Not sure what, actually but certainly something. The Republican Party as we once knew it – the one that could lay claim to the ‘party of Lincoln’ moniker, or even the ‘party of Reagan’. Pretty sure neither one of those previous Republican presidents would recognize the Grand Old Party now. Our constitutionally defined system of checks and balances – a concept we all thought sacrosanct. Turns out that was only true as long as those responsible for said checks and balances acted on principle and in good faith. That ship apparently sailed sometime between Mitch McConnell’s stated goal to make President Obama a one-term president in 2009, and the Republican National Committee eschewing a 2020 party platform in favor of a promise to do whatever President Trump wants. Our Democratic Republic certainly seems on a loosely packed sand dune these days. Based on their own words, I’m pretty sure our founders would be appalled. I know I am.
Of course, Donald Trump has been telling us all along who, and what, he was. Unfortunately, and somewhat disturbingly, 74 million of my fellow citizens didn’t find that to be a problem. More interesting is that many of them seem to think that it was impossible for Joe Biden to have received 7,059,740 votes more than Trump. This, despite the fact that the GOP gained down ballot – including in so-called ‘blue’ states. I have no more energy left to debate this with those of you that think I’m brainwashed, but one last time: The specific fraud allegations haven’t been ignored by the courts – in those cases where the president’s legal team didn’t start out by telling the courts that they were not accusing anyone of fraud, the evidence they did present was not deemed credible. In fact, The Department of Justice failed to find any evidence of fraud. And the Supreme Court wasn’t ‘hiding behind procedure’ – Texas had absolutely no legal right to sue any other state over how they conduct their elections. That fact used to be a key tenet of Republicans, which further indicates how far they’ve drifted from their roots.
The bigger problem is that the president is simply acting according to his nature. He’s a malignant narcissist who said before the election that he hates losing. He knew it was likely – he said as much when Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed – he was expecting the Supreme Court to decide the election. He’s also transactional – it clearly never crossed his mind that his court picks would choose jurisprudence over returning a favor. Quid pro quo – he may have trouble pronouncing it, but he lives it – that is the essence of the ‘art of the deal’.
Of course, and as usual, much of this is noise and distraction. Keep his base angry and convinced that the election was a fraud, and everything will be much more difficult for Biden to accomplish. It keep the door open for Trump himself, or one of his chosen surrogates, to run for election in 2024. Trump is a sore loser, but he was a sore winner, as well – he’s still complains about the fact that Clinton won the popular vote. Again – he’s never really hidden who he was – it’s astounding how many people didn’t choose to believe him.
There is a theory that McConnell and the GOP leadership continue to stay mostly silent regarding the president’s deeply disturbing display of undemocratic behavior because they are more concerned with the Georgia senate race runoffs, and with maintaining control of the Senate. They fear that pushing back against Trump will upset his base, and cause issues for the GOP candidates in the runoffs. Of course, after Friday’s Supreme Court decision, the far reaches of his base seem more inclined to “destroy the Republican Party” because they aren’t feeling the love. But then again, they also have been duped into believing that Trump actually won, and have taken to threatening election officials and state governors who disagree (even when those same people are lifelong republicans who still support Trump).
We’ve always said that a dictatorship can’t happen here, but we’ve already had four years of an autocrat who succeeded in making himself one with the party – and effectively turning the Republican Party into a cult of personality. He very likely will not be the one to do it, but the erosion of the checks and balances, the willingness of congress to give more and more power over to the executive branch, successfully planting the seed of rigged elections and a lack of trust in the system, and deepening the divide between democrats and republicans, all weaken the system, and the next autocrat that comes along, one with a sharper legal mind, and a better ability to seem empathetic, may well succeed. Modern dictatorships tend to start out with legitimately elected leaders who slowly erode the systems meant to prevent dictatorships, as was the case with some of Trumps’s favorite leaders, such as Erdogan and Putin. It can happen here. We, the voters especially, are the only ones that can stop it, but it is going to take work to undo the damage that has already been done. And all indications are that the Republican Party, as it now stands, will hinder, rather than help, that effort.
In the meantime the COVID-19 is actually raging through the United States at an unprecedented rate – we hit 16 million cases just days after hitting 15 million, and the death toll is likely to continue at 3000+ people per day for the foreseeable future. And yet, it feels like no one is paying attention. Pandemic burnout set in just in time for the holidays. And the only thing that the president seems interested in is not being a loser – and the media is focusing on that nearly 24/7.
Sad days, indeed.
For my Trump-voter friends (if you are even still reading anymore): You own this whole mess. You own Trump’s tantrum-laden tweets, the never-ending attempts to overturn the election by any means. Some of you have said that you were glad Biden won, even though you voted for Trump because of his policies (please detail these for me, since he’s made much noise but accomplished little – and has done a bit of damage along the way) – my only comment is ‘WTF?’. It’s possible that you and I may be reaching a crossroad. I find it harder and harder to understand how people I’d known to be kind and well-meaning, could turn out to be okay with so much wrong in the name of some illusive policy. Some of you have said that you wish Trump had won, but once again, for the thousandth time, you wish he’s move on and stop his stupid tweeting, since it’s clear he didn’t. It’s probable we have so little left in common that we too may have reached a crossroad. I have no positive insight to why you genuinely want to keep him in office. For those of you who sincerely believe that the election was stolen? I’ve got nothing left. We are way past differing political, religious, or lifestyle opinions.
In any event, for the Trump voters in my life and me, I expect that once the dust settles, and Biden has been inaugurated, there will be a period of reckoning and reconciliation. I’d like to have more reconciliation, but I’m not optimistic. The last four years, and especially the last 40 days have shown me some things I’d prefer not have seen. I’m still working through it.
Sunset, June 7, 2019.
Explainer/disclaimer: I’m an equal opportunity offender, and a member of no political party (no primaries for me to vote in, alas). I grew up in an environment (and time), at home and at school, where reasoned debate and logic were respected, and expected. Objective facts still held meaning. Even in my Catholic elementary schools, logic won points over emotion, and sometimes, even faith, in debates (at a time before Roe v Wade, I took a pro legalized abortion stance in an 8th-grade debate – and won). Not that I would ever claim to be free of emotional appeals (that’s sometimes the only way to decide between equally valid views, and sometimes things just are – or should be – viewed compassionately rather than coldly). At times over the years, my moderate, socially-liberal-yet still-in-touch-with-my-conservative-upbringing, opinions and ideals have annoyed, and actually angered, friends and family on both sides of the spectrum – particularly those on the extremes. I don’t enjoy the hostile reactions – or family tensions, so I often looked for ways to state my case without causing those that disagreed too much offense. A tactic that failed an unsurprising amount of the time because we all tend toward defensiveness when our belief systems are challenged. I enjoy the dialogue, though, so I put my thoughts out there, regardless, with mixed results. After (still) dealing with cancer and its long-term repercussions, as a senior – a time when our perspectives and priorities often change, I find that I am no longer inclined to always be quite so constrained.