Well, it was great while it lasted.
We had about 48 glorious hours, after Joe Biden was declared the winner of the presidential election and before it became clear how all-in Trump’s GOP was on his destructive lies about a stolen election.
Briefly, those of us among the 78 million (and counting) Americans who voted for the Democrat, and probably many others, got to enjoy his victory, to see how a grown-up leads, and to feel the sweet relief of hearing our next president saying inspiring things about our country, and comforting things about its future.
“Let this grim era of demonization in America begin to end,” Biden said last weekend, as the first woman elected vice president stood beside him.
Then, by Monday, it came clear how thoroughly Donald Trump was going to cling to the lie that he had actually won the election. And, worse, how many of his fellow Republicans were prepared to double down on his transparent fiction.
And so the last week has been an exhausting sludge-fest, just as exhausting and sludge-filled, just as God-awful, as the 250 Trumpian weeks that came before it.
Trump’s behavior has been utterly bereft of dignity, but it has also been entirely predictable. His repeated refusals to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, his constant claims that the only fair election was one he’d win, and his disdain for democracy in general were the tells. He will almost certainly leave the White House, eventually. Claiming the election was stolen gives him a way to collect donations from his marks on the way out. It also fires up his fans, which will be useful if he runs again, or goes back into TV.
Of course, the administration that began with Trump’s first press secretary baldly lying about the size of his inauguration crowd is ending with his last press secretary blithely asserting his victory on the day Georgia — Georgia — was called for Biden.
“I think the president will attend his own inauguration,” Kayleigh McEnany told Fox Business on Friday. “He would have to be there, in fact.”
It’s chilling stuff. But what’s really shocking is how many Republicans are in on this con man’s biggest grift, and what it reveals about how they see this country. There’s no way legislators like Senators Lindsey Graham and Ron Johnson really believe Trump won this election, but they’re backing him up anyway. Why? As Republicans so often do, Senate Majority Whip John Thune of South Dakota gave the game away last week.
“We need his voters,” Thune told reporters.
Now that Dear Leader Donald has said it is so, many of those voters will never, ever abandon the narrative of the stolen election. And so, Thune and the others must pretend to believe it, too — even though it guarantees more unnecessary deaths from COVID-19, and compromises our national security.
Republicans cannot win with their ideas, insofar as they have any beyond owning the libs, serving the rich, and making immigrants suffer. And as this election showed, the voter suppression at which they’re so expert will get them only so far. So they need Trump’s loyal fans, and they need them so angry about the presidential election that they’ll ignore the fact that the GOP is leaving them at the mercy of a deadly pandemic’s third, terrifying wave.
It will likely work. But either way, it exacts an immense price.
Just as Trump did, the appalling lie has taken over the GOP, even here in Massachusetts, where the party is controlled not by the moderate Republican governor, but by Trump loyalist Jim Lyons. Lyons e-mailed fellow cultists on Thursday to claim Biden was “falsely posing as the winner” of the election, which he claimed is “far from over.”
One might wonder how Republicans will court voters going forward when they’ve helped convince their devotees that elections are rigged. But then again, logic has not been necessary to the party’s pitch for some time, or its success.
Perhaps Thune, Graham, and the other cynical Republicans supporting Trump’s dangerous lies will try to detach themselves from the outgoing president once he has outlived his usefulness in Georgia, where two January run-offs will decide control of the Senate.
As hard as that will be, it will be even harder for Trump’s accomplices to erase the stain on them — and on our democracy.