I am writing this column on Wednesday afternoon; by the time you read it, it will be Friday, four days before Election Day. As of now, more than 75 million people have already voted; by the time you read this, almost certainly that number will be well north of 80 million. By next Tuesday, before the polls even open on Election Day, it’s possible that something like 100 million Americans will have already cast their ballots.
That’s the Signal in the home stretch leading up to November 3. This massive turnout under the most trying of circumstances is an extraordinary affirmation of the power and worth of democracy. People are voting by the tens of millions during a moment when simply standing in line at the post office or an early-voting site carries a degree of risk to one’s health. And they are voting during a moment when the president of the United States and his congressional enablers are doing everything in their power to foster cynicism and disengagement, undermine confidence in democratic structures, and degrade the independence of government agencies to the point that they become agitprop extensions of the Trump administration.
Witness the utterly shameful GOP stampede to confirm Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court justice this past Monday, in the middle of the election.
Witness the reports this week that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s scientists will now come under the thumb of political commissars and will be expected to modify their findings on climate change to reflect Trumpian priorities—in other words, they will be pushed to suppress their own scientific findings to pave the way for further rollbacks of restrictions on pollution and CO2 emissions. If Trump somehow gets reelected, the silencing and censoring of NOAA and EPA scientific voices will continue to wreak havoc on domestic and global environmental priorities; if he doesn’t get reelected, this latest regulatory and personnel change is just one more ticking time bomb the Trumpians will have left for their successors to defuse.
Witness the reports last week that—in keeping with Trump’s efforts to brand large, Democratic-controlled cities as “anarchist jurisdictions” from which federal dollars can be withheld—the federal government is likely to refuse to release funds to New York City, Seattle, and Portland for programs intended to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, for HIV testing, and for health screenings of newborn babies. What sort of people think this kind of political payback, in which people’s lives are at stake, is ever acceptable, let alone in the middle of the worst public health crisis in a century? The obvious answer is, mobsters.
Witness Trump’s hardly veiled threats, issued at his large Covid-spreading rallies, that he will deny requests for federal assistance from Democratic governors in key swing states if they don’t play nice with him during the election. Again, mobster politics.
Witness the ghastly spectacle of Trump, in Michigan this past Tuesday, riling up his supporters by mocking the serious charges against a gang of militiamen accused of plotting to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “Maybe it was a problem, maybe it wasn’t,” he said of the plot, while his supporters repeatedly screamed “Lock her up!” Again: gangster politics. But this is actually also something else; it is jackboot politics, the presidential seal of approval—or at least a nod and a wink—to armed thugs seeking to overturn the will of the people by eliminating a governor whose policies they do not like.
Trump is frenetically hopping from one swing state to the next, emitting a fusillade of misinformation and lies at every rally. In one recent Wisconsin event, he issued 131 lies or misleading statements in 90 minutes, according to a tally kept by The New York Times. That’s an impressive record, on par with the whiz kids who solve Rubik’s Cube at competitions in a matter of seconds. But while those kids practice hours per day to perfect their skill, Trump’s malignant high-speed lying seems almost instinctual, feral. In Wisconsin, he uttered roughly three fully articulated lies every two minutes. Astoundingly, that seems to be par for the course. By July of this year, Trump had told more than 20,000 lies since taking office in January 2017. In the past three months, that number has surely gone up by many additional thousands.
That’s not just Noise or fodder for a pub trivia quiz; rather, it’s the bricks and mortar of Trump’s democracy-destroying political edifice.
Over the next days, America has the opportunity to reject all of Trump’s bile, his cruelty, his odious lies and the propaganda apparatus that facilitates their telling. We must seize this opportunity, and seize it decisively, for we will not get another chance to reject this man and everything he stands for.