“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” ~ Philip K. Dick
That’s from that science fiction novelist who became a philosopher. He was full of questions. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? That novel became Blade Runner – the hit movie that presented life as a dystopian nightmare where no one knows what’s true, and where reality itself might be someone else’s dream. But there are some things that do turn out to be solidly real – those things that won’t go away no matter what you believe.
Donald Trump is discovering that. Trump believes he won reelection. Well, maybe he really doesn’t, but he can’t imagine that he hadn’t won, so it’s pretty much the same thing. And he doesn’t believe the numbers, but they are right there, particularly in Georgia, and that reality just won’t do.
It was time to make that go away. But reality doesn’t ever go away, and the Washington Post’s Amy Gardner had that story:
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Monday that he has come under increasing pressure in recent days from fellow Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), who he said questioned the validity of legally cast absentee ballots, in an effort to reverse President Trump’s narrow loss in the state.
In a wide-ranging interview about the election, Raffensperger expressed exasperation over a string of baseless allegations coming from Trump and his allies about the integrity of the Georgia results, including claims that Dominion Voting Systems, the Colorado-based manufacturer of Georgia’s voting machines, is a “leftist” company with ties to Venezuela that engineered thousands of Trump votes to be left out of the count.
Brad Raffensperger knows that’s not reality, but saying that it’s not might get him killed:
The atmosphere has grown so contentious, Raffensperger said, that he and his wife, Tricia, have received death threats in recent days, including a text to him that read: “You better not botch this recount. Your life depends on it.”
It does? This is just double-checking the vote:
“Other than getting you angry, it’s also very disillusioning,” Raffensperger said of the threats, “particularly when it comes from people on my side of the aisle. Everyone that is working on this needs to elevate their speech. We need to be thoughtful and careful about what we say.” He said he reported the threats to state authorities.
The pressure on Raffensperger, who has bucked his party in defending the state’s voting process, comes as Georgia is in the midst of a laborious hand recount of about 5 million ballots. President-elect Joe Biden has a 14,000-vote lead in the initial count.
There’s little wrong with this state’s voting process. It worked as planned, and Raffensperger was pissed off:
The normally mild-mannered Raffensperger saved his harshest language for Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R-Ga.), who is leading the president’s efforts in Georgia and whom Raffensperger called a “liar” and a “charlatan.”
Collins has questioned Raffensperger’s handling of the vote and accused him of capitulating to Democrats by not backing allegations of voter fraud more strongly.
Raffensperger has said that every accusation of fraud will be thoroughly investigated, but that there is currently no credible evidence that fraud occurred on a broad enough scale to affect the outcome of the election.
He didn’t quote Philip K. Dick but he could have, with one word changed. Voting is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.
And not much will change in the recount:
The recount, Raffensperger said in the interview Monday, will “affirm” the results of the initial count. He said the hand-counted audit that began last week will also prove the accuracy of the Dominion machines; some counties have already reported that their hand recounts exactly match the machine tallies previously reported.
But that’s not good enough:
In the interview, Raffensperger also said he spoke on Friday to Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who has echoed Trump’s unfounded claims about voting irregularities.
In their conversation, Graham questioned Raffensperger about the state’s signature-matching law and whether political bias could have prompted poll workers to accept ballots with nonmatching signatures, according to Raffensperger. Graham also asked whether Raffensperger had the power to toss all mail ballots in counties found to have higher rates of nonmatching signatures, Raffensperger said.
Raffensperger said he was stunned that Graham appeared to suggest that he find a way to toss legally cast ballots.
He’s not changing reality for this guy or this president, so reality shifted one more time:
In an interview on Capitol Hill on Monday evening, Graham denied that he had suggested that Raffensperger toss legal ballots, calling that characterization “ridiculous.”
But he said he did seek out the secretary of state to understand the state’s signature-matching requirements. Graham said he contacted Raffensperger on his own and was not asked to do so by Trump.
But of course, none of this was his business anyway, and Jennifer Rubin sees this:
Ah, the good old days – when the hottest topic among Never Trumpers was whether the Republican Party, after President Trump was gone, would return to the traditional conservatism of limited government and free markets or whether it would adopt economic populism and isolationism – now seem like a naive fantasy. The dilemma for the Republican Party is far more stark – and frightening.
The 2020 election aftermath reveals that on one side of the party stands a handful of conservatives and moderates who willingly recognize objective reality. They defend democracy and the sanctity of elections. They believe Republicans’ grievances are heartfelt and reasonable, amenable to rational solutions. They think of government as a defender of liberty, which is one side of a transactional relationship with its citizens. By its very nature, conservatism imagines that government does not subsume civil society nor define one’s identity. Their diagnosis of America’s ills might be off-base and even tone-deaf, neglecting the legacy of racism and clinging to the fallacy of supply-side economics, but these are well-meaning and generally sincere figures.
However, the election reveals that a far greater number of Republican elected officials, the right-wing media, a good number of previously respectable think tanks and millions of Americans are no longer willing to operate within the confines of democracy, which demands recognition of easily ascertained facts.
The recognition of easily ascertained facts might be what makes democracy work. This was the vote. Recount it, to be sure. Hey, look! That is still the vote! But according to Politico, the ranks of those who willingly recognize objective reality seem to be growing:
The Republican Party is in an increasingly untenable position – how much longer can it really refuse to recognize Joe Biden as the president-elect?
Nearly two weeks after the election, there are signs that Republicans are starting to accept reality.
President Donald Trump’s legal campaign to reverse his election loss is crumbling all around him and there’s no mathematical possibility that he can reverse margins of 10,000 or more votes in the five states he won in 2016 but lost to Biden. Meanwhile, the Biden transition is stuck in molasses, and Trump is barely addressing the coronavirus spikes across the country, let alone cooperating with the incoming administration on vaccine distribution efforts.
Even so, Biden is what won’t go away:
Most Republicans have been reluctant to contradict Trump’s claim that he can still hold the White House, but there’s been a steady trickle of GOP lawmakers defecting from Trump’s false contention that he was robbed by fraudsters. After Trump tweeted Monday, “I won the election,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) told reporters, “I wouldn’t have advised he put it that way.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Trump can and should continue his legal challenges but has “every confidence on Jan. 20 we’re going to inaugurate a president. And it will probably be Joe Biden.”
“It grows increasingly unlikely that a remedy would involve overturning the election,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who said he nonetheless supports Trump’s goals of exposing even small cases of malfeasance on ballots. “Vice President Biden ought to be getting briefings and the transition ought to be in the works so that there’s an infrastructure for that. And if he ends up winning, as it seems likely he will, that he won’t have to get caught up on one day in January.”
And there was this guy:
Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, referred to Biden as the president-elect unprompted, saying “that’s what the results, the preliminary results, seem to indicate, and we certainly have to anticipate that that’s the highest likelihood at this point.”
Rubio is among a small minority of Republicans who believe that the General Services Administration should formally certify Biden as the winner, which would grant him access to presidential-level intelligence briefings and additional funding for his transition team. Rubio said it’s “for the good of our country.”
Senate Foreign Relations Chair Jim Risch (R-Idaho) acknowledged the coming transition to a Biden administration in an interview with the Spokesman-Review newspaper, and Trump’s own national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, said Biden’s victory looks likely.
Still there’s risk to doing anything that could be seen as breaking from Trump. The president attacked Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) on Monday after he indicated Biden won the election.
DeWine shrugged. He’s a reality guy now, and he won’t be the last:
Many Republicans are delicately approaching the issue, aware of how politically-charged the simple arithmetic of the Electoral College has become within the Republican Party.
“I’m working on what I want to say about this topic,” said Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.). “I think I want to wait … until I get my thoughts cleared on a piece of paper and in my brain.”
Still, there is harsh reality:
There are other factors that may force Republicans to soon embrace the truth. The delayed transition is not only a threat to national security, but it could hinder the Biden administration’s ability to respond to the coronavirus and roll out a vaccine. The pandemic is raging, and is only expected to get worse this winter.
“It’s absolutely imperative for public health that all of the planning that’s gone on – for which the current administration deserves credit – be shared with the new administration,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).
Still, a clutch of hard-core Trump supporters may never recognize Biden as a legitimate president. “Don’t you just love the way Democrats demand that Republicans acquiesce to their coronation of Joe Biden?” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), the chair of the House Freedom Caucus, wrote in a recent op-ed.
Andy Biggs will be in the minority soon. Reality keeps creeping in:
Fifty-nine of the country’s top computer scientists and election security experts rebuked President Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud and hacking on Monday, writing that such assertions are “unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent.”
The rebuttal, in a letter to be published on various websites, did not mention Mr. Trump by name but amounted to another forceful corrective to the torrents of disinformation that he has posted on Twitter.
“Anyone asserting that a U.S. election was ‘rigged’ is making an extraordinary claim, one that must be supported by persuasive and verifiable evidence,” the scientists wrote. In the absence of evidence, they added, it is “simply speculation.”
“To our collective knowledge, no credible evidence has been put forth that supports a conclusion that the 2020 election outcome in any state has been altered through technical compromise,” they wrote.
Trump is losing this fight against reality:
The letter followed a similarly strong rebuttal of the president’s claims last week by the Elections Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council, which includes top officials from the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity agency, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, and secretaries of state and state election directors from around the country.
In a joint statement on Thursday, that group declared that the 2020 election “was the most secure in American history” and that “there is no evidence” any voting systems had been compromised. Some of those officials expect to be fired in the coming weeks for their refusal to echo the president’s claims.
No one was fired. Reality won. And there’s this:
Over the last week, Mr. Trump has tweeted various conspiracy theories involving Dominion, a major supplier of voting machines and other election technology. Among them, Mr. Trump wrote that Dominion machines had “deleted 2.7 million Trump votes nationwide,” a claim with no basis in fact.
Of five counties that experienced different software problems on Election Day in Michigan and Georgia, only two used Dominion software, and in each case the problems were fixed and did not affect results.
Trump’s reality, where he really won this thing, is almost gone now, but Michael Gerson notes the more obvious reality that Trump decided to ignore:
President Trump will be remembered for many things. For the audacity of his mendacity. For his ready recourse to prejudice. For his savant’s ability to rile and ride social resentment. For his welcoming of right-wing crackpots into the Republican coalition. For his elevation of self-love into a populist cause. For his brutal but bumbling use of force against protesters. For his routinization of self-dealing and political corruption. For his utter lack of public spirit and graciousness, even to the very end. And, to be fair, for the remarkable achievement of winning more than 73 million votes without an appealing message, without significant achievements and without a discernible agenda for the future.
But though Trump will be remembered for all these things, he will be judged for one thing above all: When the pandemic came and hundreds of thousands of Americans died, he didn’t give a damn…
Trump is not only refusing to provide leadership during a rapidly mounting health crisis; he is also sabotaging the ability of the incoming Biden administration to cooperate with leaders at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and other government agencies. By disrupting the presidential transition during an unfolding COVID-19 disaster, Trump is engaging in American history’s most deadly sulk.
But that’s just who he is:
Even before his reelection loss, Trump had trouble expressing empathy for victims of the pandemic and their families. Even after his own bout with COVID-19, he did not seem capable of feeling or imagining the suffering of others. This may reflect some psychological incapacity. But it also indicates a certain view of pandemic politics. From the start, Trump did not believe the disease itself was a true enemy. Rather, he viewed the public perception of widespread disease as the real threat – the threat to his political future. So, the fewer Americans who believed in the disease’s spread, the better. And the less attention that victims of the disease received, the better.
That’s mean, nasty and brutish reality, but he is who he is:
The country will not be delivered by appealing to Trump’s better angels, who fled in disgust long ago. It might help if elected Republicans stopped ignoring and enabling Trump’s lethal tantrum. But the hours until noon, Jan. 20, still move too slowly.
But on that day reality might return.