For the GOP and its right-wing affiliates, a discernible pattern emerged over the past 72 hours. Level sweeping allegations without evidence. Use the phrases “late ballots” and “illegal votes” often and interchangeably. Point to oddities and irregularities, no matter how minuscule, as proof of a broader conspiracy. Then, despite those individual claims being debunked, stand by them. If this playbook sounds familiar, it’s because the party has taken on the identity of its leader…
If the voting numbers hold, Trump won’t be in office much longer. But his imprint on the Republican Party is permanent. This much has been clear since the day he won the presidency, and it has grown clearer each hour since. The impulsive governing and the disregard for the rule of law, the undermining of allies and the embracing of tyrants, the schoolyard taunts and the vulgar sentiments — all of this will live on. It will be central to his legacy and to the party’s. And yet nothing will prove as enduring as his delegitimizing of the office he holds and the democratic process that elected him to it. Nothing can repair the damage done by a sustained effort to subvert the nation’s bedrock institution and diminish public confidence in it. Nothing that happens to the GOP moving forward can erase the memory of the president telling the American people their votes were stolen — and Republicans, not bothering with evidence, nodding along in agreement.
The irony of Trump’s presidency is his unremitting wrath over being viewed as an illegitimate president — when it was his attempts to portray Obama as an illegitimate president that endeared him to the American right and planted the seeds of his political rise. There is no shortage of symmetry now, with his campaign for reelection in peril and the twilight of his reign upon him, in Trump’s efforts to make his successor as illegitimate as his predecessor.
A healthy Republican Party would not abide this. Then again, a healthy Republican Party would not have winked and nodded at birtherism, nor would it have nominated Trump to the presidency in the first place.