I'm an optimist. Usually.
After Biden was declared the winner of the presidential election on November 7, I figured that it was time to relax, chill out, and watch the peaceful transition of power from Trump to Biden that would take place between then and Biden's inauguration on January 20, 2021.
Sure, I knew that Trump wouldn't concede gracefully. Maybe not at all. No big deal, I thought. There's no way Trump could succeed in overturning the will of the voters.
But after looking at my Twitter feed this morning, and reading a bunch of "red alert" warnings from knowledgeable political observers, I fashioned this image.
That's the headline. Below is the information that led me to say what I did. I readily admit that I, and others, could be overreacting. Trump's style is to fume and bluster, then back off from the worst actions that he could undertake.
But we can't take the chance that Trump might succeed in what amounts to a coup attempt of our democracy. I've been scoffing when Bill Maher says on his show that he doesn't think Trump will leave office voluntarily if he loses the election. Which Trump has.
Hopefully nothing like this will happen. However, for the first time in my lifetime (I'm 72), I've been visualizing the non-zero prospect of tanks and soldiers surrounding the White House as January 20 nears, protecting Trump as the Liar-in-Chief refuses to admit that Biden won the election and vowing to stay on as Commander-in-Chief.
Even if things don't reach that extreme, they could get really bad. Here's a tour through analytical stories and tweets I came across today that provide a good picture of what's going through the minds of people who are skilled observers of our nation's political scenery.
Back on September 8, 2020, election law expert Marc Elias wrote "What Did You Do When Democracy Was at Stake?" This is where I saw the prescient speak out exhortation. I've boldfaced that part for emphasis.
Donald Trump does not want you to vote or have your vote counted.
He knows that he cannot win if every eligible voter is given an opportunity to vote and have their vote counted.
...To combat this threat to our democracy, it is not enough for us to file lawsuits. It is not enough for the media to report the news. And it is not enough for citizens to shake their heads at the damage he is doing.
We must display civic courage and speak out.
Justice Scalia wrote that “requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed.”
We must all commit to civic courage where it is the least comfortable—in the town square, in front of our neighbors and families, in our workplaces and in our daily lives. We must each, as individuals, stand up and speak out about the importance of our democratic institutions and fundamental rights.
A great November 6 piece by Anne Applebaum, "Trump Won't Accept Defeat. Ever." spurred me to sign up for a digital subscription to The Atlantic, something I'd been considering for a while. The whole piece is well worth reading. Here's a few excerpts.
Many Americans had lost trust in democratic institutions long before he arrived on the scene. One recent survey showed that half of the country is dissatisfied with our political system; one-fifth told pollsters that they would be happy to live under military rule. Trump not only exploited this democratic deficit to win the White House, but he expanded it while in office. And now his political, financial, and maybe even emotional strategy requires him to damage America’s faith in its democracy further.
He is launching that strategy right now. And to be clear: It is a strategy, not a random reaction to events. Trump is no good at governing, but he has long understood, with the intuition of a seasoned con man, how to create distrust, and how to use that distrust to his advantage.
...Now, having spent months talking darkly about the rules being rigged against him, he has laid a set of traps designed to discredit and demean the electoral system so that some Americans, at least, lose their faith in it.
Again, this is a carefully planned strategy, not a temper tantrum, and it may have several stages. The first could take the form of a Hail Mary pass, a brazen and illegal attempt to stay in office despite the fact that all the major networks and national papers have called the race for Biden. As my colleague Barton Gellman has written, both the rhetoric and the flurry of ridiculous lawsuits are intended to create a misleading impression of electoral fraud so deep that some Republican state legislators could even be tempted to ignore the ballots and simply appoint an Electoral College delegation to vote for Trump.
...His personal need to live in a perpetual fantasyland, a world where he is always winning, is so overpowering that he will do anything to maintain it. In his narcissistic drive to create this alternative reality, he will deepen divisions, spread paranoia, and render his supporters even more fearful of their fellow citizens and distrustful of their institutions. This is a president who never had America’s interests at heart. Do not expect loss to change him.
On a more positive note, Ed Kilgore's "Trump's Only Credible Legal Strategy Won't Be Enough" in the Inteligencer lifted my spirits a bit.
At this point, notwithstanding the relatively strong support Trump’s refusal to concede has gained from Republicans (especially those aspiring to succeed him as the party’s presidential nominee), there’s little prospect of any legal gambit that could keep the outcome in doubt sufficiently to support an outright election theft. In particular, the specter of Republican state legislators in states like Pennsylvania taking the appointment of presidential electors into their own hands if the results were being credibly contested hasn’t materialized at all.
...The only shred of hope for Trump in the courts — a tiny and rapidly diminishing shred that wouldn’t be enough to overturn the election in any case — does not involve lurid allegations of Democratic fraud. Trump’s legal team has joined a continuing effort by Pennsylvania Republicans to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down an earlier state-court decision allowing mail ballots postmarked by November 3 to be counted if they were received by November 6.
...Election-law expert Rick Hasen estimates that about 10,000 total votes were received between November 3 and November 6, and some of them, of course, were cast for Donald Trump. At the moment, Biden’s lead in the Keystone State stands at 45,000. And even if Trump could somehow flip (or call into question) Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes, he’d need to win 36 additional EVs from the 45 still unresolved (26 of them in states where Biden currently leads) to reverse the overall outcome. To sum it all up: If he had some ham, he could make a ham sandwich, if he had some bread.
A November 10 Daily Beast piece, "Team Trump Shits on Barr's Bogus Voter-Fraud Crusade," also was encouraging.
It was a memo so outrageous, it caused a top Justice Department official to quit on the spot. But for Donald Trump’s dwindling band of loyalists at the White House, it still wasn’t enough.
On Monday, Attorney General Bill Barr “authorized” Justice officials to investigate allegations of voter irregularities. But his memo doing so practically admitted there was little-to-no evidence for any such election fraud. The document warned that “specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims should not be a basis for initiating federal inquiries” and that “nothing here should be taken as any indication that the Department has concluded that voting irregularities have impacted the outcome of any election.”
...Shortly after Barr’s declaration broke, officials close to the president and working on his re-election effort said they thought the memo could give the president and Rudy Giuliani another element to incorporate into their messaging war against the results of the free and fair election, but that it wouldn’t prove to be the legal game changer that they needed.
More worrisome is a November 7 Vox piece by Ezra Klein, "Trump is attempting a coup in plain sight."
Joe Biden has won the presidency. But the current president of the United States, Donald Trump, is attempting a coup in plain sight. “I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!” he tweeted on Saturday morning. This came after he demanded that states cease counting votes when the total began to turn against him, after his press secretary shocked Fox News anchors by arguing that legally cast votes should be thrown out.
The Trump administration’s current strategy is to go to court to try and get votes for Biden ruled illegitimate, and that strategy explicitly rests on Trump’s appointees honoring a debt the administration, at least, believes they owe. One of his legal advisers said, “We’re waiting for the United States Supreme Court — of which the President has nominated three justices — to step in and do something. And hopefully Amy Coney Barrett will come through.”
If that fails, and it will, Mark Levin, one of the nation’s most popular conservative radio hosts, is explicitly calling on Republican legislatures to reject the election results and seat Donald Trump as president anyway. After Twitter tagged the tweet as contested, Trump’s press secretary weighed in furiously on Levin’s behalf.
That this coup probably will not work — that it is being carried out farcically, erratically, ineffectively — does not mean it is not happening, or that it will not have consequences. Millions will believe Trump, will see the election as stolen.
Lastly, here's a bunch of Twitter tweets that resonated with me today.