President Donald J. Trump had four years to prove to America how “presidential” he could be. All through his presidency and straight through the end of his re-election campaign, he refused.
Some observers have insisted he was capable of acting differently—that he could be mature and steady. Those people were essentially method actors who, in service to Trump, mastered the art of playing dumb. Actually, that’s too kind to them. Their supposed confidence in Trump’s fitness for the job was really only a disguise for the unlimited amount of malfeasance they would tolerate from him.
As of this writing, Trump appears to be on his way to defeat, and he is flailing. The orderly democratic process of counting ballots is underway, and the nation’s chief executive is falsely claiming that the election is being stolen from him and already litigating. Republican officeholders remain on the sidelines as he stomps all over the election, and his apologists in the conservative movement are spreading bizarre and paranoid conspiracy theories. If there were ever a time one would hope that Trump’s party would restrain and guide him, this would be it. This is the GOP’s final and definitive chance to put loyalty to country before loyalty to Trump, to put the public before party and power. And, still nothing.
When it comes to protecting democracy, the GOP needs a new mascot: the cricket.
All was quiet on the eve of the election, as Trump set up a “war room” inside the White House, despite the laws prohibiting the use of taxpayer-funded resources for campaign purposes. The campaign held a watch party on the White House grounds on election night. Trump campaign staff told reporters there was no expense to taxpayers, which is totally believable if you swallowed that excuse the first time when they turned the White House into a backdrop for the Republican National Convention.
Don’t go looking for the officials demanding investigations into Hunter Biden to say anything. The only time Republicans bothered to stand up for the Hatch Act and anti-nepotism laws is when they gave Ivanka Trump a standing ovation as she nuked them on live television at the White House convention.
In the wee hours of the morning on election night, Trump stood in the East Room and falsely declared himself the winner and, without any evidence whatsoever, alleged fraud. He “claimed” the states of Pennsylvania, Georgia, and North Carolina before the outcome was determined there. He tweeted, “We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election.” And, of course, Trump’s assorted family members, government-paid staffers, and campaign members (not that there’s any major difference between these three categories) followed his lead on social media—and were promptly slapped with misinformation labels from Twitter like they were low-level workers for Vladimir Putin’s troll farm. (Again, not much difference.)
The Trump campaign is now wishcasting about marching to the Supreme Court so Trump’s hand-picked judges can hand him the election. Lucky for us, the only thing standing between Trump and his Subsequent-made-for-Moviefilm legal victory is his other hand-picked superlawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
This cringeworthy series of escalating authoritarian events were a dreaded “worst-case scenario” for democracy watchers. What Trump has done in the past couple of days should have surprised no one: He has been signaling for months that he would claim victory, accuse others of breaking the law, and wage a court battle over mail-in ballots. You’ve read some of this in The Bulwark here and here, for instance.
And yet, as all of this was coming into focus, an assorted group of GOP officials and staffers vented to Politico about their private concerns that Trump may not accept the election results, participate in a peaceful transition of power, or take any of the other many abject actions he’s been threatening.
Because, as everyone in Washington knows, when you really want to express your truest thoughts, you can’t assign your name to it. Being quoted in a piece like this is basically a “Post Secret” version of “Dear Diary for the Self-Serving Careerist Soul.” (See more here.)
What’s especially delicious, however—in the sense of revealing how God-awful these people’s mindsets are—is this passage:
When asked if there was a “West-Wing” like contingency plan for Republican leaders if Trump did something radical in the coming days, the senior Senate GOP aide was coy.
“I can’t really talk about that,” he said. “It’s not something I can really get into.”
But when pressed, he offered the following: “It’s all hypothetical, but if they do what Jason Miller was talking about you’ll see a lot of people”—he paused for a moment—“not agreeing.”
Reflect on that.
You might, maybe, could see Republicans “not agreeing” with the, cough, cough, highly respected and credible Trump mouthpiece known as Jason Miller.
Feel better now? Maybe only if you’ve been chugging liquid antacid since Tuesday evening as your election hellscape beverage of choice.
Nothing less than the future of our country and our precious right to vote is at stake and all the GOP masterminds in the Senate can think to do is ponder a disagreement with the scummiest of scummy Trump hacks.
That’s not even the worst part.
We’re 48 hours into Trump actively undermining a presidential election and our democracy and they haven’t even executed on that.
Let these final hours of the Trump campaign be our last reminder of how bad the orange man really was. And how bad they were, too.