More than two weeks after the election, Donald Trump is showing no signs of recognizing Joe Biden’s win. To the contrary, this week he fired Chris Krebs, the national security official who has spent much of the past several months working on election security issues and, post-election, debunking Trump’s conspiracy claims. The tweets in which Trump announced Krebs’s firing were so misleading that Twitter flagged them, disputing Trump’s claim that the election had been rigged against him.
Meanwhile, the General Services Administration continues to block the transition process from moving forward. In the race for unadulterated political cowardice and buffoonery, the GSA’s Emily Murphy is surely a front-runner at this point. She will, I sincerely hope, have to live the rest of her life being made constantly aware of the fact that she, out of fear of becoming the butt of Trump’s Twitter trolling, collaborated in a fascist attempt to demolish the results of an election in which more Americans participated than ever before. This week, news reports surfaced that even while she was stonewalling on the transition process, she was looking for a new job. Best of luck with that effort, Ms. Murphy. Rather than qualifying as the poster child for the “Good American” of this fascist moment, you’d be lucky, frankly, to be hired as a sewer worker or a rat-catcher after the stunt you’ve pulled.
And on Tuesday, two GOP election officials in Wayne County, Mich., attempted to block certification of Detroit’s vote count, so as to deprive Biden—who won Michigan by 148,000 votes, roughly 15 times the margin that Trump secured over Clinton there in 2016—of that state’s 16 electoral votes. That single act of antidemocratic vandalism may well be the most outrageous attempted mugging of the American electorate since the height of Jim Crow.
While the Wayne County officials were forced by a torrent of public outrage to backpedal, the threat to America’s democratic infrastructure remains acute. On Wednesday, Trump claimed that the officials were coerced into retracting their refusal to certify the vote count. Presumably buoyed by polls showing that a majority of Republicans now believe the election was stolen, he announced, “I win Michigan!” Responding to the continuing pressure from Trump and other Republicans, the two GOP officials have since claimed in affidavits that Democrats unfairly pressured them and reneged on a promise to audit Detroit’s election results. And Trump himself, who personally telephoned at least one of the Wayne County officials to lobby them to retract their certification, is not letting up on the pressure he is putting on Michigan officials: On Thursday, he invited the leaders of Michigan’s GOP-controlled legislature to visit him in the White House on Friday, with the explicit purpose of convincing them to overturn their state’s popular vote and appoint their own electors.
This is unprecedented in the history of US presidential elections, and it shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that this president is intent on clinging to power even if doing so converts the presidency into a tyranny and breaks the entire US political system beyond repair.
Trump has been enabled in this assault on democracy by an array of unsavory players. The odious Rudy Giuliani argued in court in Pennsylvania this week that the state should simply toss the votes of more than a million people in Philadelphia and its environs. It’s a nonsense argument, but Giuliani, who is reportedly being paid $20,000 per day for his services, no longer seems to care about the cogency or coherence of his interventions. He’s playing the role of a lawyer; in reality, he’s simply a well-remunerated propagandist, a shill, a peddler of bizarre conspiracies and blatant lies.
In Nevada, Trump attorneys are arguing against recognizing that state’s vote count and have gone to court to ask a judge, in true Orwellian fashion, to either declare Trump the winner—of a state that Biden won by more than 30,000 votes—or throw out the entire Nevada election results. Given that the state’s vote has to be certified by November 24, this is clearly a strategy intended to block that process from advancing.
In Georgia, where Biden won the election by some 12,000 votes, election officials are facing a barrage of interventions from senior Republicans, including reputed efforts by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham to get the state to throw out legally cast ballots. Through the exacting process of a hand-recount, the Republican secretary of state has resisted this sabotage, but that hasn’t stopped the Trump campaign from making clear that they will be demanding yet another recount once this one is concluded. Similarly, on Wednesday the Trump campaign ponied up $3 million to fund a recount in Milwaukee and Dane Counties in Wisconsin, both of which are overwhelmingly African American and overwhelmingly Democratic. As with the actions in Nevada, this strategy seems less about changing the vote count than blocking the ability of the states to certify the outcome. (In Wisconsin’s case, the recount will likely last until month’s end.)
All of this adds up not to a Signal so much as a Stench—the stench of a party in terminal intellectual and moral decay, unmoored from any principle other than holding on to power. Remember, Biden won nearly 6 million more votes than Trump, has legitimately secured 74 more Electoral College votes than Trump, triumphed in more counties than Trump, and ended up with a higher percentage of the total eligible electorate than any challenger to an incumbent president since FDR in 1932. In any normal reckoning, this wasn’t a close presidential contest; yet the GOP is largely marching in lockstep with Trump in his escalating efforts to delegitimize the election.
The GOP did far better in down-ballot races than expected in 2020, ending up with at least 50 Senate seats and narrowing the Democratic House majority. So for a while the Republicans’ strong congressional presence may camouflage the odor of political and moral gangrene. But in the long run, a party that has so little confidence in the people, so little respect for democracy, and so much cowardice in the face of the ranting of its lunatic leader will putrefy beyond rescue.