Displaying the same staggering incompetence that has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths during the COVID-19 epidemic, Boss Trump made two big tactical errors in his failed effort to keep the White House.
First, he telegraphed his scheme to overturn the election, and then he waited too long to make his big move.
These blunders brought him to a classic, indelible Trumpian moment: simultaneously demanding that vote-counting stop in Pennsylvania and Georgia, but continue in Arizona and Nevada. The difference being that Trump was temporarily leading in the first two, but trailing out west.
Instead, he appears at this writing to have lost all four states.
Just as he lost the national popular vote, it bears emphasizing, by one of the largest margins in U.S. history — in excess of 5 million votes. Spontaneous celebrations broke out in the streets of almost every large American city when the result was announced. It felt awfully like the collapse of authoritarian regimes elsewhere in the world. You’d have to be actively delusional to believe that even this Supreme Court could find a way to overturn it.
Trump himself appears to be a True Believer. Never mind that he had no winning political strategy. Yes, his frantic series of COVID superspreader rallies brought millions of enraptured supporters to the polls, but they also stimulated larger numbers of Americans to cast their votes against him. If MAGA believers risked their lives, Trump’s opponents felt they were saving their own.
Disenfranchising millions of absentee voters amid the COVID pandemic was never going to work. A politician more firmly in touch with reality would have realized that.
Even sycophantic Attorney General William Barr has implicitly acknowledged as much. His order instructing U.S. attorneys to look into allegations of voter fraud has a caveat that gives the game away: “While serious allegations should be handled with great care, specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims should not be a basis for initiating federal inquiries.”
Then there’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has predicted that “there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”
In his dreams. Pompeo is not a stupid man, but he badly wants the 2024 Republican nomination.
GOP senators, too, appear to think they must judiciously humor the big crybaby until the hissy fit passes. Trump’s angry toddler act — crying, screaming, throwing food on the floor, holding his breath until he turns blue and breaking things — won’t actually change anything. Eventually, he’ll wear himself out.
Or not. I really don’t care. Do you?
Even Fox News cut away from White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany when she alleged widespread voter fraud without a scintilla of proof. Then there was Rudy Giuliani, holding forth in the parking lot of a landscaping business appropriately located between a crematorium and an adult bookstore that his bookers had evidently mistaken for the Four Seasons Hotel. Trump’s personal lawyer, as one British reporter put it, ended up “struggling to be heard over a man in his underpants shouting about George Soros.”
The exact proportion of MAGA True Believers in the population isn’t clear. Presumably, the same fools who bought into the “birtherism” conspiracy theory Trump used to win notoriety in the first place are equally prepared to believe in the myth of a stolen election.
But not very strenuously over time, I suspect. For most people, politics is a secondary passion, like being a football fan. You think you’ll never survive your team losing, but the sun comes up and there’s another game. Clinging to a lost cause can get tiring, leaving a person mired in an ever more irrelevant past.
Here’s how Charles Mackay, the 19th-century Scottish author of the classic book “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds,” put it: “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”
Freed from the spell of Trumpism and the daily necessity of rationalizing a malignant narcissist’s follies and outrages, many will find themselves inwardly relieved. Over time, MAGA hats will become the equivalent of Confederate flags, a symbol signifying that you’re a resentful loser.
Meanwhile, here’s how an American president talks:
“Let’s give each other a chance,” Joe Biden said in his speech laying claim to having won the 2020 election. “It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric. To lower the temperature. To see each other again. To listen to each other again. To make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy. We are not enemies. We are Americans. The Bible tells us that to everything there is a season — a time to build, a time to reap, a time to sow. And a time to heal. This is the time to heal in America.”
That’s a message millions wanted to hear.
Gene Lyons is a columnist for the Arkansas Times.
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