Updated: Nov 21, 2020
The longer Trump's election farce drags on, the more anxious I become. Yes, farce : [from the verb; or from farcer, French, to mock.] A dramatick representation written without regularity, and stuffed with wild and ludicrous conceits. conceit : 3. Opinion, generally in a sense of contempt; fancy; imagination; fantastical notion (Samuel Johnson's Dictionary).
The president with the acquiescence of most Republicans in Congress and the active support of the ones who turn to him as their moral compass, e.g., the execrable senator from my native state of South Carolina Lindsey Graham, has made a farce of the electoral process. Polls show that some 70 percent of Republicans buy into it. How anyone with so much as a minimally developed faculty for reason and critical thought could believe that the Democrats are competent to pull off fraud on the scale alleged is baffling. No greater evidence for the dismal state of American education is needed.
Things have taken a dangerous turn with Trump's intrusion into the certification process. In Michigan two Republican canvassers in Wayne County attempted to rescind their votes to certify election results after a phone call from the White House. Today high-ranking state lawmakers of the Republican persuasion are being flown to Washington where the screws will be put to them to have the legislature certify an alternate, presumably loyal Republican slate of electors. Kayleigh McEnaney said with a straight face because lying is first nature with her that this is a routine meeting, "not an advocacy event" (Niedzwiadek, Michigan GOP descends). Yes, and the president does not cheat at golf (Reilly, How and why President Trump cheats). This is the kind of arm twisting for which Lyndon Johnson was once notorious, but in his era this was more the stuff of backroom wheeling and dealing, not a blatant, out in the open power grab.
Those of the glass half full inclination take heart from the spectacle of frivolous lawsuit after frivolous lawsuit being swatted away by the courts. In other circumstances the show put on by Trump's senior legal team would be wildly comedic, farce indeed. Rudy Giuliani smells crimes whose scope "suggests that there was a plan — from a centralized place to execute these various acts of voter fraud, specifically focused on big cities…." Sydney Powell, formerly better known as Michael Flynn's last-ditch attorney, screeched that "all kinds of massive interests of globalist — dictators, corporations, you name it, everybody's against us, except President Trump" (Timm, Giuliani Baselessly Alleges). The Clinton Foundation, George Soros, even Hugo Chavez are somehow all woven into a vast, nebulous, half-baked web of conspiracy with no attempt to present a credible narrative, much less evidence. This is the stuff of a Thomas Pynchon novel, except Pynchon would make it seem more plausible.
The sight of what appeared to be black dye dripping down Giuliani's face accompanied by mocking comments by crew members caught on the air at Thursday's news conference has been a source of amusement for a nation sorely in need of a good laugh. Maybe it was not black dye. Maybe it was black bile oozing from the maleficent little gnome.
Each day brings anew the possibility that Republican state officials will cave or some Trump-appointed judge will come through for him with a cockamamie ruling that will breathe fresh life into this miserable affair. The scenarios are far-fetched and success may not be probable, but I do not understand how after four years of Trumpism anyone could be sanguine about the prospects.
Meanwhile, the president plays golf when not otherwise occupied subverting democracy and tweeting maniacally, Mitch McConnell gleefully pushes judicial confirmations of libertarian fanatics through the Senate, and the pandemic rages, with hospitals across the country at or near capacity and health care workers reeling from burdens placed upon them as a consequence of incompetence and indifference at the highest levels of government. Four years ago my capacity for cynicism was insufficient for me to believe that things might come to this. Yet here we are.
Memo from the editorial desk 4:08 p.m.
Minor, nonsubstantive edits were made to this piece after it was published earlier this afternoon.
The remark about the dismal state of American education is not intended as a reflection on the many dedicated, devoted teachers across the country. It is, rather, about the failure to provide the resources teachers need to succeed in one of the most important roles in a democratic society.
References and related reading
Quint Forgey. Alex Isenstadt, Giuliani and fellow Trump lawyers crank out conspiracies as legal challenges implode, Politico, November 19, 2020
Masha Gessen, The Coup Stage of Trump's Presidency, The New Yorker, November 20, 2020
Nicole Narea, 3 scholars say Trump isn’t staging a coup — but he still poses a threat to democracy, Vox, November 14, 2020
Nick Niedzwiadek, Michigan GOP descends on D.C. as Trump scrambles to undo election, Politico, November 20, 2020
Jane C. Timm, Rudy Giuliani baselessly alleges 'centralized' voter fraud at free-wheeling news conference, NBC News, November 19, 2020
Rick Reilly, How and why President Trump cheats at golf — even when he’s playing against Tiger Woods, Golf, April 2, 2019