Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!
Sail on, O Union, strong and great!
Humanity with all its fears,
With all the hopes of future years,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate!
I can’t be the only one remembering Longfellow as November 3 draws near.
In the wake of Donald’s rather stunning declaration that “we’ll just have to see” whether he accepts an election loss and permits a smooth, peaceful transition of power, I seem to have crossed over the line that separates mere anxiety from genuine fear. I’ve experienced a number of intense emotions during this abominable Presidency – rage, mostly – but I’ve never been so frightened for the Republic, while any attempts to talk myself off the ledge are repeatedly thwarted by alarming commentary coming from a wide spectrum of pundits and journalists whose work I’ve been following for years, none of whom prior to this have seemed prone to hysterical hyperbole. This from economist Paul Krugman of the NYT:
This is a screen capture from a segment of Chris Hayse’s show on MSNBC, in which the Trump election strategy was discussed:
This from a recent cover story in the Atlantic, titled What if Trump Refuses to Concede?
From Frank Bruni’s column this morning in the Times:
Historian Michael Beschloss on Maddow last night:
And on it goes. Many seem convinced that Trump is running a grand strategy, perhaps crafted with the assistance of evil minions like AG Barr, and facilitated by the many years of Republican gerrymandering and voter suppression that set the table for Donald well before his 2016 Electoral College installation. In broad terms it goes like this:
- Do everything possible to suppress the Democratic vote. Sabotage the postal service to impede mail-in voting, known to be the preferred method of Democratic voters who, unlike so many of their Republican counterparts, believe the COVID pandemic is a real thing. Keep harping on how harmless COVID actually is to ensure that the MAGA monsters get out on election day to vote in person. Attempt via multiple lawsuits to rig election rules in as many states as possible, attacking the validity of ballots not cast in person.
- Convince broad swaths of the public, through sheer force of repetition, that the coming election has actually been rigged by the Democrats, especially via fraudulent mail-in ballots, and declare that an honest election is impossible. Pitch this line over and over, as often as possible and from as many Republican enablers as can be shoved in front of the cameras, until the Base knows it to be true, and even fence-sitters are inured to the idea. Manufacture evidence as necessary.
- Take full advantage of Russian interference and media manipulation, just like before. Claim it isn’t happening, and that the real threat is from China, which favours Biden. Manufacture evidence as necessary.
- On election day, send MAGA goons to polling places to intimidate Democratic voters, while screaming and hollering that the Justice Department, as affirmed by Bill Barr, has irrefutable evidence of Democratic election fraud, just as expected. Manufacture evidence as necessary.
- Declare victory on election night before mail-in ballots, expected to be overwhelmingly Democratic, can arrive at their snail’s pace to be tallied. In response to the purported fraud in progress, send federal law enforcement to seize the ballot boxes, and put an end to the counting.
- Exploit holes and ambiguities in the shitty 18th Century Constitution to meddle with the appointment of electors to the Electoral College, getting friendly Republican legislatures (themselves the product of gerrymandering and widespread voter suppression) to ignore the popular vote when necessary and appoint pro-Trump lackeys instead.
- Dispute any possible defeat, or Democratic attempts to get all the ballots counted, with lawsuits that wind up in the Supreme Court, soon to be stacked with Trump appointees as a result of Mitch McConnell’s heinous theft of seats, abetted by the horrendously unfortunate and ill-timed death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Wait for the captive court to rule in Trump’s favour.
- Suppress mass protest by any means necessary, including the use of military force, the deployment of which can be justified by widespread violence spurred on by MAGA agitators, whose calculated provocations turn peaceful demonstrations into riots.
- Execute all of these steps while Congress, hamstrung by McConnell’s Senate majority (lame duck or not) does absolutely nothing to interfere.
- Coup complete! Settle in to self-perpetuating autocracy.
Time was, only cranks and apparently panicky Cassandras like Bill Maher were insisting that Donald would never leave office peaceably. Well, them and Micael Cohen, during his pre-prison testimony before Congress. Now everybody’s saying it. The word is that the Pentagon is gaming out scenarios, while the Joint Chiefs try to figure out how they’ll respond when Donald attempts an unlawful seizure of power. Meanwhile those of us in the outside world, lacking any means to influence the outcome – not even the one lousy vote cast often in a spirit of dejected fatalism in our own elections – have no option but to watch and wait, helpless spectators chewing our fingernails and perhaps wetting our beds.
Are we over-reacting? Can this really be happening? It seems improbable, given how America’s decentralized patchwork electoral system works, and all the institutional barriers that exist to prevent the skullduggery, every step of the way, but look at the past four years. The mighty institutions of America’s democracy have proved weak, and easily undermined. The Constitution and surrounding law are a mess, providing little guidance and no referee on a host of ambiguities. Bad faith actors exist at every level, from the armed paramilitary forces who patrol America’s streets when they’re supposed to be securing the border with Mexico, to the once independent Justice Department, to the floor of the Senate, ready to put their shoulders to the wheel. The courts have been stacked by a relentless effort, spearheaded by Mitch McConnell, to convert America’s legislative system into an otherwise gridlocked talking shop that does nothing except remake the federal judiciary into an organ of the GOP. The final step in the process, stacking the Supreme Court for generations to come, is about to be taken. All the pieces will soon be in place. The propaganda is already being spread, from AG Barr on down. The lawyers are already at work, all across America, eating at the electoral system like termites. The volunteers tasked with voter intimidation at the polls are being recruited by the thousand. Improbable it may be, but we’d be crazy to kid ourselves any longer that what amounts to a coup isn’t possible. One way or another, Trump will steal this election if he can.
Kathy suggests we drop off the grid, and resurface on January 20 to see what happened. I ask you: does that sound like something I’m apt to do?
All could yet be well. It could. You don’t know that it won’t. Or history could mark a turning point, a tilt towards global tyranny that began in the world’s greatest and oldest republic, and spread outwards from there. Wait and see.
39 days to go.