This week’s signal is the extraordinary, chilling attack on democracy that the Trumpified Republican Party is now pursuing.
Since the November 7 election, despite all evidence to the contrary, Trump has repeatedly claimed he won the election. that “legal votes” were cast for him and fraudulent votes for his opponent; and that he has no intention of conceding President-elect Joe Biden – even though Biden has 306 electoral college votes to Trump’s 232 votes. Trump’s attorneys have filed numerous lawsuits allegedly suspending the counting and certification of votes in key states like Pennsylvania and Michigan, but more realistically intending to simply cloud the water in advance of the official confirmation of the vote in each state. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Vice President Mike Pence and Trade Advisor Peter Navarro have all said they work on the assumption that there will be a second term for Trump. Attorney General Bill Barr has given federal prosecutors permission to search for election fraud on fishing expeditions. Government agencies are being asked to prepare a budget for next year that assumes that Trump is still president and that his political priorities will continue to dictate government policy. The General Services Administration has refused to initiate the process necessary to begin a change of president. Biden has been frozen out of national security briefings and planning sessions on Covid-19. White House staff have reportedly been told that if they look at job advertisements that could be useful for a post-Trump era they will be fired.
As if all of this wasn’t bad enough, Trump last week thoroughly cleaned up the civilian leadership of the Department of Defense, also started flushing intelligence services, and is said to have thought of firing the CIA and FBI chiefs. In any case, the replacements for the purged men and women are extreme Trump loyalists installed by John McEntee, the 30-year-old White House chief of staff (and the same official who reportedly threatens White House staff to look for jobs in administration after Trump).
McEtee’s key selection criterion appears to be nothing more than absolute, undeniable loyalty to Trump-the-Person and not to the Constitution. As a by-product of finding people so morally malleable, a recent appointment has a long, unsavory track record of spreading conspiracy theories as well as racist and religious Bigotteries. Given Trump’s very public efforts to invoke the Insurrection Act as early as June and unleash the U.S. military against domestic protesters, these personnel changes should set off alarm bells across the government and the population.
It doesn’t stop there. The post-election coups and institutional vandalism have spread to academic institutions. Last week the White House removed the chief scientist Monitoring the National Climate Assessment, paving the way for the installation of a climate skeptic in his place.
Thousands of extremists – many of them wore proud boys, oath guards, three percenter and other militia and street combat badges – came to Washington last weekend to decipher the election results. Trump fanned the flames by organizing a shy drive by that allowed him to wave to his MAGA brigades from his car without actually mingling with them. Hours later, as night fell, street fighting broke out between these gangs and their opponents. Again Trump seemed to stir up the civil discord and about “ANTIFA SCUMAnd called on the DC police to join the fight and show no mercy (towards the antifa activists, of course).
This is all bad stuff designed to undermine every pillar of American democracy in ways that will be difficult to recover from. And it ensures that tens of millions of Trump voters assume that the Biden presidency is the illegitimate product of an intricate web of conspiracies and election errors.
In days gone by, Democrats and Republicans would have come together to denounce such nonsense and protect the country’s well-being. In these shabby political days, the GOP is unable to maintain even the claim to uphold democratic standards. And so we continue the jolt to Trumpian nihilism, with a power-mad president refusing to admit defeat and an opportunistic, lithe majority in the GOP Senate and a minority in the House of Representatives who defeated him in his attack on the survival of America Democracy supports and supports. Trump is unlikely to win to stay in power after January 20, but it shows that even if he loses, he can continue to divide the country and that he has every desire to play Americans against Americans in the coming weeks and months .
In the meantime, the Covid-19 crisis has not gone away, as Trump has repeatedly claimed in the last few days of the campaign. Instead, it has now turned into a full blown humanitarian catastrophe with more than 150,000 new infections per day, a situation that threatens to flood the hospital system in dozens of states and trigger a winter of death that will mark many tens of thousands of Americans from this terrible disease to die. The President’s Answer? Except for cheerleading a vaccine, which most Americans don’t have for several months, and threatens to withhold this vaccine of New Yorkers, as soon as it is, silence. Answer of his advisors? Trump’s newly found favorite, Dr. Scott Atlas – which, as should be emphasized, is Not a specialist in infectious diseases –urges Michigan residents To “stand up” against Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s new public health orders.
This is madness on a national level. America survived the plague in the past. It survived civil war and political upheaval. It survived mediocre and corrupt leaders. And it has survived the tensions between the federal states. But today, at the end of 2020, it is confronted with multiple and escalating crises at the same time: It is led by a narcissistic, power-hungry president who at best has reality under control; is taken hostage by a political party that has even given up appearances of respect for the formal characteristics of democracy; has a White House that has either wavered fighting a deadly pandemic or has decided it is serving its political interests to make the disease rampant; and has witnessed a coordinated effort to sabotage the results of a national election and purge the government of officials with the stature to withstand this betrayal.
Of course, part of it is just the usual Trumpian sound, the usual undignified verbal abuse of a deeply damaged man. At this point, however, the noise and signal overlap so much that they fit together almost perfectly.
There are still nine weeks until the inauguration. Trump has made it clear that he will fill these nine weeks with chaos, anger, violence and revenge. He does everything to undermine public confidence in the elections and everything to subordinate government agencies to his will, giving one nebulous reason at a time as to why he should stay in power.
To call these times “dangerous” is just as banal as calling Einstein a scientist. The viability of American democracy, the system’s ability to direct peaceful post-election power transfers, America’s positive image in the eyes of the world are all currently threatened. As the attack on democracy intensifies, the question for today, tomorrow, and every day between now and January 20, as the old union battle song goes, is: On which side are you? On which side are you?