It wasn’t Einstein who said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." It was mystery novelist Rita Mae Brown. You can look it up. I have, many times. Keeps coming up different.
Here’s a more timely definition: “Insanity is observing Trump’s behavior and insisting he’s sane.” The politically and clinically insane may disagree, but claiming he won by a landslide, that he has indisputable proof while producing none -- what else is there to call it? He’s been twentyfifthamendable for months. Even for Trump, to whose daily dose of dishonesty we’ve become dulled, this is unraveling incoherence. One needn’t be an Einstein or a novelist.
If only the Supreme Court had agreed to hear his sixtieth losing argument, Trump says, he could have presented the evidence. Really? He couldn’t send his lawyer-like hybrid, Rudney Powliani, back to Four Seasons Landscaping to lay it out, ream by convincing ream, solid as a concrete birdbath? No court order prevents it. Like the “amazing” things his “investigators” found in “Hawaii,” where did it go? Insistence is insanity. His and his cultists’.
Joe Biden won by nearly eight million votes. Confirming Trump’s “landslide,” which he claims both in ballots and the Electoral College, then, would require proving twice as many votes were fraudulent (disallow Biden’s margin and they’d only be tied). Did Trump lose the data in a sand trap?
Like Covid-19, Trump’s madness is infectious, and he’s a superspreader of both. Witness Congress’ dumbest lawmaker, Louie Gohmert: along with several similarly blighted members of the deep-end state, he filed a lawsuit against ski-vacationing-during-Covid’s-deadliest-month, absent-coronavirus-task-force-leader, Mike Pence, in the court of a Trump-appointed federal judge. It demands a ruling that Pence has the authority to reject all non-Trump votes when Congress meets on January 6th to certify the election. It further demands that the judge orders Pence to do so.
Incredible. Do even the most Foxified Trumpists think, after enduring months of annoying campaign ads, predicting a lib-owning, God-produced landslide, wearing “F… Your Feelings” t-shirts, that that’s how it should work? That, in America, a semi-elected vice-president – overruling voters -- can bend the electoral outcome to whatever he/she wants? Louie does, and he keeps getting reelected. By exceptional American inmates of the asylum.
To recognize insanity, sanity is required. Which explains why so many Trumpists, infected beyond their ability to recognize it, accept and parrot his lies. How many times, for example, have we heard them declaim Trump’s serially-debunked confabulation that there were two-hundred-thousand more votes cast in Pennsylvania than there are registered voters? (In fact, there were fraudulent votes in Pennsylvania. Three. For Trump. Two from the deceased, one from a guy who tried to vote twice. That’s it. That’s all.)
If his election delusions were the only manifestations of Trump’s tangled wiring, perhaps we’d only be amused, not concerned. But there’s more. Threatening retribution like a cornered mob boss, raving as if from a padded cell, he’s seeing enemies everywhere. Not the usual Democratic and journalistic suspects, either: Republican Senators, Governors, and Secretaries of State. Fox “news.” Pompeo, Meadows, Thune. White House Counsel Cipollone. Even shameless groveler and looming defendant, Mike Pence.
Psychopathically unable to accept his loss, Trump’s willing to prevent it by destroying faith in elections with his lies. Checked out of the fight against the virus, tweet-golfing, he’s offered no leadership to repair his mismanaged vaccine distribution. He called the economic relief package, negotiated by his own people, “a disgrace,” promising a veto for containing things he’d previously demanded. Uncaring about the impact on Americans, he changed his mind only when persuaded it could affect the outcome of Georgia’s senatorial runoff, about which he seems to care only marginally more.
Self-proclaimed greatest-ever supporter of our troops, Trump vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act; primarily, it can be presumed, because it clamps down on foreign and domestic shell corporations of which he and his family have made frequent tax-evading and other Stormy use.
Long before it happened, Trump’s cruel deterioration was predicted by those who know him best -- his ghost-writer, his bag-man, his niece, among others. Plus millions of non-Foxified Americans. With almost three weeks left for vengeance, he’s creating as much damage to as many people as possible, including calling for a “wild” uprising on January 6. Pitiful Ted Cruz and ambitious Josh Hawley just announced their intent to fuel the fire. Trump’s idolatrous cult is preparing to comply. Insanity begets insanity.
Featured guest at last week’s pro-Trump, “Stop the Steal,” Proud Boils rally in D.C., Reich-wing radio hero Alex Jones had this to say: “We will never back down to the satanic pedophile globalist new world order and their walking-dead reanimated corpse Joe Biden. And we will never recognize him. So I don’t know who’s going to the White House in 38 days, but I sure know this: Joe Biden is a globalist, and Joe Biden will be removed one way or another.”
“One way or another.” Subtle as an NDA for a prostitute. And the armed and strutting delusionists cheered. After hearing much the same from Mike “I beg your pardon” Flynn, Trump’s first-born National Security Adviser and current Qanon acolyte (only the best people), the engorged deplorables roved through D.C., burning BLM flags and other displays from Black churches. “Very fine people,” Trump once called them. “Stand back and stand by,” he’d signaled. For this moment, evidently.
It’d be wrong to suggest that everyone who buys into or remains silent about Trump’s flagrant election-fraud mendacity approves of those dishonorable, democracy-hating discards. But their acquiescence empowers and allows what’s left of the Republican Party to become synonymous with them. And if acquiescence is empowering, what of the majority of House Republicans, including Kevin “no relation but you’d never know it” McCarthy, who signed onto Texas A.G. Paxton’s seditious attempt to overturn the results of a free and fair election? They may as well have been wearing “Make America Colonial Again” hats.
Under investigation for various crimes, Paxton justified his pardon-pandering performance, thus: “[there] are legitimately good constitutional arguments that don't depend on actually proving every little instance of fraud." Right. “Every little instance.” No need to prove it. Say it enough, and they’ll believe. In fact, sixty-some lawsuits later, not a single instance has been proved. Irrelevant. (Okay, there was one: a Republican submitted a ballot from his dead mother.)
Undead lies notwithstanding, Biden’s win is now official. Not because of the Electoral College, mind you, but because Moscow Mitch McConnell, who congratulated Trump one day after the 2016 election but waited six weeks this time around, finally did so for President-Elect Biden, incurring Trump’s wrath. Mitch waited for Vladimir Putin, whose man in Washington lost, but who’s happy, at least, that Trump “burned the US” on his way out.
Swindled Trumpists continue plying him with millions upon millions for his personal use. And because it’s who he is and what he does, he’s keeping the money he’s “raising” for the Georgia runoff, too. Grifters gotta grift. Suckers gotta suck.
History reminds us that when Trump lost the popular vote by three million in 2016, he empaneled a commission, headed by world-class vote-suppressor Chris Kobach, to prove there were that many fraudulent votes. Many months and much money later, they found nothing. And we recall how, during the impeachment, Republicans’ mantra was “Let the voters decide in November.” Had too much faith in their ability to suppress opposition voters, evidently, or to carry out their own fraud. In any case, it should be obvious by now that voter fraud, massive enough to turn an election, no longer exists in the US, if it ever did. Even Bill “I’ll sign it, don’t fire me” Barr said so.
Seeing how uninformed the average American is about how our government works, or about science, or how to separate fact from fiction, one may wonder what is the level of such ignorance at which an open society fails. Put another way, what’s the minimum number of smart people required to keep it afloat? And since it’s immigrant kids who seem to be winning the prizes lately, how much less likely does Trumpic xenophobia make it?
The flipside is this: how many of the aforementioned, hate-infused, reality-denying marauders does it take to destroy a democracy? They get the headlines, but how many are there, really? Not enough, surely, to threaten a literal coup. But between them and the millions who still believe the election was stolen, the system is on the brink. Absent trust in the process, there is no process. Evidently, Trump and his enablers and excusers believe eliminating that trust is in their personal interest. Robbing us of a viable future, though, it’s in the interest of no one else.
Soon we’ll learn if it’s possible to reestablish trust and, more critically, whether the Republican Party will divest itself of anti-democratic, reality-rejecting Trumpism and return to the table where they once belonged. So far, it’s not looking good.
Science confirms consistent neurophysiological and psychological differences between conservatives and liberals. How they react to threats. Their reliance on the observable and their response to presented facts. Evolutionary biologists have theories, but it’s intuitive that, in addition to rationalists, primitive societies benefitted from people who don’t need no damn proof to react to perceived threats. Noises. Shadows. Gut feelings. It could avoid becoming a meal.
Who knows why such brains remain in circulation? Individuals are safer now. More often than not, there’s time to think, evaluate. Threats from saber-tooth tigers (or, if you believe certain preachers, dinosaurs) are uncommon. Yet, having out-survived their benefit to society, such paranoid, no-need-for-facts people persist. Mysteriously, these evolutionary throwbacks appear to reside mostly in today’s retro-exceptional United States, and only in one political party.
A few days ago, reporters asked every Republican member of Congress who won the election. Eighty-eight-percent of them refused to say. Two declared it was Trump. (One of them, Rep. Gosar of AZ, is so awful his own family urged voters to reject him.) Of 251, only 27 were willing to say it was Joe Biden; Putin-adjacent Trump demanded their names. For what purpose, one wonders. Met with what level of Republican silence? A clue: Moscow Mitch just quashed a motion authorizing the inaugural committee to acknowledge it’ll be Biden and Harris.
Except for being indescribably dangerous, it’d be hilarious. Gaseous Rudy. Long-time Trump buddy and undeserving commutee, Roger Stone, claiming North Korea brought boatloads of fake ballots into the US via harbors in Maine. Around the Horn? Through the Canal? Seems logical. Same with believing votes for Biden were switched or faked, but not for down-ballot Democrats. McConnell, Graham, and Collins won. End of conspiracy.
“I’ve probably worked harder in the last three weeks than I ever have in my life,” whined Trump at a recent anti-democracy rally. He was referring to trying to nullify his resounding defeat, not to fighting the resurgent virus. “Working harder than ever.” Some jokes write themselves.
But it’s not funny, is it? A mob of armed Trumpists surrounded the home of Michigan’s Secretary of State, shouting threats and obscenities while she was inside, decorating for Christmas with her four-year-old son. “Stop the steal,” they chanted, convinced by … what? Zero evidence. Multiple recounts, investigations, fifty rejected lawsuits including, thankfully, without dissent, by the Supreme Court. Having confirmed their elections were secure, officials are fearing for their lives. But Trump says it, they believe it, that settles it. His second coming was an article of faith. The analogy is obvious.
It’s like the approaching, not-for-eight-hundred-years convergence of Saturn and Neptune, but perverse: years in the making, “conservative” denialism now converges both upon democracy and the lives of many thousands more from the virus. Is this what Gingrich and similars had in mind when they chose endumbification as their path to permanence?
Our founders feared it: millions of rabid, mis-educated Americans, convinced of fraud despite mountains of bipartisan refutation. Certain enough to destroy the Republic over it. Exhorting others to die for a lie (in our history, there’s precedent). Literally.
For everyone’s sake, even delusional Trumpists, whose future is equally threatened whether they recognize it or not, this must stop. After decades in the euphoric fog of fiction mainlined from rightwing media pushers, to which millions have now, as intended, become addicted, can it? From armed, bulging-vein threats, to states suing each other, to legislators willing to disenfranchise their own citizens, this spectacle of sedition was a long time coming. It feels too late to put the genie back in the toothpaste.
Plus, Trump-inspired, demented animus is a money-maker. Their malicious mendacity has made Hannity, Carlson, Limbaugh, et. al., very rich. From his compliant cultists, Trump is raking in millions. Republican leaders who remain cravenly silent are complicit in what amounts to a coup against constitutional governance. They’re already doing everything they can to delegitimize Biden’s presidency and his efforts to restore comity.
Since the election, Trumpist Republicans’ disdain for democracy is undisguised. And incompatible with functioning government. Ahead of their January runoff, Georgian leaders are further reducing polling places in minority precincts.
With their terror campaign against honest state officials and continued efforts to reverse the election, Trumpublicans threaten the rule of law far more than a few misguided equality demonstrators breaking windows. Anti-democracy, anti-masks, and a poisonous, autocratic “president.” That’s “conservatism” today.
Maybe sanity will return if enough actual conservatives, seeing their party’s descent into insurrectionist lunacy, say “enough.” And there’s the problem: they’ve already had plenty of time.
So much has befallen us during a brief columnar break, it’s hard to choose where to resume. But let’s go with Trump, about whose disregard for and danger to our country there’s no longer doubt.
Maybe he believes his own lie that, but for a massive, super-coordinated plot, involving both parties in several states, undetectably faked ballots, highly selective voting machines, and secrets kept by thousands of people, he won the election. Fraud so carefully constructed that its very invisibility, repeated denial by Republican election officials and now, even Attorney Generally-compliant Barr, PROVES its existence.
Once and always the conman, Trump has raised over $170 million by flooding gullible supporters with pleas to help “save” the election, set up so he can use most of it however he wants. Delusion or deception, out more he rants, in more he rakes.
Millions of planted, nurtured, and harvested Republicans believe. Maybe even Rudy, whose embarrassing act has been serially thrown out of court, even by Trump-appointed federal judges. How laughable must his arguments be for that to happen?
So, other than furthering the grift with a worrisomely demented forty-six-minute video tirade (“it’s statistically impossible I lost”), what’s Trump doing, amidst the pandemic’s brutal resurgence? Taking charge, honoring his duty of office, putting aside wounded ego for the sake of America? Golfing. Tweeting. Golfing. Lying. And golfing. His “presidency” was always pretense, holding rallies, tweeting, and watching TV, dumping responsibility on others. Taking credit, never blame. Now he’s not even pretending to care.
Above all, history will remember Trump for his deeply destructive, unwell behavior since becoming a loser. Wounded, possibly hallucinating fraud in the absence of evidence, in language so inflammatory it endangers lives, he appears ever more detached from reality, as predicted by his niece, his ghost-writer, and his former bagman.
Yet Congressional Republicans say nothing, as increasingly vicious death threats to truth-tellers, including from Trump’s own lawyer, force recipients to hire bodyguards. This disgrace to America is entirely on Trump.
Encouraging state legislators to overrule the will of their voters; threatening governors who certified elections; the unwillingness of his party to speak out: it’s a knife to the heart of the Republic without precedent. Long after Trump returns to kicking golf balls back onto fairways, the damage will remain, as his country-forsaking party continues twisting the blade.
Likewise, court-packing Mitch McConnell’s Supreme Court majority. In striking down New York’s restrictions on gatherings, they pushed the dagger to the hilt, spinning the First Amendment upside down. Covering all large groups, those restrictions in no way singled-out religion. SCOTUS, though, conferred special status. Like Trump, Church/state separation is on its way out.
In their silence, Republicans show they need Joe Biden’s election to be considered illegitimate, lest he awaken their voters to the damage they and Trump have caused when he addresses it with much-needed seriousness. When competent leadership and a well-intentioned Congress are more vital than any time since the Great Depression, Republicans are AWOL. Even here, where a trounced candidate is similarly Culpable in dismissing results of a fair election.
Previewing a future stump-speech, shape-shifting Marco Rubio called President-elect Biden “elitist” for bringing educated, qualified, experienced people into government. It’s a time-tested call to the chronically mystified. Future of the Republican Party, other presidential timberlings Tom Cotton and Josh Hawley have chimed in, too, and worse.
If Trump’s “presidency” is a stain on America that could conceivably fade, the devolution of his party, absent total tearing-down and rebuilding, is permanent. This post-election period has confirmed their disdain for democracy. Party to a minority of our population, it’s in their interest to discredit voting, as they resume what began with the swearing-in of President Barack Obama: obstructing, complaining, offering nothing, no matter the harm.
Of which Trump’s creating as much as he can on his way out, especially to the environment. And his pardon of conspiracy-mad Michael Flynn, who subsequently called for a military junta, is an act Mr. Barr previously agreed would constitute obstruction of justice.
Then, for those who dismiss Trump’s Putin-cahootin’, there’s precipitously ending the “Open Skies” treaty to explain. No longer can the US overfly Russia to observe, among other things, troop movements against neighbors. Making sure, he’s having the specially-equipped planes destroyed. And he’s threatening to veto the defense budget, which includes actions against international money-laundering, of which Putin, Russian oligarchs and, allegedly, he have partaken for years.
Post-election Trump is like the burglar who defecates on the bed after stealing a family’s treasures. Which is tricky while wearing a straitjacket.