By refusing to accept the results of the election, Trump now completes the autocrat’s playbook checklist. He adds this treasonous milestone to a long list of other undemocratic behaviors that include (forgive me for this long list, but don’t blame me, blame Trump): dismantling democratic norms, packing the courts, purging military leadership, demanding loyalty to himself over the constitution, threatening to jail political opponents, ignoring laws and subpoenas from the legislative branch, refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power should he lose, encouraging violence and insurrection, dehumanizing his opponents, promoting division and hatred, calling the press the enemy of the people, admiring and fawning over other dictators, prosecuting whistle blowers, profiting from business dealings while in office, intimidating and threatening witnesses, pardoning supporters and allies who are convicted felons, politicizing the Voice of America leadership, cooperating if not colluding with the enemy, inviting foreign interference into our elections, working up crowds at his rallies into a frenzy as if a cult, wanting military parades, using the justice department as his personal attorney, installing family members into leadership positions, claiming he was above the rule of law, and of course lying lying and lying as the demagogue without morals he is. Short-lived White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci rightly called his former boss the “American Mussolini.”
A week after the election with Biden having clearly surpassed 270 electoral votes, not only does Trump still refuse to acknowledge his loss but he does not call President-elect Biden, invite him to the White House, authorize security briefings for the incoming administration, or approve GAO funding the transition process. He is clearly obstructing the transfer of power by not telling the federal government which he presides over to cooperate with their incoming replacements. All these things have been done for decades by outgoing presidents, even in hotly contended close elections like Gore-Bush. The country has never faced such a test of the resiliency of our representative democracy. Once again, Trump is acting as if a domestic terrorist intent on blowing up our democracy.
Trump and his White House propagandists and lawyers continue to assert – no lie, without any evidence – that the election has been rigged, illegal votes were wrongfully counted, there was a massive orchestrated fraud, mail-in ballot fraud was rampant, and counting mistakes by machine and tabulators were made. Trump campaign lawyers have sued in Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia to effectively overturn the results of the election. How rather appropriate that his chief lawyer for heading up the legal challenges tested positive for the coronavirus that his boss has dismissed. This follows Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows falling ill the week before.
Edged on by the President’s denial, his supporters across the country are also refusing to accept his loss. Some are taking things into their own hands like a pair of men who were arrested in Philadelphia carrying loaded guns, with a QAnon sticker on their Hummer, near the convention center where votes were being tallied. On Saturday thousands gathered in Washington in front of Trump’s Supreme Court as well as in major cities around the country to show support for their Sore Loser in Chief. Trump had his secret service drive him into the crowd of adoring fans, risking the health of agents as they had to gallop alongside the presidential limo to move unmasked supporters out of the way. Some in right-to-carry states were dressed in camouflage and carried long arms. Others chanted “lock him up” referring to the President-Elect. Scuffles between counter-protestors were reported to have broken out into the evening. Is this only the start? The rejection of election results by a substantial segment of the population is even more unsettling than its dismissal by a sitting President. Due largely to Trump’s denial, more than 70% of Republicans now believe that the election was tainted while only 5% of Democrats do.
Is a slow-moving coup in progress that many had predicted? If it is, Trump does not seem to be working very hard at orchestrating it. He played golf for the second weekend in a row. For someone who does not want to lose his job he does not seem to actually want to perform it. It is reported the President has not attended an intelligence briefing since October 1 nor has he met with members of the coronavirus task force for months.
Trump has his inept personal attorney and side-kick Rudy Giuliana host a surreal news conference at the Four Seasons Landscaping business in Philadelphia. This was next to a sex shop which was ever so appropriate after Rudy was filmed in a Borat movie appearing to fondle his genitals while lying on a bed in the hotel room of an acting female reporter. During the conference the former “Mayor of America” called upon a non-resident of Pennsylvania who had been convicted of sex crimes to allege that he witnessed voting fraud in the state.
You cannot make this stuff up. I suppose the one thing we should be glad for from the past four years is that Trump is basically lazy and largely incompetent. As he has gone through appointees, he has had to find and hire progressively less capable staff and cabinet members. Just imagine what damage someone as callous, corrupt, and mean-spirited as Trump could have done had he been more disciplined and focused. Let this be a warning to the reforms we need to make in the future, starting with the electoral college.
Others remain worried that Trump still has a sleazy deal up his sleeve to hijack the official state certifications or game the appointment of electors by Republican-controlled legislatures in states he lost like Arizona, Michigan, and George. He was reported to have asked his advisers at a White House meeting if state legislators could pick pro-Trump electors despite the vote of their state. Then his errand-boy Lindsay Graham was said to have called Georgia’s Secretary of State to discuss how Georgia could disqualify ballots during the Trump-demanded manual recount. Or if these attempts to subvert democracy fails, perhaps Trump will trump up a war or national emergency, as if the current recession and deaths from COVID are not enough of an emergency.
Others speculate that the President is just milking his loss for all the publicity and money he can get. His campaign and the RNC have been busy raising money to defend his “election victory” with social-media fueled election defense funds. Campaign law watchers have claimed this is nothing more than a slush fund that the ex-president will use to pay down his debt and future expenses, once he is removed from office, and then use the remainder to launch his next con act performance, such as a 2024 election bid.
Maybe he is just holding out for the Republican Party or his Russian friends to offer him something in exchange for leaving the White House peacefully. After all, he is the master of deals, so it would seem reasonable in his perverse thinking that if he has something someone wants badly, whether it is his to own or not like the White House, that he get or extort every dollar he can before giving it up. It’s just a real estate game of Monopoly to him. I for one would be in favor for giving Donald and Melania their own little kingdom to preside over as royalty, as long as it was far far away. We could even call it a job promotion or a gift of appreciation for all that he has done for the American people over his four years of benevolent service that kept us so safe and the economy so strong.
But maybe Trump is planning a coup after all. The president announced by tweet only one week after the election the firing of his Defense Secretary Mark Esper. His replacement, now acting secretary Chris Miller, is known as a Trump loyalist. This is the fifth DoD chief under the Trump administration. What great business leadership indeed. This shakeup of the Pentagon’s civilian leadership does not bode well as it was rumored that Esper kept the President from invoking the insurrection act to use US military on protesters in Washington DC, and has likely talked Trump down from other illegal actions at home and abroad. Rarely has an outgoing president fired members of his cabinet immediately after his loss. But that was for presidents who cared more about the country than themselves. Trump then installs a set of new hard-liners at the Pentagon who are said to be anxious to remove troops from Afghanistan and Iran, and hungry for attacking Iran and likely ready to use troops to quell domestic protests at home.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo then publicly declares that there would be “a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.” WTF – how is that not a treasonous disregard of the US Constitution which he pledged to upheld? Next act up is Attorney General William Barr instructing the Justice Department to aggressively seek out allegations of voter fraud. Then the Trump administration announces it is proceeding with plans for releasing the next fiscal budget in February as if they will still be in office. Meanwhile, Trump’s surrogates and talking heads are busy fueling conspiracy theories and feeding misinformation to right-wing media which undermines the integrity of election and does far more damage than the Russians ever could dream. Yes, when a southern conservative state like Georgia votes for a Democrat like Biden, well the only thing the Republicans have left to peddle is fear and division.
All this resistance does not stop President-elect Biden from moving ahead, ignoring the tantrums and tweets of an insolent spoiled brat who thinks of himself as a king. Biden has mostly disregarded Trump and taken the high road, limiting his comments to saying he won’t be slowed down by what Trump does or does not do. Biden has begun announcing key members of his new administration like the experienced and connected professional he is known to be. He has already announced members of his Coronavirus Advisory Board consisting of the country’s leading scientists, researchers, doctors, and public health experts. What a refreshing change from the political appointees of Trump whose qualifications were mostly their loyalty to him and not having any experience or qualifications for the job they were being given.
World leaders including from Europe and China have called to congratulate Biden and Harris. So have American ex-presidents such as Republican George Bush. Yet, only a few Republicans in Congress have acknowledged the President and Vice President-elect; not even Senator Majority Leader McConnell with whom Senator Harris serves. Most members of the Republican party remain silent as the democracy they took an oath to defend is trashed by the misleader of their party. There is little outrage from them about Trump’s refusal to concede or the lack of cooperation in a transition with the risk to national security it may bring. The lack of courage among these cowardly Republican sycophants who live in such fear of Trump is bewildering, especially those who proclaim themselves as patriot flat-waving righteous conservative Christians. Oh, I forgot, character traits like integrity, empathy, ethics, honesty, and fairness are only important when a Democrat in office. The Russians, Chinese, North Koreans, and Iranians among other strongman autocracies around the world must be very pleased to see a a once-proud political party crumble and fall so quickly into a personality cult.
The President makes his first public appearance in over a week on Veterans Day while laying a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery. The irony must have been lost on him that he was there supposedly honoring the lives of American soldiers who had died to protect the country and defend our democracy. All the while the President was dishonoring the constitution by refusing to honor the will of the people who voted and tweeting insults at all involved in the election process.
With Democracy under siege in the US, Trump says nothing about the accelerating erosion of freedom in Hong Kong this past week. There officials under pressure from communist mainland China have targeted the Hong Kong media for reform, arrested journalists, criminalized dissent using a new national security law, taken over the courts, removed legislators, suppressed free speech, and jailed protesters. No wonder Trump and Pompeo have not objected very much as they are busy trying to do much of the same here.
In economic news as we count down the 62 days left in the Trump presidency, the stock market rose to all new highs. This despite a raging pandemic out of control, hospital ICUs out of control, unemployment out of control, a federal deficit out of control, a President and White House out of control, federal agencies out of business, and Congress out of their minds for not doing more with so many concurrent crises. The deficit for October alone was $285 billion, double that from a year ago. And this is only the first month after a fiscal year that saw a record $3.1 trillion deficit under Trump with the national debt growing to over $23 trillion.
Under Trump we have come to live in two countries not only with two sets of facts but two economies. One for the investor class that is prospering, and the other for the working class that is in near depression. Why have so many given Trump high marks for handling the economy? It is in ruins due to his mismanagement of the pandemic which he downplayed until it was too late. He has only done what he has in his own businesses. Loaded them up on debt using other people’s money, blamed others when things went wrong, stiffed his employees, vendors and bankers, and made off with his booty before they went bankrupt.
The Federal Reserve Chair said so much this week that we are slowly recovering by leaving the economy we once knew behind us and entering a different post-pandemic economy. One in which low-paid workers along with women and minorities have suffered the most. New job losses were still over a million last week from over 700,000 claims for state unemployment benefits and another 300,000 claims from the self-employed gig workers under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. Yet, the administration says that the unemployment rate continues to decline because over 600,000 new jobs were created in October, despite 4 million jobs lost in the same month. Part of that discrepancy is likely due to so many Americans falling off and being timed out of the unemployment roles, taking part-time minimum wage jobs when they need full time, having stopped looking for work all together, staying home to take care of kids and sick family members, or taking early retirement before they wanted to.
Another distressing economic trend is that the nearly 2,500 counties which voted for Trump are said to generate less than 30% of America’s GDP. The nearly 500 counties that voted for Biden were responsible for 70% of the nation’s output. The data reports that more liberal educated and higher-earning Americans in culturally diverse blue states, and conservative less-educated lower-earning Americans in red states that are more white, increasingly live, work, and think in two economies. This is not a good trend to sustain any democracy, regardless of Trump.
To read news of the pandemic from this 46th month of the Trump presidency, and his failure to protect the country from harm, visit https://bearingwitnessheartland.com/category/pandemic/.
The above news items have been taken from a number of local, regional, national and international news media including print, broadcast, and digital sources, but no social media. Additional editorial opinions and comments about these news items are those of this author.