The United States is in an unprecedented, if not unpredictable, predicament right now. President Trump is refusing to concede the election, claiming it was stolen from him through fraud and cheating and illegal votes being counted. Despite legal experts, election officials (including Republicans in the states in question), and international election observers invited by Trump himself all saying that they’ve seen no evidence to back up these accusations, Trump isn’t backing down.
This behavior from Trump is not surprising. It’s been clear from the get-go that the guy is a malignant narcissist, and malignant narcissists will do anything to avoid admitting defeat. He is literally incapable of doing so, it’s likely that he will go to his grave claiming that this election was illegitimate, even if someone with sway in his circle manages the herculean feat of getting him to publicly accept the loss like a big boy.
Trump is a problem, but he’s not the biggest problem. This nightmare of a presidency has been marked time and again by half the country cringing at the president shattering democratic norms, then quickly shift to a chagrined brushoff of “Ugh, Trump being Trump again.” After four years, we’ve come to expect, if not accept, that Trump is gonna Trump. Playing the victim when he doesn’t get his way is Trump’s game. We know this. He’s not going to change.
What’s more disconcerting is how many people are continuing to enable his behavior, despite the fact that it’s tearing the nation apart. Not just disconcerting, but gross, frankly. As CNN’s Jake Tapper said this morning, “They’re coddling him like a 5-year-old whose pet turtle died.” We’re talking about a grown-ass man in the most powerful position in the world, not a petulant toddler past his nap time. It’s just embarrassing.
And yet only a handful of Republicans have come out to say so. According to the Washington Post, a senior Republican official recently remarked, “What is the downside of humoring him for this little bit of time? No one seriously thinks the results will change. He went golfing this weekend. It’s not like he’s plotting how to prevent Joe Biden from taking power on Jan. 20. He’s tweeting about filing some lawsuits; those lawsuits will fail; then he’ll tweet some more about how the election was stolen; then he’ll leave.”
I’m sorry, what?
The problem here isn’t Donald Trump. If he were ranting alone, none of this would matter. The problem is the Republ… https://t.co/COHmXfipzw
— Ezra Klein (@Ezra Klein)1605040130.0
What is the downside? How about the tens of millions of Trump followers who, for whatever reason, actually do believe his lies and who seriously do think the results will change? How about the fact that their adulation of him is the only thing he lives for, and that he will keep feeding them the narrative that the election was stolen even after these lawsuits fizzle out? How about the fact that a not-insignificant number of his most ardent supporters are armed to the hilt, just waiting for the call to save America from the evil Democratic overlords? How about the militias and extremist groups that have been foaming at the mouth for an excuse to start a civil war?
Even if the chances of violence are small, they’re real. These people don’t brush off Trump’s bombast; they cherish it. Trump’s base is full-on beholden to Trumpism to a cult-like degree, and if this senior Republican official can’t see the danger in fanning that flame of fanaticism, then they’re a fool.
But we don’t even have to go that far. The peaceful transfer of power is a democratic norm that keeps America safe and stable. Even during closer elections than this one—including the 2016 election, which Trump won with narrower electoral vote margins in key swing states and without the popular vote—the loser has conceded when the states’ official projections made it clear that they’d been defeated.
This reaction of Trump’s is humiliating on every level. We may have unfortunately had to live with Trump daily debasing the office of the presidency with his words and behavior because there was nothing we could do about it, but what he’s doing now goes beyond that. This is an undermining of democracy itself.
Trump’s base can’t or won’t see it, but I would think every single one of our elected officials would. This isn’t rocket science. This is basic. The Republicans could have nipped this in the bud immediately, but instead most are just going along with it, either oblivious to or unconcerned about how fractious and dangerous it is.
Hampering the smooth transition of power is a harm even if the transition happens. Duping tens of millions of Amer… https://t.co/lX2ZTD7WkF
— Julian Sanchez (@Julian Sanchez)1605035872.0
But perhaps the biggest downside of “humoring” the Trump narrative is that HELLO WE ALL NEED TO LIVE IN THE SAME OBJECTIVE REALITY HERE. Claiming that Democrats literally stole an election through fraud isn’t a schoolyard insult, but a genuinely serious criminal allegation. Pretending it’s just run-of-the-mill political theater is insane.
Because people believe it, 100%. The right-wing slip into unreality keeps getting steeper, with hoards of Trumpists fleeing Fox News—FOX NEWS, for the love—for not being Trumpist enough. This is the same frighteningly large percentage of Republicans who believe that QAnon conspiracy theories are real. Some of these people are now in Congress. The whacko fringe is taking over and bringing their untethered-from-reality misinformation machines with them and SERIOUSLY REPUBLICANS WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU? Conservative views are one thing; enabling your constituency to reject reality and substitute their own is entirely something else.
This goes so far beyond normal partisanship, it’s not even funny. In fact, nothing about this is funny. Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State, representative of the U.S. on the world stage, said today, “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.” Then he chuckled.
Was that a joke? Is the attempt to overthrow a democratic election a joke? Is letting the whiny child with the nuclear codes think he’s going to get his way, simply because he wants it, a joke? Or was Pompeo being serious? It’s impossible to tell anymore. Even listening to the entire press conference, it was impossible to tell. The president’s appointees are afraid to tell him the truth, either out of fear of his wrath—which is real—or fear of losing the brainwashed masses they need in order to keep political power.
Either that, or he has sucked them into his narcissistic delusions, which is actually a lot scarier.
New from CNN’s @kylieatwood and @jmhansler: “State Department officials and diplomats are shocked, confused and out… https://t.co/EALmolpPqF
— Brian Stelter (@Brian Stelter)1605040418.0
Again, we are in uncharted territory here, but we shouldn’t be. No one should be humoring this man’s baseless claims to protect his fragile ego. No one should be going along with his undignified response to losing an election when the good of the country is at stake. No one should be allowing the feelings of a man with dangerous pathologies to control the way the United States of America transitions to new leadership.
Trump’s power is not absolute. His sway is not unshakable. Elected leaders—Republicans in particular—can put an end to this embarrassing, dangerous charade right now by raising a united front and saying “enough” to Donald, loud and clear. He’ll throw a fit and probably fire a bunch of people, but he’s going to do that anyway once it sinks in that he can’t have what he wants.
The stability and safety of the country, from forces both inside and outside our borders, hinge on how everyone in government who isn’t Trump acts right now. So please, take a step back, look at the big picture, and do the right thing.
In the long run, there isn’t a downside to that.
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