Trump supporters gathered at the Central Counting Board offices in Detroit, Michigan this morning, hysterically chanting, “Stop the count!”
Obviously, that is one direct result of Donald Trump’s mendacious guile, his constantly shape-shifting assault on every norm, convention and law that holds up the fragile institution of democracy.
It had been a day of miracles: obviously, Trump’s incredible ability to motivate voters to defy the polls, logic and sanity and turn out for him in massive numbers; but more importantly, the fact that the election proceeded in peace. The central notion of democracy — having the freedom to agree to disagree without shooting each other — was being championed in real time.
Then Trump spoke, and reminded us that one man, utterly unconstrained, can bring it all down.
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Trump’s claims were incoherent, internally contradictory, illegal and in every respect incorrect. He said he had already won the election — which he also said has seen massive fraud — but that the counting of votes must continue in Arizona while being stopped in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. He’ll be going straight to the US Supreme Court, which he can’t do, to stop the count.
The legal reality is that every valid vote must be counted, and the result will be determined in the electoral college on December 16 after every state has declared its own outcome.
It’s complicated, however, because voting is regulated at state level. Each state has different laws, so the legal challenges must originate in the state courts. There will be fights about whether mail-in ballots, post-marked before election day but received after, can be counted.
Trump will brazenly argue a line in one state that directly conflicts with what he’ll say in another. Some of the litigation might make it to the US Supreme Court, which might end up deciding the final outcome as it did with the “hanging chads” verdict in 2000.
But the litigation, like Trump’s assertions, will be performative. The real significance of what Trump is doing lies in the meta-communication he has perfected, signalled to the 65 million-plus American voters who are pledged to his faith.
The key in Trump’s speech was a phrase that, interestingly, most media reporting skipped over as they focused on his claims of fraud. Trump said: “We want all voting to stop”.
It will be widely assumed by the media and intelligent people that Trump misspoke in his enthusiasm, and meant to say “We want all counting to stop.” Contextually, looking at his other words around those ones, that would make far more sense.
But Trump knows what he is saying, and he is the master of conflating to inflame. He knows that his base, which was already convinced that he could only lose by fraud, departed from its critical senses four years ago.
He knows that it is an easy trick for him to convince them that counting and voting are the same thing. Look at the faces of the people trying to break into the voting centre in Detroit. They believe a crime is being committed; a crime they can’t describe, provide evidence of or understand. But they know it’s happening.
This is the perpetration of The Great Lie, in our faces. Trump is playing everyone. The media this morning was earnestly reporting that the thing that’s really needed now — the thing that will save America — is for senior Republicans, who have spent the past four years enabling Trump’s demagoguery, to turn around and repudiate his claims. That will do the trick.
The lawyers will believe that it will be the courts, the last pillar of democracy, who will save the day. They will dispassionately dismiss Trump’s idiocy, giving their verdicts to the peaceful transition of power.
They’re all wrong. Two undeniable facts tell us unequivocally that America is in deep, deep trouble: it is led by a demagogue who has no boundaries and will not blink; and nobody who is not consumed by blind mob hysteria could rationally cast a vote for Trump. Yet, half of America just did.
Oh, we can’t call it Nazism redux; we can’t compare Trump to Hitler. But Godwin’s rule is beside the point. Hitler taught the world a crucial lesson about what happens when you try to wrestle a snake.
Trump has built an army, loyal beyond reason and willing to believe every bit of bullshit their leader spouts. They’re tuned in for the dog whistles and ready to fight. They’re armed to the teeth, and they occupy most of the territory outside the big coastal cities.
I read this morning (from an unnamed senior Republican official) that, assuming the final count goes Biden’s way as is looking likely, Trump will make a lot of noise and then quietly go away.
I am intrigued that so many people still choose to believe that.