My last post of the Trump presidency … thank goodness!

Donald Trump was probably in our stars and in our national destiny. If we had to have a malignant narcissist for our president, we actually could have done a lot worse. He turned out to be as dumb as dirt, with a great ability to play to a crowd but a complete inability to get anything done.

Granted, he spent four years causing a lot of evil and testing our institutions in a way they have never been tested before. We learned our national ship of state contains some pretty shoddy bulkheads, such as our Justice Department. But under his assault it probably held up better it would have under a more adept dictator wannabee. Still, our ship of state has taken on a lot of water during Trump’s four years, more so than when Barack Obama had to take over after George W. Bush’s presidency.

By almost any standard, the Trump presidency was a disaster. Doing a post mortem of Bush’s two terms, I could only point to one accomplishment of his of any positive note: he did a lot to get anti-viral AIDS drugs where it was needed most: Africa, saving likely millions of lives. Trump’s presidency though doesn’t have any positive accomplishments.

Trump will probably claim his Operation Warp Speed was a success, given the quick development of a number of effective vaccines. But the truth is the government didn’t do much to help besides promising to buy up a lot of the vaccine, making it less risky to develop. It was mainly scientists working around Donald Trump that got it done, many of them outside the United States.

In the meantime, Trump made covid-19 infinitely worse by disdaining masks and sensible strategies to contain the pandemic. Now 400,000 Americans are dead of it and we have the dubious distinction of having the most deaths and highest infection rates of any country on the planet.

Just today Mike Pence tweeted that the Trump Administration was the only modern administration not to get us into a war. That’s debatable, but it depends on what you consider a war. Still, its non-management of the pandemic likely killed 300,000 of us that likely would be alive had Hillary Clinton won the 2016 election. We lost more citizens to covid-19 than we lost soldiers in all of World War II.

The Trump Administration just got worse as it went on. For the first year or so Trump’s worst impulses were restrained by staff, until he fired all of them. It was a government run by tweet, but really it was a government largely in name only. The ship of state was basically in a tempest the last three years. Every time someone left or was fired, their replacement was worse, resulting in some stunningly bad choices, like Bill Barr as Trump’s last Attorney General. Laws and often the courts were generally ignored within the administration. Grifting was in, the Hatch Act was out.

The 2020 presidential election went pretty much the way I predicted. The ensuing chaos reached a crescendo on January 6th with the storming of the Capitol. That was certainly the low mark of the administration and encapsulated everything wrong with Trump and his administration.

Amidst the daily horror though there was often dark humor to be found. In takes a bottom-of-the-barrel administration to give us a press conference at Four Seasons Lawn and Landscape instead of a Four Seasons Hotel. And who will forget a sweating Rudy Giuliani with his hair dye dripping down his sideburns at the RNC press conference?

Most Americans are now ecstatic and relived to put the horrible Trump era behind us. Only, what’s left of America looks little like what preceded this administration. It proved that the United States was a shoddy façade of a democracy that in the end sort of held together mostly due to institutional inertia and amazing incompetence by Trump and his cronies.

My wife spent the last four years mostly depressed and in a shock that won’t go away. I can name her condition: sustained emotional abuse, not inflicted by me, but by Donald Trump and his ilk. Obama got handed a terrible hand in 2009. Biden inherits a much worse country. We’ve been raped, and our abusers were Donald Trump and all but a handful of Republicans.

I do hope the door hits them in the ass as the exit.

Trump’s predictable denouement

What’s been going on this week, much like what happened last Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol, was not too hard to predict. Trump is melting, much like the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz.

What’s strange is that Trump isn’t the first president to suffer this, it’s just that his case is more severe. In the last days of Richard Nixon’s presidency, Nixon was reportedly frequently drunk, talking to a portrait of Abraham Lincoln and at one point was down on his knees with Henry Kissinger praying. Neither were devout, by the way.

Both Nixon and Trump knew they were in over their heads, but reacted in somewhat different ways. In Trump’s case, he has never had to confront his obviously extreme case of malignant narcissism. It’s new to him and he’s taking it very badly. Moreover, the crutches he has depended on to maintain his psyche have been taken away from him: no more Twitter.

So, like with Nixon, Trump is going down hard. He’s unlikely to hit the booze because he’s a teetotaler, but he is reportedly raging and wholly unfocused on his job. The military is ignoring him and it seems to be taking orders from Vice President Pence. Trump has made no plans for a farewell address, which seems out of character for him. It’s hard for me to believe he won’t, but we’ll see.

Mostly, like Nixon, Trump is feeling very much alone with most of his staffers deserting him. He’s being abandoned both metaphorically and literally. And according to reports he trusts no one, not even Pence to pardon him if he were to resign early. This is not too hard to understand since he had never really trusted anyone; he’s always trusted only to his own instincts. And now those have proven catastrophically and undeniably wrong. His cognitive dissonance right now must be off the charts.

In fact, Trump has plenty of company. The 30,000 or so of his supporters that stormed the Capitol last week show there are plenty of people who share his ideas and delusions. Time is proving just how dangerous the attack on the Capitol was, and just how lucky we were that it didn’t turn out a lot worse. The one thing the attackers had going against them was that they weren’t very well organized. There is so much voluminous evidence of their crimes though that it’s only a matter of time before most of them are tracked down and prosecuted.

There is plenty of concern that more attacks are in the offing. But at least at the Capitol it seems unlikely. The National Guard has pretty much occupied the Capitol. Unlike on January 6th, there’s virtually no way a crowd is going to be able to get anywhere near the Capitol. The whole national mall is being shut down as a security precaution. The Joint Chiefs have made it clear that Biden will be inaugurated and they’ll have at least 20,000 troops, plus Capitol and D.C. police to make sure it happens. Any insurrectionist stupid enough to try to confront them is likely to find themselves with a bullet through their head.

It remains to be seen what if any threats happen in and around state capitals. Most states have sufficient National Guard troops to handle anything that comes up. Hopefully most governors will have learned from January 6 and deploy them heavily as a precaution.

As for Trump, his psychological crisis may be a blessing. Not only is he being largely ignored by staff, he seems to be too unfocused to take steps a more rational president in his predicament would take. I suspect he blames his own supporters for failing him on January 6th, thus it is looking less likely that he will try to pardon them en masse. Based on reporting, he does seem to understand that trying to pardon himself is at best a legally dubious proposition. Since he thinks mostly only about himself, in his confused state he may forget or simply decide to issue no more pardons. Here’s hoping.

So, it’s good for our nation if Trump spends his last days sulking, lost and feeling impotent. It’s good if his exit from the presidency looks small and ignoble. I still expect he will slink out of the White House, likely the night before or in the early hours of the 20th. For a showman, I suspect this is one exit he will want done discreetly and away from the cameras.

Where will he go? Mar-a-Lago, if I were to guess, at least in the short term. Scotland won’t have him. If he ultimately flees to Russia it would be fine by me if he stayed there. That would be a punishment as deserving as any we could give him here in a court of law. The less we see and hear of Donald J. Trump after his term expires, the better it will be for our nation. We need to put Trump in the rear-view mirror permanently.

Our new de-facto interim government

Donald Trump is being effectively marginalized and neutered. This is really quite an extraordinary thing in itself. Essentially, the rest of the federal government, including most of Trump’s own administration, is taking him out of the loop and out of the decision-making process. They are not following his orders. There seems to be a tacit agreement that others will muddle through any remaining issues in his administration. If anyone is really in charge in what’s left of the Trump administration, it’s probably Vice President Mike Pence, perhaps now the de-facto acting president.

We got a clue what was going on back on Wednesday during the coup attempt. According to reports, Trump waffled on sending the National Guard to assist. Pence, hiding in the Capitol with the rest of Congress got on the phone with Defense Department officials and convinced them to deploy troops. Later, there was some rumbling from inside the Trump Administration that Trump had in fact ordered these troops in, but that appears to be a face-saving maneuver. I can see why Pence would be ringing them up because his life was in danger too. In effect, Pence took action when Trump wouldn’t and DoD officials accepted his orders. You might say Trump has been unofficially 25th Amendment-ed. And the DoD seems to have followed his orders, not Trump’s.

This is frankly extraordinary and I didn’t see this coming. I don’t think anyone did. Washington’s senior leadership has been doing all sorts of extraordinary things. House speaker Nancy Pelosi also spoke with Acting DoD Secretary and got him to agree that the military would not implement any decision by Trump to use nuclear weapons. Both Pelosi and incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for Trump to be 25th Amendment-ed. Since that doesn’t seem to be happening, Trump is likely to get impeached a second time by the House. It’s unlikely that the Senate could try Trump for a second time before he leaves office. There’s nothing stopping them after Trump’s term expires though. With Trump no longer president, the Senate might find the two-thirds majority it would need. The benefit of a post-term impeachment conviction: Trump could never run for office again. That might even encourage Ted Cruz to vote for his removal, helping to clear the way for him to run. Other Republican senators are probably considering this tactic too.

A 25th Amendment solution though is highly desirable, if something of a long shot. Aside from removing Trump from power, if done quickly it could have one other major benefit: Trump might not be able to pardon himself, his family and likely all the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol before he leaves office. But if Trump is really undergoing a silent coup by his own administration, he may not have the means to issue these pardons anyhow. That would take some staff and some lawyers. The staff could refuse to do the paperwork or procrastinate until it becomes moot.

Yesterday Twitter permanently banned Trump from their network. The other major social media platforms have already banned him too, including Facebook and Instagram. YouTube is removing or delisting incendiary Trump videos, including reposts by his supporters. The magic of the private sector is busy marginalizing Trump. He’s no longer profitable and keeping him on their platforms are seen as a liability.

In addition, more Republicans are coming out against him. It’s hardly a stampede, but he has cabinet secretaries resigning left and right, including Betsy DeVos his education secretary and Elaine Chao, his labor secretary (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s wife). This will curiously leave career civil servants in charge should any decisions need to be made, in other words: institutionalists.

So far, Trump seems to be mostly holing up in the White House having an existential crisis. He’s sort of conceded the election, but only in the sense that Biden will be assuming office, not that he fairly lost the election. Doubtless he is full of rage. He’ll probably find a new outlet soon, likely Parler, a Facebook-like social media platform that seems to be set up primarily for conservatives. I expect he will give interviews to Fox News, OANN and other extreme right wing media platforms. Trump has proven he doesn’t like not being in the spotlight.

Yesterday I suggested he might flee to Mar-a-Lago. That would be decent of him. It would give them a chance to clean up and disinfect the White House before the Bidens occupy it. If he does though it won’t be because he wants to do something decent.

In any event, our new de-facto interim government is an unexpected and fascinating outcome, something that hopefully will never be replicated, but seems to be the only way to bide time until January 20th. We live in extraordinary times indeed.

Wednesday’s inflection point

As I predicted on Sunday, Wednesday was a day of bedlam at the U.S. Capitol. Thousands of pro-Trump protestors, egged on by Trump at an earlier rally outside the White House, occupied and defaced the Capitol for several hours.

Little was done to stop them, and even less was done to prepare for this predictable event. It was (for the moment at least) the acme of Trumpism. It was also an attempted coup, thankfully one that was badly organized and brought under control within a few hours. It was clearly a coup because it was an attempt to alter the results of the presidential election. Our mighty democracy proved very fragile on Wednesday.

Parts of the Capitol were ransacked and items pilfered. At last count, five people are dead but so far not a whole lot of people have been charged with crimes. It was arguably the first time since the War of 1812 that the Capitol was attacked, this time not by British troops but by all American insurrectionists.

(In 1954, Puerto Rican separatists managed to open fire in the House of Representatives, wounding five members of Congress. But that was not a coup as they were not trying to topple the government. It was also quickly put down. Wednesday’s events were clearly the most brazenly seditious acts since the Civil War.)

Time will tell though if Trumpism dies with this coup attempt. Trump’s social media was abruptly cut off, perhaps the cruelest thing that anyone has ever done to him. Talk of using the 25th Amendment to quickly remove Trump from office is going on even inside the White House.

The coup attempt seemed to take the wind out of those in Congress protesting Biden’s election. Only the electoral votes of two states were challenged (curiously, not Georgia’s) and early Thursday Biden’s election was certified. Yesterday Trump came as close as he has come to conceding the election, saying there will be an orderly transition. I wouldn’t bet on this as a lot of what’s left of his government is resigning instead. My other earlier bet, that Trump would flee to a foreign country, now looks a lot more likely. In the meantime, I would not be surprised if he fled the White House, probably for Mar-a-Lago, never coming back.

The ultimate outcome of this coup attempt will hopefully be to kill Trumpism, but I doubt that will happen. It probably will leave Trumpists chastened, at least for a while. One thing it has caused: the government has slipped into Democratic hands. With two Democratic wins in the Georgia Senate runoff, Democrats will control the Senate. So over four years, Trumpism caused Republicans to go from united Republican government to united Democratic government. You would think that would be a karmic shock to what’s left of the party.

On another level, what happened Wednesday was entirely predictable and was the result of demographic changes long underway that are coming to a head, just given a focus through Trump. That’s why I was not surprised when my prediction posted on Sunday came true. That it actually unfolded the way it did though may ultimately secure a better long-term outcome than if it had been beaten back. Maybe Trumpists will be satisfied with the illusion of a short-term victory in a skirmish, then go back into their conspiratorial holes. Maybe having actually lived out part of their fantasies, that will be enough.

I do suffer from what is likely to be the fantasy that those who perpetrated this crime will be held fully accountable. It would not be hard to identify and locate almost all of these lawbreakers. Aside from the many photos taken on the scene, most brought their cellphones with them. As a DailyKos poster noted, a cell tower data dump could quickly identify who were actually there. Assuming Trump is not quickly 25th Amendment-ed, what’s left of his wits though is likely to issue a blanked pardon keeping all those accountable (including presumably himself) from having justice served. Arguably all these prosecutions would stoke the flame of Trumpists, encouraging guerilla-like actions.

While a lot of this is due to the future coming too fast for Trumpists, we may have a new president that can meet the moment. The coup attempt on the Capitol may make Republicans in their diminished role more prone to compromise. It may mean that some of their craziest members, like Josh Hawley (captured raising his fist to the insurrectionists during the coup attempt) get unseated. It does mean that government can function again, albeit modestly, for a while. There is an endless list of changes that need immediate action. For a while we may get some space for these changes to happen.

My gut though tells me this is hardly over. With Trump sidelined, there will be less animus driving these people forward. But there are a massive amount of loose-cannon Trumpists out there. A likely long national struggle lies ahead.

An adult in charge

And that’s basically it. One month from today, we’ll have an adult in charge of our country again.

For four years Trump has run the government as if Dennis the Menace were in charge. He was aided and abetted by the Republican Party, but make no mistake: The Republican Party itself didn’t want Donald Trump. They just discovered that they had no choice. Trump crashed their party so it was either adapt and be his fawning sycophant or do what only a relative handful of Republicans did: become Never Trumpers. Coincidentally they are also no longer Republicans, because the Republican Party is now basically the Trump Party.

It was crazy while it lasted, but in a month the party should be over. You know it’s still crazy because Trump sure appears to believe that somehow, he will still be president after noon on January 20. Too many Republicans in Congress are still afraid to state the obvious. I mean, the Electoral College voted last week so that’s that.

Well, not quite. It’s likely Trump believes that when the certification gets challenged in Congress on January 6 that somehow that verdict will get undone. Or there’s the less subtle route. Last Friday, Michael Flynn — his short-lived national security advisor who Trump pardoned — along with attorney Sidney Powell reportedly tried to talk Trump into a military coup. Just until the election could be rerun properly, mind you; “properly” meaning Trump is declared the winner, the only possible correct result.

It sounds like our next attorney general will have new charges (sedition) to file against Michael Flynn. Anyhow, for reasons I discussed in an earlier post, a coup is extremely unlikely, in part because it appears the military voted overwhelmingly for Joe Biden. But also because the military swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, not the president. So did Trump, but Senate Republicans decided that it didn’t matter when your party is in charge.

Anyhow, one of the few things that made me feel better since the election was to watch our president elect behave, well, presidential. He’s busy doing the stuff that presidents traditionally do before they take office, albeit with fitful cooperation from the Trump Administration. Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has finally acknowledged the obvious. Frankly, for all his words, I suspect McConnell is secretly relieved that Biden will be the next president. At his heart, McConnell is an institutionalist. Trump wanted to blow up the government. McConnell knows that is reckless; indeed, the surest way to get Republicans out of power is to blow it up. Institutions he cares about, like a conservative-leaning Supreme Court, can’t have much sway if government no longer exists. Also, he could be replaced with someone Trump would prefer more.

Biden’s picks so far have lived up to his promise to create an administration that reflected our diversity. It’s pretty breathtaking, really. Barack Obama’s administration was certainly reasonably diverse, but it was still mostly full of insider white guys. Frankly, had Bernie Sanders somehow won the presidency, I doubt his picks would be as diverse as Biden’s. They would definitely be more progressive, but I doubt we’d have an Interior secretary nominee who is Native American, a sign that Biden truly gets it. An insular figure like Trump would wreak havoc on his political opponents; Biden is wise enough to bring them along and put them to work, making them vested in the outcome.

Biden is smart enough to know he doesn’t know everything, and that he can only be effective through others. Trump never understood this at all; he values only subservience and loyalty. Only someone who has led a completely insular life where they never were accountable to anyone like Donald Trump can think they will always know more and be smarter than others. In his own way, Biden is creating another Team of Rivals, similar to what Barack Obama and Abraham Lincoln did. The ramped-up diversity in Biden’s picks brings out more opinions and perspectives. The effective president spends most of their time listening, not giving orders. In short, Biden’s approach so far is very smart and bodes well for his administration.

Biden also understands that government and business are two completely different spheres and they really don’t mix. Trump’s term has pretty much proved this; he saw the presidency as primarily a way to satisfy his own ego while hopefully profiting from it as well. Government is in the business of serving the people, not the other way around.

Now if we can just get through this final month. Biden is not even president yet and already has a 55% approval rating. Trump never broke fifty percent and spent most of his time in the low forties. Citizens can smell competence, which Biden has aplenty. He may not be the president we want, but it sure looks like he’ll be the president we actually need for this moment.

Time to draw a line in the sand on Republican traitors

Before the election in a number of posts I said that the time between Election Day and Biden’s inauguration would be one of the most challenging constitutionally for our country we’ve ever experience. I outlined many scenarios on how it could play out which I placed in many posts. There were too many variables in the election to know precisely how it would play out, but so far, I at least feel vindicated in my general assessment of this interregnum – not that it was too hard to figure out.

We are amidst the curse of living in interesting times. One of the challenges though of times like today is to figure out how to successfully navigate them so that better times (rather than chaos) lay ahead.

I figured we’d be in the streets at the moment, but right now it’s Trump supporters who are in the streets … and in the courts. Thousands of Trump supporters are in the streets of Washington, D.C. as I write, shouting for four more years of Donald Trump. It’s their constitutional right to protest and providing their protesting doesn’t lead to violence they should vent their spleens. They are protesting because they believe that Trump’s loss was stolen from them, even though after fifty lawsuits not one of them has produced any evidence that judges could accept. Just yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court in a unanimous decision seemed to put an end to it all, refusing to hear a case from Texas asking the court to overturn the results in four key states that voted for Joe Biden.

But of course, that won’t quite be the end of it. Monday the Electoral College votes in the fifty states plus the District of Columbia and certifies their electors. One of my fears is that Trump would put the U.S. military around some of these state capitols to keep the electors from doing just this. We’ll see if this happens. But it’s likely when Congress opens the votes on January 6, 2021 there will be objectors. This ain’t over until it’s over. Like Nixon’s helicopter scene, we won’t really know Biden is president until he is sworn in and a military attaché with the nation’s nuclear codes is by Biden’s side.

But it probably won’t be over even after then. We don’t know yet the results of Georgia’s two senate seat elections, but it’s likely if Republicans maintain a majority of senators that Mitch McConnell will be pressed to obstruct as much of the Biden Administration’s agenda as possible, possibly including refusing to vote on most of his cabinet and other choices. Indeed, Trump is likely to try to run a shadow presidency from Mar-a-Lago or wherever he ends up. I’ve suggested it might be Russia once the lawsuits and criminal charges are filed. Trump will demand attention and it will be up to us and the media to keep granting it to him or not.

Friday’s Supreme Court decision tossing out Texas’s case, joined by more than a dozen Republican state attorneys general and 120 Republicans in Congress, proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the bulk of Republicans don’t want democracy and would prefer an autocracy where they are in charge instead. By signing on to this suit, they publicly engaged in sedition against the United States. It is this action that I think must be challenged. An implicit line in the sand was drawn that was stepped over when Republicans joined wholeheartedly in this effort. Now another and enforceable line in the sand should be drawn: The House of Representatives should not seat any member of Congress that seditiously joined in this lawsuit.

It’s been done from time to time. My brother today reminded me that we have a great uncle who wasn’t seated in the U.S. Congress in 1869 after the Civil War because his loyalty was questioned as a Democrat. The House, like the Senate, sets its own rules and it can simply refuse to seat representatives by a majority vote. Most of these representatives are already in Congress and won reelection. All of them, like Donald Trump, swore to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States. Their actions of sedition and treachery though prove through their signatures that they didn’t live up to their sworn oaths when it mattered. So, I say, refuse to seat the whole lot of them! Let that be democracy’s line in the sand. Let that be how we rise to the moment.

It can be done. Democrats control the House, even though they lost seats, so if Democrats stay united on this it can happen. The U.S. Constitution specifically allows each house of Congress to set their own rules. The rules for the current Congress have been set, but the rules for the next Congress have not. Refuse to seat them and require that governors of the many states send interim replacements, but only those who will swear fealty to the Constitution of the United States and publicly avow that they will not subvert the will of the people expressed through the voting process.

Of course, I’m not unmindful of the backlash this would cause. It’s hard to believe that it would be much worse than what we’ve already endured. But we need to think of the future and protect the most important thing of all: our republican form of democracy and our constitution and the many laws derived from it, including our freedoms. This is no time to be weenies about our democracy. It’s a time firmly avow by taking all necessary action to ensure nothing like this can happen again. In 2024, it should be simply unthinkable because of the emotional shock that we inflict now.

The most charitable workaround would be to seat those members who publicly disavow their actions at the House podium and promise to never subvert the electoral process or our constitution again. But I wouldn’t want this. I think they should all be permanently unseated. The price of their treachery must be borne. They should feel lucky if the least that happens to them is that they never take their seats. I would hope the Justice Department would look into seeing if any criminal charges apply and if so to go after these miscreants aggressively.

Republicans don’t believe in either democracy or republican government

It’s taken two and a half weeks, but things have finally reached the totally alarming phase of our post-election madness. With just a couple of exceptions, all Republicans in our federal government seem to be aiding and abetting the corruption of our election and ending our democratic government as we’ve known it.

The good news is that Trump and the Republican Party’s tacit acceptance of his tactics stand little chance of achieving the goal of somehow reversing who will be our next president. The bad news is that if we harbored any illusions that Republicans were not a wholly corrupt party, it’s been blown away by recent events.

Today, Trump has members of the Michigan Republican legislature at the White House to persuade them to somehow give Michigan’s electoral votes to him instead of Joe Biden, who won a majority of them. In reality there’s not much Michigan Republicans can do. The same is true in Arizona, Nevada and Georgia, all key states whose votes would need to somehow swing into Trump’s column to pull off this electoral coup. To do what he wants done would have required mendacity and a lot of preplanning. Trump has plenty of mendacity, but almost no ability to plan anything.

The same can’t be said about Republicans in general and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in particular. For more than thirty years they’ve executed an arguably brilliantly devious and mendacious plan to give Republicans disproportionate electoral impact. It’s been done through gerrymandering to the extreme, wholesale voter disenfranchisement strategies, and abetted by a conservative Supreme Court that said those predominantly southern states didn’t need preapproval by the federal government anymore before changing their voting laws and apportioning legislative districts. The Supreme Court said it was a relic of the past. What Trump is doing today in the White House is proof of how catastrophically wrong this decision was. Our courts have gotten so conservative principally because the Senate has been largely controlled by Republicans and Mitch McConnell, and they won’t approve any but the most conservative jurists.

Democracy is the direct rule of the government by the people. You can still find it here in New England, where major decisions are made by whoever attends periodic town meetings. Republican government means allowing the people to vote for representatives, who hopefully reflect their will in local, state and federal legislatures.

Gerrymandering and voter disenfranchisement have been extremely effective in muting the powers of certain voters. It takes extraordinary civic engagement, like we saw in the recent election, to overcome its effects. The Electoral College offers an additional hurdle by giving rural states disproportionate power to select our president.

As Trump’s actions today prove, even that high hurdle is not a bar too far for our president and Republicans in our government to corrupt. Trump’s efforts though are very last minute. A more mendacious future Republican president or presidential candidate won’t make these same mistakes.

I had hoped that this election would bring the end of the Republican Party. I’m likely to be proven wrong on this. Instead, the election is demonstrating just how deeply polarized our country is and how for most Republicans there is no bridge too far for them to cross to achieve their goals. The so-called Law and Order party has no respect for the law, and the only order they will allow is order they declare.

All of this points to how fragile our system of government actually is at the moment. It also shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that Republicans don’t want a republican form of government. They want total control. They don’t want to brook or allow any dissent. They are completely happy with an autocracy, as long as the autocrat is one of their own. Apparently, Trump will do fine.

All this points to a nation that is likely to become increasingly ungovernable as there will be virtually nothing both parties can agree on. The job of one party will be to wholly obstruct the other. And at least for Republicans, rules and the law be damned. It’s all completely fair as long as it works to achieve their aims.

So, I expect we will be marching in the streets. It’s just going to happen later instead of sooner. We’re going through a slow-motion national train wreck. And we’re doing it as the worst possible time, with one party wholly corrupt, with a court system holding but teetering, with a pandemic rapidly worsening, and a president who will obstruct any action that would allow for a peaceful and planned transition of government to Joe Biden.

God help us.

Six days later and my stomach is still queasy

I figured I’d be out in the streets pretty soon after the election was called, not necessarily to celebrate Joe Biden’s win, but because we’d see violent actions by right wingers trying to foment insurrection, civil war, revolution or all of the above. That hasn’t happened, which is good. But I’m not at all convinced it won’t happen.

For now, Trump is hoping for a Hail Mary outcome that is unlikely to happen. Even if somehow, he could flip the results in a couple of states, which is almost impossible, Biden’s likely win with 306 electoral college votes means one or two states wouldn’t matter. So far Trump hasn’t egged on his right-wing fanatics, perhaps mindful that doing so would expose him to criminal charges once out of office. So far though the consequence of his actions hasn’t seemed to deter him. So, this may be a card he’s holding close to his chest, waiting for a special moment. Perhaps that day will be December 14, when the Electoral College meets in each of the fifty states, or January 6, 2021 when the votes are certified in Congress.

In the meantime, Trump’s acts are worrisome. He’s so far playing the wannabee dictator’s handbook. He fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, presumably because he publicly said the armed forces would not support a coup attempt. Attorney General Bill Barr has told the Justice Department it’s okay to look into election fraud issues, even though none were found. If you were going to try to carry out a coup, you’d want your toadies in all the key posts. He’s got the Justice Department in his pocket, hopes to have the Defense Department in it too and is making noises like he’s about to fire CIA Director Mark Esper. The FBI technically reports to Bill Barr, but it would be good to get rid of its director too, Christopher Wray. Trump’s got experience firing FBI directors, and he’s not enamored with Wray, so it’s not unrealistic to think he’s going to get ousted soon.

A real coup would be hard to pull off without the National Guard supporting it, and it’s pretty unlikely he can pull that off. In any event, there are chess pieces in play. Until January 20, Trump controls the government, so a coup would depend on how actively his government takes steps to pull one off. We may get half-hearted measures or a huge new Saturday Night Massacre as many levels of government leaders rebel.

Or it could all be worry for naught. Trump is notoriously distractible. Staff could keep him playing golf at one of his many resorts while he stews and tweets. It’s unlikely that right wing militias would do anything without his egging them on. After all, he told the Proud Boys to “stand down and stand by”. Good soldiers as they are, they are waiting for his orders.

Meanwhile of course he is continuing to deny reality and is ordering the government not to let a transition proceed. He still is tweeting but he’s keeping a low public profile, which is unusual for him. You can get a sense of the state of his mind by his tweets, which are now predominantly in uppercase.

In short, expect to stay on pins and needles until we see Biden sworn in and our armed forces fall in behind him. I do hope Biden appoints a presidential photographer and makes his first assignment to hang out at the White House. If Trump has to be bodily evicted, it should be captured for posterity.

Whence then for Trump? If you read me regularly, I expect him to flee this USA. I’m actually hoping for it, as he’d only do it if he figures he might get arrested. The cases against him and the Trump Organization are mostly civil, but it’s certainly possible the Manhattan District Attorney or the New York State Attorney General has a criminal case or two ready to prosecute on January 21.

It would be best if Trump left the country permanently and was always afraid that if he returned he would be indicted and possibly hauled off to jail for fleeing justice. If Trump is guilty of criminal charges, I’d love to see him in prison. But it’s probably better for our country if he stays away permanently. It’s like sending Napoleon to St. Helens. He won’t be wholly neutered but he’ll be mostly neutered, particularly when he violates Twitter’s terms of service. Not being president, his account will be easy to shut off. Twitter recently turned off Steve Bannon’s account after he called for beheading Tony Fauci.

Even with Trump out of the picture, our democracy is in a very fragile state. The seventy or so million people who voted for Trump implicitly are okay with ending democracy and having an authoritarian of Trump’s ilk ruling by fiat instead. There is a cancer on the Republican Party that I don’t think can be cured and many have noted Trump’s success and will imitate his tactics in future campaign. However, they are unlikely to be as ineffective. The Republican Party deserves to die, but right now I don’t see a split within the party severe enough where this can happen, although I predicted it would. Maybe I will be vindicated with time.

Real rule of law needs to return, and structural reforms are urgently needed to shore up our democracy. Unless Democrats win two Senate seats in a Georgia special election, it has virtually no chance of happening before 2022. There are so many issues that need fixing all at once and insufficient political capital to do them that the long-term prospects for a functioning government in our country seem bleak. Biden’s election brought us a ray of hope, but it’s just a ray. Biden’s plan for unity and comity are likely to go nowhere. If Republicans retain the Senate, their agenda will probably be party line obstruction on all levels. There is simply no incentive for them to fix our systemic issues, as they are likely to lose more power if they do. Past initiatives to broaden their party have fallen on deaf ears.

So, while I am obviously glad that Biden and Harris were elected, the odds against them are Herculean. We narrowly won an initial battle, but winning this war against democracy looks iffy at best. At least we should get some breathing room.

Breaking the egg

If your stomach isn’t churning right now, you probably aren’t an American. I’m willing to bet though that much of the rest of the world has a churning stomach too as they too wonder how our election will turn out. Like it or not, our election affects virtually everyone. It’s pretty clear who should win the presidency (Joe Biden) but it’s less clear whether he will succeed in actually taking office.

I am one of many pundits that proclaimed the next likely steps. In the past you could count on the loser graciously (sometimes with arms twisted) conceding, thus smoothing the path for the winner. (Obviously 2000 was an exception, but Al Gore did concede when the Supreme Court effectively voted Bush into office.) The peaceful transition of power has been one of the hallmarks of American democracy. That’s likely now about to change.

Trump’s already signaling his next steps: declare an early victory when early results in states like Pennsylvania make him appear momentarily ahead. Declare that votes not cast on Election Day don’t count and claim that those cast by mail were rigged somehow. So, it will quickly be off to the courts (both state and federal) to try to invalidate as many votes as possible.

Meanwhile Trump supporters will try to foment violence. We saw a touch of it over the weekend when Trump supporters managed to delay a Biden/Harris campaign bus on the road in Texas. Needless to say, although it caused two campaign events to be canceled, Donald Trump had no problem with it. Meanwhile, the White House is becoming even more of a fortress, with scale-proof fencing being rapidly installed around its perimeter.

So, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that Trump won’t concede, as it would assume civil behavior from a man who has never shown any. Trump is counting on “his” Supreme Court, not to mention the many district and circuit court judges he appointed to come through for him. Republicans have packed a lot of state courts too in the last ten years, so expect a lot of monkey business as we get all sorts of incredulous rulings from these judges that try to put the Republican Party and Trump’s interests above those of the masses. Biden’s margin of victory and the fact that many swing states aren’t wholly controlled by Republicans though mean there are likely too many moving parts for Republicans to ultimately succeed in the courts.

Here in Northampton, Massachusetts we got a taste of what’s to come yesterday. In this extremely progressive city, a bunch of Trump supports waving Trump flags occupied the corner of Pleasant Street and Main. This soon drew counter protesters across the street at King Street and Main. The chanting and jeering went on for a couple of hours. Police managed to keep the groups separated. Most likely these Trump supporters came from the hill towns.

In short, after a years-long campaign, the election is merely an event in a long series of events whose ultimate outcome is unclear. Those wanting it to all go away will be disappointed. The only question is how bad it will get.

One theory is that if Biden wins a huge victory it will suppress the emotions of Trump’s supporters and keep them from engaging in violence. I don’t expect this. Trump will simply goad them on. They are all being used but it’s clear Trump doesn’t care. Thousands who picked up the virus at his many rallies will likely die, but none of that will matter to Trump. Sociopaths simply don’t care and may take pleasure at inflicting pain on others. At some level, I expect that if Trump ultimately loses, he will blame his supporters for not trying hard enough.

I expect I will be in the streets doing my best to peacefully protest, but I expect there will be counter protests and it could get ugly and violent. It will be mostly up to governors and local police departments to try to keep things civil and quell violence. It’s unclear whether we have enough resources to do this.

Ultimately though there may be some good that comes from all this. Americans may embrace democracy again and the forces of radical Republicanism may finally be checked, perhaps fatally so. So much depends though on the majority of us standing up, not just to vote, but to carry on with grit and determination afterward.

Democracies are the most fragile forms of government. If we want to keep it, we’re going to have to work for it. If nothing else, we’re going to find out how vested we are in a civil society.

Trump to flee the USA? I’d bet on it

At one of Trump’s recent rallies he said this:

Running against the worst candidate in the history of presidential politics puts pressure on me. Could you imagine if I lose? My whole life, what am I going to do? I’m going to say ‘I lost to the worst candidate in the history of politics.’ I’m not going to feel so good. Maybe I’ll have to leave the country? I don’t know.

This was supposedly said in jest. There’s just one problem. Have you ever heard Donald Trump laugh?

Not me, not once. Trump has no sense of humor at all as best I can tell. That’s because he doesn’t understand the root of humor. What makes something humorous varies from person to person. Mostly it’s about surprise. You expect to hear something but what you get is not what you expect and it’s usually something off the wall, and that’s often what makes it humorous. Would it surprise you at all if Donald Trump left the country after he is badly defeated? It wouldn’t surprise me. In fact, I’m expecting he’ll do just this.

There’s also the benign violation theory of humor. Humor arises in if there is both a violation from civil norms and it’s a non-threatening violation. Leaving the country to live elsewhere (likely a country without an extradition agreement with the United States, in Trump’s case) is definitely a violation of a civic norm. Is this non-threatening? Not to most of us. If Trump committed any crimes, we would like him to be held accountable for them. We’d feel threatened if he put himself outside of the law.

He wouldn’t emigrate unless he felt he would be held accountable for violating the law. It would be humorous if Trump chose to move to, say, Sweden. It would be funny because we don’t expect that Sweden would let him become a permanent resident and because it’s a socialist state. But we already sense Sweden wouldn’t have him, so that suggestion would be funny, but it’s not one that Trump uttered. He’s incapable of making this mental leap and seeing the humor in it. We all know what he’s really talking about: moving somewhere outside of the reach of U.S. law and which would accommodate his lifestyle. Offhand, only Russia comes to mind but he wouldn’t be too happy there. Now Trump moving to Iran, now that would be funny.

Trump raises this because it’s on his mind. As I posited in my last post, he knows he’s going to lose. Moreover, he’s getting desperate. In today’s Washington Post we learn that he’s considering firing FBI director Christopher Wray because he won’t indict Joe and Hunter Biden, like he wants him to do. The lack of evidence doesn’t bother him. The same fate may await Attorney General Bill Barr, who generally has bent over backward to accommodate Trump. Waiting until after the election to fire them though assumes that Trump wins. There’s little chance of that. Firing them after an election he loses is kind of pointless. It won’t change the fact that he lost.

Trump is privy to his actual crimes. Even non-lawyers like me can see there would be no problem filing charges. Once he is out of office, there’s no reason not to, as he is no longer untouchable. It’s likely that New York State has a set ready to file on January 21. Trump though doesn’t want to live elsewhere, which is why I suspect before he leaves office, he will try to pardon himself. If he gets too much heat for the idea, he’ll plan to resign on the condition that Mike Pence will pardon him.

Pardoning himself looks legally dubious at best, but with three of nine justices appointed by him, it’s not out of the question they would decide it’s legal. Actually, the constitution seems to forbid it. The clause is:

The President … shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

Trump has been impeached, but not convicted, so there is some wiggle room there. But grant on the other hand has a more specific meaning. In most interpretations, granting is something done to someone else (the grantee) by the grantor. It would take some stretching to interpret it otherwise.

In either event, the safer course for Trump will be to go somewhere else until courts rule in his favor, somewhere outside of U.S. law. So, I can certainly see him holing up in some country like Russia hoping to eventually come home. Better safe than sorry, though.

We’ll just have to see how this all plays out. But if you are looking for someone to say Trump will either try to pardon himself or resign to get Pence to do it, you heard it here first. It would not be surprising in the least. Trump has spent a lifetime dodging accountability, so it’s part of his playbook. And since most of us in our hearts know Trump is likely to do something like this, it’s not unexpected, and also not humorous.

When the extent of his crimes is uncovered, most of us will regret that witch burning was outlawed centuries ago.