appears Joe Biden will be the 46th President, many people are wondering today how the election could be so close, and how could so many Americans have voted for such an abject failure of a man as Donald Trump. Nancy LeTourneau sums it up:

While data eventually showed Trump’s 2016 win in the Electoral College was fueled by xenophobia, there was at least the specter of crediting the president’s so-called “populism” as a factor. But none of that materialized once he got into office. The majority of working Americans disapproved of his tax cuts aimed primarily at the wealthy. The president never got around to infrastructure, and his trade war left most farmers in a state of uncertainty. Biden was right when he said that Trump would be “the first president of the United States to leave office, having fewer jobs in his administration than when he became president.” To cap that off, the president basically ignored a pandemic that has so far resulted in the death of over 230,000 Americans.

That summarizes Trump’s first-term. What did he promise to do in a second term? Nothing. The GOP didn’t even propose a platform, and the only thing the president released was a three-page document full of vague statements—most of which he’s been promising to do but never accomplished.

LeTourneau points to the lies and disinformation that have snookered so many. And, of course, racism and xenophobia are big factors also. But I think it goes deeper than that. We are looking at a wholesale rejection of the European Enlightenment and a resurgence of modes of thinking from the Dark Ages.

The United States was born from the Enlightenment. This was, briefly, the 18th century European philosophical movement that promoted reason, science, individual liberty, and equality as its highest ideals. I don’t want to write a long review of the Enlightenment here, but there’s a good overview at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

More than anything else, Trumpism is a rejection of the Enlightenment. Reason and science are out the window, obviously. Trumpers fancy themselves as champions of liberty, but of course the whole object of right-wing extremism in the U.S., throughout the nation’s history, has been to weaken civil rights and the rule of law in favor of the rule of power. I seem to write another complaint every few months about how the Right loves to holler about FREEDOM even as they are doing their damnedest to destroy it. The Right has stripped the word freedom of all meaning and turned it into a tribal totem.

Something I realized years ago is that American right-wingers, maybe right-wingers everywhere, tend to “think” in symbols, archetypes, and allegories rather than use conceptual thought. This is illustrated by something my Facebook friend Jeffrey Feldman wrote on Monday:

p>Trumpism is the rejection of discursive politics—our system of government based in talk as a form of persuasion. In discursive politics, talk is protected above all else. Hence: The First Amendment is first. Our laws are words that we follow. Our elected officials debate. We take words seriously. Trumpism rejects all this for a politics of stagecraft, drama, and violence. In their world, all that matters is sentiment, rage, and threats. Ask a Trump supporter why they like Trump and they don’t talk policy or programs. They tell you how he makes them feel—what it’s like when they see him—who they want to hurt. In Trumpism, arguments are replaced by call outs. Kamala Harris is…socialist! (yeah right). Biden’s “whole family” is…corrupt! (um…). In Trumpism, the names of politicians become epithets. In Minnesota, Trump just shouts “Ilan Omar” and his crowds go crazy.

So, the flags fit into this alternate universe. While Democrats are calling, texting, trying to persuade—Trumpists just drive around waving his name and snarling. Democrats are talking healthcare and Covid-19–Trumpists are driving around shouting “Hunter Biden!” out their car windows. It’s a different reality and one we don’t want to have control of our daily lives. Is it Fascism? Sure. If it takes over it will become that. But it’s bad enough as is.

This is thinking in archetypes. Representative Omar, Hunter Biden, Senator Harris, etc. are archetypes to them, not real people. These archetypes repesent something dark and frightening slopping around in the depths of the Trumpain id. You can spend weeks lecturing a Trumper about what socialism is and why Kamala Harris isn’t a socialist, and this effort would go nowhere, because all the Trumper would hear is “blah blah blah.” It doesn’t matter what socialism is, or what Kamala Harris actually proposes. The designations “socialist” and “Kamala Harris” represent something dark and evil, and that’s it.

This is the old mythos versus logos dichotomy; in brief, righties think mythologically rather than conceptually. See my old post from 2007, The Power of (Right Wing) Myth. People from both history and current politics are either embraced or hated by the Right not because of who they really were or are, or what they really did, but because of how those people make them feel and what they represent as archetypes.

And that’s why we don’t communicate. Most of us these days don’t think in archetypes and allegories, at least not exclusively. Ancient people were much more into mythos than we are. Ancient people wrote the world’s scriptures in the language of mythos that was never meant to be taken literally, for example. Then came the Enlightenment, and the Enlightenment philosophers grappled with the distinctions between empericism and subjectivism. Empericism is about things that can be observed objectively and understood rationally and conceptually. When we discuss these things, we are using the language of logos.

Subjectivism touches on psychology, personal experience, emotions, what things and people and events mean or represent to us, not what they objectively are. Mythos is a way of using language to express subjectivism on a social, cultural, or even national scale. It’s not at all surprising that the fascist regimes of the 20th century made generous use of symbolism from ancient myths, whether Nordic (Hitler) or myths about ancient Rome (Mussolini). Today’s righties tap into myths and symbolism from both the Confederacy and from the Third Reich in a similar way.

You can have mythos without tribalism, but I doubt you can have tribalism without mythos. Shared mythology is what holds tribes together, especially these days when tribes join together through the internet and don’t always share physical space.

A big part of tribalism is loyalty. Moral Foundation Theory says that loyalty is much more important to conservatives than it is to liberals, and loyalty is everything to a tribe. This loyalty is the foundation of all groupthink.

For example, in September this year a Gallup poll found that 56 percent of Americans thought they were better off now than four years ago. Seriously? People commenting on this came up with all kinds of rationalizations about how anyone could think that. But I postulate a lot of people who said yes are Trump supporters who are not at all better off now than they were four years ago, but who answered yes to the question because they are supposed to be better off because Trump is president. They cannot answer no without admitting that Trump is failing, and they cannot admit that, even to themselves.

This explains rejection of masks, also; masks must represent something to them that is unspeakably awful, and not wearing one is an expression of tribal loyalty.

So here we are. Trump may be hauled kicking and screaming out of the White House, but the rejection of the Enlightenment by a substantial portion of our population is still with us. And we’re going to be dealing with people who have bought into the QAnon Conspiracy and who think Democrats work for the Devil. And they could very well become more unhinged and more dangerous. And I don’t know what the antidote is.

Trump did not create Trumpism; he stumbled into it. Back in 2012 I wrote a post called GOP: A  Cult Looking for a Personality. In 2012 the GOP was going through a phase of getting nuttier and nuttier, but there was no one Big Giant Head directing the nuttiness. Hence, it was a personality cult looking for a personality. Eventually it found Trump.

The post contains a quote from Billmon (remember Billmon?):

There simply is no getting around the fact that the mentality of the modern grassroots conservative movement is in almost all particulars the spitting image of a 20th century totalitarian political party–an “epistemically closed” loop of self-reference and self-delusion. In other words: a cult.

“’Epistemically closed’ loop of self-reference and self-delusion” is brilliant. This is what the American Right is, and I have no idea how to break the loop. I really don’t. But I don’t think the United States can survive as a representative democracy with so many people completely obvlivious to the Enlightenment principles upon which it was founded.

Waiting to Exhale

Joe Biden may go over the 270 threshold today. Assuming Arizona really is in the bag — there is some sort of disagreement going on; some sources have called it, others haven’t — Biden just needs one more state, and it could be Nevada. It could be Georgia, as Biden is only 14,765 votes behind Trump, and as of an hour ago there were 60,000 votes left to count. It’s also possible Biden will overtake Trump in the counting in Pennsylvania; it gets closer and closer. But all Biden really needs now is Arizona and Nevada. And then there will be court challenges and recounts, but I trust the secretaries of state have taken care to be ready for that.

Trump’s supporters are being whipped into a frenzy of outrage with all manner of propaganda about the election being stolen from Trump. And we knew this was coming. In Pennsylvania, some local Republican officials are refusing to count absentee ballots and instead are putting them aside for the presumed court challenge. Trump supporters have swarmed election offices in Michigan, Arizona, and Nevada to try to disrupt the vote count. So far, the counting has continued. One might reflect upon the logic of Trump’s people stopping the count while Biden is ahead, but whatever. At least, so far, my worst fears of goons with guns taking over election offices and destroying ballots hasn’t come to pass. Yet.

Have you heard about #SharpieGate? This was news to me, but some wingnuts in Arizona started a rumor that ballots marked with Sharpies instead of ballpoint pens were invalid, and a lot of poll workers were handing out Sharpies to Trump voters. How the poll workers could sort the Trump from the Biden voters was not explained. Of course, there is no problem whatsoever with ballots marked with Sharpies.

It’s unfortunately the case that a Biden victory will not wipe out the Trump cult or QAnon or the rest of the craziness pulling out country down a rabbit hole. I fear we are in for a lot more hurt and stupid in the months and years ahead. I’d consider leaving the country if I could get a passport that other habitable places would accept.

Waiting for the Blue Shift

What happened last night was pretty much what was predicted by many, but that doesn’t make it any easier. We were told we wouldn’t have a winner on election night, and we didn’t. We were told Trump would claim victory and threaten to use the courts to stop the vote counting. And that’s what happened.

However: I’ve updated my Excel file tallying the Electoral College votes, and by my calculation if Biden wins Arizona, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, and Wisconsin, he’s got 271 votes. Maine splits its 4 Electoral College votes, and he could lose one and get to 270. And Biden is ahead in all those states right now, although it’s close in some of them.

Yet to be called are Alaska, Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. Trump is leading in those states, but the mail-in votes are still being counted, and those tend to be for Biden (well, except maybe in Alaska). But if we give Trump Alaska, Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, he’s still short — 267. He still needs to get one of the states in which Biden is leading. And Trump really needs Pennsylvania to win, or else he has to take Arizona, Michigan, and Wisconsin, or some other combination of the remaining states in which Biden is leading, which doesn’t seem likely.

The teevee people are saying there won’t be any updates from Nevada until tomorrow. Pennsylvania isn’t going to be counted until the end of the week, I suspect. We may not have to wait for Pennsylvania, however. The rest of the states may be called by the end of the day.

I’m more worried about the Senate. Let’s hope the blue shift comes through for Gideon in Maine, Cunningham in North Carolina, Ossoff in Georgia, and Peters (an incumbent) in Michigan. We need three out of four of those, assuming Biden wins and makes Kamala Harris the tie-breaker. The other Georgia Senate seat will be settled in a January 5 runoff between Democrat Warnock and Republican Loeffler, so if we’re one short there’s still a shot, but I’d hate to wait until January.

So that’s where we are this morning.

Update: Wisconsin is called for Biden; Trump says he will ask for a recount. The Associated Press called Arizona for Biden, so I’m putting Arizona in Biden’s tally. Three of four of Maine’s EC votes are called for Biden; the other vote is still out. Biden just needs Michigan and Nevada, and he’s at 270.