Fed on Fantasies Forever

Everyone has a bad weekend now and then, one of those weekends when everything went wrong late Friday afternoon and nothing can be done about any of that until Monday morning rolls around. The hours pass slowly. This will be a weekend of worry mixed with an acute sense of powerlessness, and then the quite justifiable situational depression slowly gives way to seething rage. This should NOT have happened!

Donald Trump just had one of those weekends. Late on Friday afternoon his very own Supreme Court refused to take up that odd case asking them to toss out all the votes in four swing states, and to tell the Republican state legislatures in each of those states to decide who really won their state, and thus hand Trump a second term. That was absurd. And that idea came from Texas. Texas had no standing. Texas hadn’t been harmed in any way by the votes of others, in other states far away. And how other states had voted wasn’t their business anyway. And then the Supreme Court rose for the weekend and the justices went home.

They wouldn’t sit again until Monday. But that would be the day the Electoral College met to cast their votes and vote in Biden – the final nail in Trump’s coffin. All the states had certified the popular vote in each state. Biden had won. The electors had been tasked to vote appropriately. This was over, and Trump was trapped between an awful Friday and a dreaded Monday with nothing to do but rage. Politico reported that was just what he did:

President Donald Trump on Saturday vowed to “fight on!” and lashed out at his perceived enemies after the Supreme Court effectively ended his legal challenges to overturn the election.

Trump aired a lengthy list of his ongoing grievances with the high court’s Friday evening decision that dismissed a longshot challenge by the attorney general of Texas – backed by 126 House Republicans – to sue the states of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin whose voters backed President-elect Joe Biden.

“So, you’re the President of the United States, and you just went through an election where you got more votes than any sitting President in history, by far – and purportedly lost. You can’t get ‘standing’ before the Supreme Court, so you ‘intervene’ with wonderful states that, after careful study and consideration, think you got ‘screwed’, something which will hurt them also,” Trump tweeted early Saturday morning. “Many others likewise join the suit but, within a flash, it is thrown out and gone, without even looking at the many reasons it was brought. A Rigged Election, fight on!”

Yes, he got more votes than any sitting President in history. Biden got seven million more votes than that. But the rage didn’t stop:

In a follow-up tweet, the president blasted the court’s determination that Texas lacked standing to pursue its claims.

“I WON THE ELECTION IN A LANDSLIDE, but remember, I only think in terms of legal votes, not all of the fake voters and fraud that miraculously floated in from everywhere! What a disgrace!” Trump claimed.

The Washington Post still has a city desk. They reported on how the rage did not stop with him:

Thousands of maskless rallygoers who refuse to accept the results of the election turned downtown Washington into a falsehood-filled spectacle Saturday, two days before the electoral college will make the president’s loss official.

In smaller numbers than their gathering last month, they roamed from the Capitol to the Mall and back again, seeking inspiration from speakers who railed against the Supreme Court, Fox News and President-elect Joe Biden. The crowds cheered for recently pardoned former national security adviser Michael Flynn, marched with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and stood in awe of a flyover from what appeared to be Marine One.

But at night, the scene became violent. At least four people were stabbed near Harry’s Bar at 11th and F streets NW, a gathering point for the Proud Boys, a male-chauvinist organization with ties to white nationalism.

Yes, this got nasty:

At first, officers in riot gear successfully kept the two sides apart, even as the groups splintered and roamed. In helmets and bulletproof vests, Proud Boys marched through downtown in military-like rows, shouting “move out” and “1776!” They became increasingly angry as they wove through streets and alleys, only to find police continuously blocking their course with lines of bikes.

“Both sides of the aisle hate you now. Congratulations,” a Proud Boy shouted at the officers.

But before long, the agitators determined to find trouble were successful – and posturing quickly turned into punching, kicking and wrestling.

Again, and again, officers swarmed, pulling the instigators apart, firing chemical irritants and forming lines between the sides. At Harry’s Bar, an ambulance arrived, but the extent of injuries was unknown.

Each time a fight was de-escalated, another soon began in a different part of town.

This was the Trump Party at work:

The scuffles seemed poised to continue late into the night, as the black-and-yellow-clad Proud Boys knocked back beers, whiskey and White Claws. Some stole a Black Lives Matter banner, paraded it down M Street NW, then stomped on it.

The group received recognition from Trump himself at a presidential debate in September, when he told them to “stand back and stand by.”

As the Proud Boys appeared at rallies earlier in the day Saturday, Trump cheered on all of the supporters who showed up to falsely claim that the election was stolen from him, tweeting “Wow! Thousands of people forming in Washington (D.C.) for Stop the Steal. Didn’t know about this, but I’ll be seeing them! #MAGA.”

Those Black Lives Matter signs were ripped from the walls of famous local Black churches, but at least no one was burning crosses. All they had was this:

The majority-White crowd ranged from gray-haired men and women in red hats to children in wagons, one of whom chanted “100 more years!”

Yes, it was one of those weekends:

The speakers painted a picture of a country in a battle between good and evil, in which God himself would ultimately ensure Trump remained in power. Sebastian Gorka, a former foreign policy adviser to Trump, said that when he heard the Supreme Court had dismissed an election case from Texas on Friday night, he told himself to “stop, take a deep breath, count to 10, read the Bible and pray.”

Trump backer and MyPillow founder Mike Lindell argued that “Fox News was in on it,” while podcaster David Harris Jr. riled the crowd by suggesting that if there were a civil war, “we’re the ones with all the guns,” he said.

Remember that! Or remember this:

The Trump supporters gathered a day after the Supreme Court dismissed a case from Texas that sought to overturn the results of the election. So, of course, many of those who spoke at the rally expressed anger at the justices, as well as Fox News and Biden. They also made clear they are angry with the Republican Party. “In the first Million MAGA march we promised that if the GOP did not do everything in their power to keep Trump in office, then we would destroy the GOP,” conservative commentator Nick Fuentes said from a megaphone while standing on a stage. “As we gather here in Washington, D.C. for a second Million MAGA March, we’re done making promises. It has to happen now. We are going to destroy the GOP.” The crowd loudly cheered and started chanting: “Destroy the GOP! Destroy the GOP!”

It seems that no one is safe now:

State and local officials of both parties have warned that President Trump’s increasingly desperate tweets about election fraud are fueling the potential for violence as well as another ominous trend of 2020, in which public servants and others who disagree are targeted at their offices and homes with armed protests, harassing phone calls and stalkers.

Last week, an “enemies” list of state and federal officials who rejected Trump’s baseless election conspiracy theories floated up from the dark corners of the Web, with home addresses listed and red targets over their photos, the latest in a string of threats to public officials.

The list falsely accused swing-state governors, voting systems executives and the former top U.S. cybersecurity official responsible for securing November’s presidential election of “changing votes and working against the President” in a treasonous attempt to “overthrow our democracy.” The names from the list shared on social media included the hashtags #remembertheirfaces and #NoQuarterForTraitors.

And that explains the Proud Boys unpleasantness in Washington:

Throughout the pandemic and the contested election, right-wing pressure to deny the election results and public health guidance on masks and social distancing has become more personal – and dangerous. Experts on extremism say that the country could be headed to a dark place as the inauguration and a new administration near, with the possibility of armed conflict.

“What we’re seeing is an escalation, so that instead of people calling each other nasty names and cursing each other out on Twitter or Parler, instead they’re doing it in person while holding weapons,” said Dana R. Fisher, a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland and the author of the book “American Resistance.” The country is at risk of serious armed confrontation in the days to come, she said.

But that might be avoided. Everyone from angry Aunt Mable to the Proud Boys might lower their automatic weapons and smile if Trump can turn things around and win the thing he has already lost. The plan for that is coming together. The New York Times’ Nicholas Fandos and Michael Schmidt explain the thinking now:

President Trump lost key swing states by clear margins. His barrage of lawsuits claiming widespread voting fraud has been almost universally dismissed, most recently by the Supreme Court. And on Monday, the Electoral College will formally cast a majority of its votes for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.

But as the president continues to refuse to concede, a small group of his most loyal backers in Congress is plotting a final-stage challenge on the floor of the House of Representatives in early January to try to reverse Mr. Biden’s victory.

Yes, the current Republicans in the House should and can choose the next president, which does seem odd and a bit scary:

Constitutional scholars and even members of the president’s own party say the effort is all but certain to fail. But the looming battle on Jan. 6 is likely to culminate in a messy and deeply divisive spectacle that could thrust Vice President Mike Pence into the excruciating position of having to declare once and for all that Mr. Trump has indeed lost the election.

The fight promises to shape how Mr. Trump’s base views the election for years to come, and to pose yet another awkward test of allegiance for Republicans who have privately hoped that the Electoral College vote this week will be the final word on the election result.

For the vice president, whom the Constitution assigns the task of tallying the results and declaring a winner, the episode could be particularly torturous, forcing him to balance his loyalty to Mr. Trump with his constitutional duties…

But that’s the plan:

The effort is being led by Representative Mo Brooks, Republican of Alabama, a backbench conservative. Along with a group of allies in the House, he is eyeing challenges to the election results in five different states – Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia and Wisconsin – where they claim varying degrees of fraud or illegal voting took place, despite certification by the voting authorities and no evidence of widespread impropriety.

“We have a superior role under the Constitution than the Supreme Court does, than any federal court judge does, than any state court judge does,” Mr. Brooks said in an interview. “What we say, goes. That’s the final verdict.”

Mo Brooks may be exaggerating a bit:

Under rules laid out in the Constitution and the Electoral Count Act of 1887, their challenges must be submitted in writing with a senator’s signature also affixed. No Republican senator has yet stepped forward to say he or she will back such an effort, though a handful of reliable allies of Mr. Trump, including Senators Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Rand Paul of Kentucky, have signaled they would be open to doing so.

Yes, but seriously:

Even if a senator did agree, constitutional scholars say the process is intended to be an arduous one. Once an objection is heard from a member of each house of Congress, senators and representatives will retreat to their chambers on opposite sides of the Capitol for a two-hour debate and then a vote on whether to disqualify a state’s votes. Both the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate would have to agree to toss out a state’s electoral votes – something that has not happened since the 19th century.

They’d have to retroactively disenfranchise all the voters in each of these states, state by state by state, which might look a bit extreme to even their friends:

Several Senate Republicans – including Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah – have forcefully rejected the idea of overturning the results, and their votes would be enough for Mr. Biden to prevail with the support of Democrats.

But this is still a difficult decision for them:

Mr. Brooks is far from the first lawmaker to try to use the tallying process to challenge the results of a bitter election loss. House Democrats made attempts in 2001, 2005 and even 2017, but they were essentially acts of protest after their party’s nominee had already accepted defeat.

What is different now is Mr. Trump’s historic defiance of democratic norms and his party’s willing acquiescence. If Mr. Trump were to bless the effort to challenge the congressional tally, he could force Republicans into a difficult decision about whether to support an assault on the election results that is essentially doomed or risk his ire. Many Republicans are already fearful of being punished by voters for failing to keep up his fight.

In short, do this stupid doomed thing or lose your career forever, and then there’s Mike Pence:

As president of the Senate, he has the constitutionally designated task of opening and tallying envelopes sent from all 50 states and announcing their electoral results.

But given Mr. Trump’s penchant for testing every law and norm in Washington, he could insist that Mr. Pence refuse to play that role. And either way, it will call for a final performance of the delicate dance Mr. Pence has performed for four years, trying to maintain Mr. Trump’s confidence while adhering to the law.

Something’s got to give, and elsewhere, something did give:

Attorney General Bill Barr has reportedly compared Donald Trump’s attacks on him as a “deposed king ranting” after the president apparently raised the possibility of firing him.

On Saturday, the president described his attorney general as a “big disappointment” on Twitter after it emerged that the Department for Justice had begun an investigation into Hunter Biden’s taxes as early as 2018 – but did not make existence of the enquiry public until after the election.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, Mr Barr was aware of a federal investigation into the president-elect’s son’s tax and business records for a year but worked to keep it quiet during the election.

Oops:

Mr Trump appeared angered that Mr Barr did not politicize the investigations. He asked on Saturday why the attorney general did not “reveal the truth to the public, before the Election, about Hunter Biden”.

But Mr Barr told a source that he was not “intimidated” by the president’s attacks…

“Barr cannot be intimidated by Trump. This is the real story. None of this matters – it’s the deposed king ranting. Irrelevant to the course of justice and to Trump’s election loss,” the source said on Saturday.

Well, he is kind of a mad king. Charles Blow sees this:

Trump has never believed in American democracy. He was never a student of history. He was never really a patriot.

When he foreshadowed his current behavior in 2016 by refusing to say that he would accept the results of that election as legitimate if he didn’t win, we knew. When he cozied up to the world’s dictators and spurned our allies, we knew. When he winked at hate groups by refusing to immediately and fulsomely condemn them, we knew.

Trump wants to operate a dictatorship behind a veil of democracy. He wants to wield power without winning it legitimately. He wants to manipulate his mob and prioritize it above the masses who oppose him.

Yes, Trump is attempting a coup, whether or not you want to call it that. But no matter what you choose to call something, it will still be what it is.

And Ross Douthat sees this:

When it comes to Donald Trump’s efforts to claim victory in the 2020 presidential election, there are two Republican Parties. One G.O.P. has behaved entirely normally, certifying elections, rejecting frivolous claims and conspiratorial lawsuits, declining to indulge the conceit that state legislatures might substitute their votes for the electoral outcome.

The other G.O.P. is acting like a bunch of saboteurs: insisting that the election was stolen, implying that the normal party’s officials are potentially complicit and championing all manner of outlandish claims and strategies – culminating in the lawsuit led by the attorney general of Texas that sought to have the Supreme Court essentially nullify the election results in the major swing states.

What separates these two parties is not necessarily ideology or partisanship or even loyalty to Donald Trump. It’s all about power and responsibility.

And only one side is serious about that:

The Republicans behaving normally are the ones who have actual political and legal roles in the electoral process and its judicial aftermath, from secretaries of state and governors in states like Georgia and Arizona to Trump’s judicial appointees. The Republicans behaving radically are doing so in the knowledge – or at least the strong assumption – that their behavior is performative, an act of storytelling rather than lawmaking, a posture rather than a political act.

This postelection division of the Republican Party extends and deepens an important trend in American politics: The cultivation of a kind of “dreampolitik” (to steal a word from Joan Didion), a politics of partisan fantasy that so far manages to coexist with normal politics, feeding gridlock and stalemate and sometimes protest but not yet the kind of crisis anticipated by references to Weimar Germany and our Civil War.

And that, in turn, means Trump isn’t dangerous at all:

I am certain this analysis fits the career of Trump himself, who has conjured wild fantasies among his friends and enemies alike, but who clearly doesn’t have the capacity to bring the real world into alignment with his own reality-television imagination, or to suborn the custodians of institutional legitimacy — whether the military or the Supreme Court or his own attorney general and the governor of Georgia…

But maybe he is dangerous:

The Texas lawsuit didn’t torch any city blocks, but all those congressional signatures on the amicus brief did make it feel like something more than just another meme. The crucial question it raises is whether people can be fed on fantasies forever – or whether once enough politicians have endorsed dreampolitik, the pressure to make the dream into reality will inexorably build.

And then we’ll all live in Trump World. And it won’t be a fantasy. It’s real enough right now.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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1 Response to Fed on Fantasies Forever

  1. Rick says:

    You still hear people claiming that Trump was, at one time in the vague past, a Democrat, but given the fact that he’s apparently willing to demolish the whole “self-governing” part of how our country picks its leaders, I would argue that he’s never been a Democrat, nor even been a small-d democrat.

    I think these people may be confusing the word “Democrat” with a similar-sounding word, seen here in Wikipedia:

    “Demagogue … a leader who gains popularity by exploiting emotions, prejudice, hatred, and ignorance to arouse the common people against elites, whipping up the passions of the crowd and shutting down reasoned deliberation. Demagogues overturn established norms of political conduct, or promise or threaten to do so. Demagogues frequently present themselves as populists, to the point where ‘populism’ itself has now acquired a negative connotation.”

    I wonder whether this was written before Trump was elected, or whether it was written since. It sounds too spot-on to be the former. But it’s strange we don’t hear this word used more often these days. Maybe it’s just too obvious.

    Why do people follow a demagogue? For the same reason that more people watch fictional dramas, sitcoms or popular movies on television than boring news. Non-fiction may have the advantage of being factual and truthful, but slogging through it is just not as much fun, especially when it tries to teach you something you don’t really want to know.

    Fiction has the same appeal to our senses that demagoguery does. For one thing, it’s filled with whiz-bang in-your-face excitement, designed to get your attention and entertain you, and for another, since every average American schmo knows that “being responsible” is totally overrated, there’s no real responsibility on your part to actually believe any of it.

    But when you think about it, digging for the truth beneath all these fun-filled election-fraud claims is actually tedious work, and plunges us into the hazy realm of a certain boring philosophical topic that, back in the day, could be counted on to put kids to sleep in Philosophy 101, and that would be:

    Epistemology!!

    And just in case we forget what that is, here’s Wikipedia again:

    “Epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with knowledge. Epistemologists study the nature of knowledge, epistemic justification, the rationality of belief, and various related issues. Epistemology is considered one of the four main branches of philosophy, along with ethics, logic, and metaphysics.”

    (What’s that you say? You feel your eyelids getting heavy?)

    It’s all well and good for you, along with every cable news anchor, to continually insist that, as every right-thinking person knows, Biden won that election fair and square, with there being no evidence of massive fraud, but don’t even try to explain how you know this to be true (mostly because most people will have dozed off by the time you get to the meat of your argument) except to say you know it’s true for the same reason you know two-plus-two equals four and not five.

    But wait! How DO you even know two-plus-two equals four, and not five?

    Maybe because you can demonstrate it’s true with sugar cubes, but more likely it’s just that you’ve always heard it’s true from people you trust wouldn’t lie to you.

    Or maybe you could also demonstrate to the MAGAs, by nattering on in torturous detail about how states nowadays ensure that elections are virtually impossible to rig, and that had the millions of votes in all these various states been rigged, the fix would have had to be so massive and blatant that even astronauts could see it from space, and that nobody, not even the most biased Obama-appointed judges in all those courts could get away with denying it.

    But the MAGAs still won’t buy it, because they don’t share your world view and don’t see evidence the same way you do, but also because, deep down, they’re more loyal to their dear leader than they are to their country, and don’t even see the worth of living in a country that won’t elect the guy they want to be president, so threatening officials who won’t join their scheme, and thusly destroying the country itself in the process, isn’t all that big a deal it might be to you and me.

    And so, because it’s much more entertaining, they choose “Reality TV” over “Reality”!

    And so maybe it’s not epistemology after all, since, with these people, it’s a case of — to paraphrase what people in the 1950s used to say about art — “I may not know much about truth, but I know what I like!”

    Rick

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