Now that Trump has lost, but fails to admit it, Andrew Sullivan is surveying the wreckage of America, worried that Trump may try to throw the election into the House of Representatives. That dire scenario was described by Bart Gellman in the November Atlantic, and could—just conceivably—result in a legal victory for Trump.
I’m not as worried about that as is Sullivan. The press describes Trump’s aides as quietly nudging him towards the door, and although Republican politicians are loath to affirm Biden’s victory, I also believe they will start speaking up as the weeks pass and Trump still hasn’t conceded. But even if this doesn’t take place, Sullivan still presents a post-mortem in his Weekly Dish column below (click on screenshot).
First, Sullivan cites two sets of facts that seem accurate but also disturbing:
And yet a poll found that 70 percent of Republicans — with no credible evidence at all — believe that the election was rigged. House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy, not exactly a fringe character, baldly told Fox News: “President Trump won this election. So everyone who is listening, do not be silent about this. We cannot allow this to happen before our very eyes.” Ten Republican state attorneys general have joined in the attempt to prevent Pennsylvania from certifying its election results. Senator Roy Blunt declared: “The president wasn’t defeated by huge numbers, in fact he may not have been defeated at all.”
Well, 70% of Republicans still means less than half the country (unless some deluded Democrats think the election was rigged), but even 35% is a figure way, way too high. Still, as Sullivan says, “we are left for two months with an urgent crisis of legitimacy — and for years ahead, an incoming president Biden who will be deemed the beneficiary of massive fraud by a significant chunk of the country. ”
And there’s this, also casting a bad light on Republicans:
. . . . the damage this past week has already inflicted on basic democratic norms is incalculable. More foreign leaders have accepted Biden’s victory than Republican officials. Think about that for a bit.
So be it. Along with Sullivan, I see Trump’s actions as self-centered and carrying the threat of doing incalculable damage to American democracy.
Although nobody can compare Trump’s current behavior with that of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama after Trump’s 2016 victory (Clinton swiftly conceded and Obama facilitated a smooth transition), Sullivan, who sees himself as a conciliatory middle-of-the-roader, doesn’t find the Democrats innocent of the current mess:
Didn’t the Democrats do this first to Trump four years ago? Isn’t payback ok? Sure, many Dems did say that Trump won in 2016 because of Russia, with no solid proof of anything. Yes, Rachel Maddow is a disgrace. And, yes, some accused him of being an illegitimate president because of it, and because of his popular vote deficit. None of this was defensible rhetoric. And it’s a sign that our political culture has not just decayed on the right.
And he continues, arguing, perhaps justifiably, that the increasing wokeness associated with the Left, has also helped erode the strength of American democracy:
I’ve referred to this process of accelerating illegitimacy before as a Weimar dynamic. By Weimar, I don’t mean a direct parallel to the 1920s and early 30s in Germany. I don’t think we’re anywhere near that nightmare. I mean rather a democracy where the center is always much weaker than the extremes on both sides, where democratic procedures lose legitimacy with the public at large with each election cycle, where street violence supplements debate with the connivance of elites, where propaganda replaces information, and where all the energy is destructive.
I mean a conservatism that keeps surrendering to right-radicalism, because it no longer believes in the liberal project writ large. I mean a liberalism so lacking in conviction that it is incapable of standing up to the woke left. I mean a media where outlets are incapable of housing a variety of opinions — because radicalized readers and activist journalists believe an open debate is a form of harm and oppression. I mean a left bent on packing courts, abolishing the filibuster, targeting religious freedom, and embracing direct race discrimination as payback for the injuries of the past. I mean a right indifferent to democratic norms, convinced that no Democratic president can be legitimate, consumed with conspiracy theories, and paranoid in a way only Americans can muster.
Much as I bridle at criticism of the more moderate Left as cowardly and censorious, there’s some truth in what Sullivan says. What, for example, is responsible for a Trump loss on the one hand, but a general Republican set of victories for Congressional seats and in state governments? Could it be an America thoroughly sick of Trump’s derangement but suspicious of a more extreme Left? If Democrats don’t win both contested seats in Georgia, the Senate will remain Republican and we’re in for at least two years of a stalemate, with Biden governing by executive order. And I still worry about the possibility that both Biden and Harris will cave in to the Woke, which would damage the future of the Democratic Party.
Perhaps both Sullivan and I should be celebrating rather than neurosing. But the Republicans are behaving even worse about the election than I expected, and come January they will still be with us, enraged by Trump’s loss. The Woke are still with us, too, and, despite several readers’ predictions, I don’t think they’re going away when Biden enters the White House. Wokeness is by now a self-sustaining phenomenon, driven by the Left’s fear of being called racist, pushed by the media, and barreling to hell for lack of a clear brake on wokeness.
And, I suppose, I’m worried about Trump hanging around as a bellwether of Republican ideology. Could he run again in four years? I don’t think so, but he could, god forbid, become a Senior Republican Statesman with considerable influence. And so Sullivan ends not with a bang, but (god forbid again), a prayer. After all, both he and Biden are Catholics:
And [Trump] is not going away. Far from it. If he leaves office voluntarily, it will be to launch a movement founded around that very Weimar of constructs: a corrupt elite that stabbed the American people in the back in 2020, and robbed them of their votes. He will demand total Republican obstruction to anything Biden or the Democrats propose — because they are usurpers and crooks — and ensure his base remains permanently inflamed with anger and resentment. He will sabotage as much of our system as he can. And by pledging immediately to run in 2024, he will control the GOP as totally in the future as he has in the past.
The 2020 election did not resolve this crisis of legitimacy. It found two Americas, very evenly divided, and at war with one another. And in the days since it ended, it has become clearer and clearer not only that this house is divided, but that Trump would be more than happy to see it fall.
An older, frailer man — perhaps the last man standing in our political culture with deep affection for a less polarized past — has been tasked to hold our democracy together, even as the culture keeps tearing it apart. Pray for him.
“Pray for him”? Is this a metaphor for “send good thoughts and wishes” to Biden? Well, those won’t help, either. What we can do is support Biden politically, and go into the streets, which I swear I’ll do, if Trump tries to hold onto the Presidency.