The most disgraceful episode in American politics of my lifetime, bar none. It’s the worst thing Trump has ever done, which is a highly competitive category. And it’s only just begun.
Hot Air alum Noah Rothman wrote a piece yesterday — before today’s hallucinatory Giuliani press conference — titled “The Dumbest of Coups,” arguing that Trump’s bid to overturn the election is more pathetic than intimidating. He’s placed a washed-up crank at the head of the effort; he’s floating wild theories that involve Hugo Chavez in the alleged vote-rigging plot. Rothman’s point ultimately, though, is that the yakety-sax vibe of the effort makes it no less sinister or unprecedented: “There is no modern analog for the display Republicans are engaging in—no parallel to which the right can point and claim their actions are justified by the standards of decency Democrats violated long ago. This is new.” Correct. Nearly everything in cutthroat modern partisan battles, from the filibuster wars to Supreme Court nominations, can be packaged as an eye for an eye. Not this time. This new low, fittingly, was pioneered by Trump.
Tim Miller, a la Rothman, says the coup plot exists in a twilight zone between serious power grab and MAGA infotainment nonsense:
Unconstrained by having to present any evidence at all, the Apple Giuliani Gang concocts a conspiracy that sounds manifestly true to voters who have been trained to believe that the left is evil incarnate, but sounds so preposterous to everyone else that Republican elected officials can avoid engaging on the merits while they accuse The Media of being mean to them for asking about it and mock liberals for panicking over this subversion of our democracy.
And so the conspiracy theory exists in an uncanny valley: It’s advanced by the president of the United States and believed by untold millions of his followers but at the same time it’s so ludicrous that it’s impossible to put into context for audiences who do not exist in the Trump Alternative Universe. It is both deadly serious and utterly ridiculous. And it will persist in perpetuity if it is not decisively disproved and Republican leaders are not forced to reckon with it and crush it.
Trump’s lawyers are seeking to take the power of appointing electors away from the governors and secretaries of state and give it to friendly state lawmakers from his party, saying the U.S. Constitution gives legislatures the ultimate authority…
A person familiar with the campaign’s legal strategy said it has become a “more targeted approach towards getting the legislators engaged.”…
A senior Trump campaign official told Reuters its plan is to cast enough doubt on vote-counting in big, Democratic cities that Republican lawmakers will have little choice but to intercede. The campaign is betting that many of those lawmakers, who come from districts Trump won, will face a backlash from voters if they refuse to act. The campaign believes the longer they can drag this out, the more they will have an opportunity to persuade lawmakers to intervene, the official said…
Legislators in Michigan and Pennsylvania have sought not to become involved. Several leading Republicans in Michigan privately express dismay at the extent to which Trump has tried to game the election results, believing it will irreversibly tarnish the party’s image in the state for years to come.
The effort is focused right now on Michigan and Pennsylvania, which, true to the yakety-sax spirit of this project, don’t have enough electoral votes between them to make Trump president. If he pulled off a coup in both states, it’d be Biden 270, Trump 268. He’d need a third state. Which leaves one to wonder: Why would legislators in MI or PA make a move as apocalyptic as trying to void their elections without assurance that the coup would even succeed? Which state legislature wants to move first on this, not knowing if others will go along, raising the possibility that they’ll throw in with a fascist takeover plot, Biden will end up president anyway, and suddenly they’ll be facing a furious constituency in their home state?
What if they throw in with the plot and get derailed in court, as is likely to happen?
What they miss, however, is that two clauses later, the Constitution provides that "Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors . . ."
That time, of course, was election day, Nov. 3 this year.
— Gabriel Malor (@gabrielmalor) November 19, 2020
So this theory runs afoul of both the federal Constitution and each individual state's laws.
It does not represent even a plausible possibility for Trump remaining in the White House.
— Gabriel Malor (@gabrielmalor) November 19, 2020
Who wants to try to end American democracy knowing that the effort is all but guaranteed to fail and then have to face the consequences for even attempting it?
The Republican heads of the Michigan state senate and house are set to meet with Trump tomorrow at the White House. They should not have taken that meeting. Even if they walk out resolved that their election results will stand — and Mike Shirkey, the senate majority leader, has said the right things about that so far — chatting with Trump at a moment when his aides are nakedly admitting that they’re trying to orchestrate a coup led by state legislatures is grossly irresponsible. If you’re a state legislator and the president calls you up this week asking to talk about the election, you hang up the phone. If he gets mad and tweets that you’re a RINO and you suddenly find yourself unelectable in your district, that’s fine. Wear his contempt like a halo. You’ll get another job. At least, on the day you die, you’ll do so knowing that you did the right thing for your country when it mattered.
It would be reassuring if the rest of the party were distancing itself from Trump’s coup plot, however ambivalently. But this was tweeted by the RNC this afternoon:
"We will not be intimidated…We are going to clean this mess up now. President Trump won by a landslide. We are going to prove it. And we are going to reclaim the United States of America for the people who vote for freedom."—Sidney Powell pic.twitter.com/8KCEOGuL7w
— GOP (@GOP) November 19, 2020
“President Trump won by a landslide.” There’s already been a coup this week, writes Kevin Williamson, although it’s one that’s happened gradually over many years and really only reached its final stage today. That coup is the takeover of the GOP by cranks:
And what we are seeing now, in the twilight of Trump’s kookery, is the merger of QAnon, the Republican Party, and the large part of the conservative movement that earns its bread by peddling miracle veggie pills to gullible elderly people on the radio. When I first starting writing about QAnon, some conservatives scoffed that it wasn’t a significant phenomenon, that it had no real influence on the Republican Party or conservative politics. That is obviously untrue. Rather than ask whether conspiracy kookery is relevant to Republican politics at this moment, it would be better to ask if there is anything else to Republican politics at this moment. And maybe there is, but not much.
This raises some uncomfortable questions for conservatives. One of those questions is: How long are we going to keep pretending that this madness isn’t madness? Another is: How long will we continue to pretend that what’s being broadcast by Fox News and talk radio is political commentary rather than the most shameful, irresponsible, and unpatriotic kind of sycophantic for-profit propaganda? A third is: What exactly is the benefit — for our ideas, and for the country — of making common cause with these lunatics and hucksters?
Williamson went on to answer his own question: The benefit, ostensibly, is winning elections — except Trump didn’t win this time. And when he did win in 2016, the great domestic policy achievement of his first term was … a tax cut. I wonder what the GOP would get in return if it successfully executed his coup plot, ending the country as we know it and triggering serious talk of secession. Another tax cut, I’d guess.
We can function as a society that’s half left and half right. We can’t function as a society that’s half pro-elections and half pro-autocracy:
What many people are missing:
Yes, US institutions/courts are broadly continuing to function in generally democratic ways.
But *people* matter too. 30-40% of the US is cheering an autocratic attempt to disregard an election & seize power. Democracy can't survive that long-term.
— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) November 19, 2020
Something that occurred to me while writing this post: As far as I’m aware, not a single person in the administration or the campaign or Congress for that matter has resigned in protest of what Trump’s trying to do. Not one person. Lunatics and hucksters, all the way through.