There are basically three American institutions preventing a far-right uprising to install Boss Trump as president-for-life. You know, like Vladimir Putin or Kim Jong Un.
They are the U.S. military, state and federal courts, and most important, local election officials — many Republicans — holding firm against a Trumpist coup d’etat.
Trump may huff and puff, but he can’t blow the house down.
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About the military, there’s blessedly little to say. Career soldiers have taken an oath to defend the Constitution, not the Current Occupant of the White House. Maybe the best evidence of his sanity — in the medical sense — is that Trump hasn’t ordered the Pentagon to back his play. Presumably because he knows they would disobey an illegal order.
Or maybe he just hasn’t thought of it yet.
Otherwise, if the Current Occupant were your grandpa, it might be time for a family intervention. Since the election, I’ve responded to all threatening and insulting emails — nobody even attempts a substantive argument anymore — with the same friendly advice. I include it here as a public service:
Just don’t send Trump any money. It’s a scam.
In pivotal Pennsylvania, scene of a couple of Rudy Giuliani’s “Gong Show” press conferences — both the Four Seasons plant nursery farce and the leaky hair-dye folly — the state supreme court dealt summarily with a bizarre lawsuit filed by an obscure GOP congressman.
“Petitioners sought to invalidate the ballots of the millions of Pennsylvania voters who utilized the mail-in voting procedures. ... Alternatively, Petitioners advocated the extraordinary proposition that the court disenfranchise all 6.9 million Pennsylvanians who voted in the General Election and instead ‘direct the General Assembly to choose Pennsylvania’s electors.’”
The ruling was unanimous.
Federal judges likewise displayed little patience with the Trump team’s effort to halt certifying Pennsylvania’s vote. U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann reminded the Giuliani team that actual evidence was required to win a lawsuit. A Republican and former Federalist Society member, he ruled that the Trump campaign had made “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations ... unsupported by evidence. ... Our people, laws, and institutions demand more.”
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled unanimously against Giuliani’s efforts. Trump-appointed Justice Stephanos Bibas wrote that “the Campaign cannot win this lawsuit. It conceded that it is not alleging election fraud. It has already raised and lost most of these state-law issues, and it cannot relitigate them here.”
Then there was Michigan, where Trump subjected Republican election officials and legislative leaders to extraordinary harassment. Trailing by more than 150,000 votes, he appeared to believe the key to victory was disenfranchising African American citizens altogether. One GOP official actually suggested refusing to certify all ballots from Detroit, because ...
Well, because why?
She soon regained her senses, leading Boss Trump to summon Michigan’s Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey to the White House to get their arms twisted. Just to be nice, the two men accepted the invitation, but issued a joint statement on the way out: “We have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan.”
They dismissed the idea of the state legislature sending a pro-Trump delegation to the Electoral College as “absolute crazy talk.”
Partly because the contest in Georgia was so close — Joe Biden won by only 13,000 votes — and partly because the state features two runoff elections next month that could determine control of the U.S. Senate, things there got really hairy. Nevertheless, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state and governor held their constitutional ground, upholding the state’s election laws despite having themselves supported Trump.
They deserve all Americans’ gratitude and respect.
“It was like a rumor whack-a-mole,” said Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who supervised a painstaking hand recount of millions of ballots, confirming Biden’s victory. (Also, the integrity of its voting machines.) “I don’t think I had a choice,” he explained. “My job is to follow the law. We’re not going to get pushed off the needle on doing that. Integrity still matters.”
Then came the inevitable death threats. But also, rather to my surprise, support from Georgia’s Gov. Brian Kemp. “Georgia law prohibits the governor from interfering in elections,” he explained. Trump, of course, immediately accused him of ingratitude and corruption. That’s the price of doing business with the crooked scoundrel, always and everywhere.
Seemingly “radicalized” by his bad experience, as people said in the ‘60s, Raffensperger asked the key question: “Are you going to stand for integrity? Or are you going to stand for the wild mob? You wanted to condemn the wild mob when it’s on the left side. What are you going to do when it’s on our side?”
The answer is that damn near every spineless Republican in Washington pretends to side with the mob. Except, apparently, Attorney General Bill Barr.
But out here in America, the center has held.
Gene Lyons is a columnist for the Arkansas Times.
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