The only purpose that can be served here is to provide Trump and his cult of followers the bare minimum of doubt required to sustain the idea that Biden’s victory is somehow illegitimate.
By Anatole d’Ecotopia
Photo by Dalton Caraway
We are now a full forty eight hours past the point where Associated Press called the current president election in favor of candidate Joe Biden. In the modern era of U.S. politics, this is the point at which any normal losing candidate would have formally conceded their loss and begun in good faith the work of transition.
But, of course, there is nothing remotely “normal” about either the presidency or candidacy of Donald Trump. Even after his party’s one living former president offered Joe Biden his congratulations, Donald Trump heard only the second part of George W. Bush’s statement: That it was within Trump’s rights to continue his baseless legal challenges and recount demands.
Obviously, the single biggest question to arise from this state of affairs is whether or not Trump can actually prevail at this point. The answer is that it is highly, highly unlikely. At bare minimum, Trump’s legal team would need to flip Pennsylvania and Arizona, as well as break the current tie in Georgia. To accomplish this would require the nullification/invalidation of approximately 62,000 votes across three states. The possibility of this occurring… is not great.
The next question that arises is whether or not further extending the uncertainty of the election outcome causes actual harm to the country, and the answer is an obvious and indisputable “yes”. The business of transition of power is on hold in the middle of a public health and financial crisis — further, every additional day that Trump fails to concede is one more day that his toxic and easily-inflamed political base feels further justified in their resistance, further confirmed that they are justified to resist by any means necessary. Election officials are receiving death threats already. How long before some angry Trumpist drives one of their stereotypic oversized pickup trucks into a crowd of Biden supporters — or perhaps into the side of a county election office, with the bed of the truck loaded with ammonia nitrate and fuel oil?
The final question is, of course: What purpose is served by any of this?
If Trump were to prevail, he would be continuing a questionable presidency that has been rejected by a four million vote plurality. The process of healing so eloquently described by Joe Biden on Saturday would be replaced by a process of demonization, victimization, and further deepened divisions. Joe Biden has honorably promised to be a president for all Americans. Donald Trump, should he retain office, will be emboldened to discard what few social norms he has not already trampled upon, free to seek whatever vindictive retribution he sees fit to visit upon those who oppose him — but again, this is unlikely.
The only purpose that can be served here is to provide Trump and his cult of followers the bare minimum of doubt required to sustain the idea that Biden’s victory is somehow illegitimate. This serves the dual purpose of cozening Trump’s wounded ego and providing Trumpists with the pretext for yet another conspiracy theory to further bolster an alternative view of reality in which the pandemic and Trump’s loss are both “fake news”.
The case has previously been made in this space that the fundamental defining characteristic of Trump and Trumpism is narcissistic self-absorption. The continued behavior of Trump and Trump followers continue to make that case far more conclusively than any words… to the absolute detriment of us all.