A dear friend of mine was upset when Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election. My friend was convinced that Hillary was the best choice, and she was shocked that she wasn’t elected despite polling data that foretold that she was the clear leader. My friend believes to this day that the 2016 election was rigged. However, such a belief was never supported by the Clinton campaign or the Democratic Party.
Two weeks ago, Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election and became the president-elect. Like Clinton, conspiracy theories have been flying about the illegitimacy of that election by the opposing party.
I was hanging out with my friend, Tom, at the townhome that he is renovating. As scheduled, a concrete truck pulled up, its cement barrel slowly spinning. We were getting ready to pour the basement floor that he had previously dug out. The cement truck’s driver was a friendly and chatty man. Within moments of his arrival, I knew that he was 62 years old, had two artificial knees, and was counting the days to his retirement. Without direction from me, he started to talk about the election. “I’m a Republican, and I like Republican policies. I don’t want to live in a socialist state. I think the election was rigged; ya know what I mean? How could Trump have so many votes in Pennsylvania and then have Biden take the lead overnight?”
Last weekend thousands of marchers descended on Washington to denounce the election results with the “Stop The Steal” March. This event was held with our current President’s support, who even made a guest appearance drive through, waving to the crowd. Recent tweets from Trump have stated, “I WON THE ELECTION,” and “I concede NOTHING!”
A few days ago, I scanned the AM radio dial and dipped into several conservative radio programs proclaiming the same thing, that the election had been stolen from the President. Their proclamations are contrary to overwhelming evidence that the election was fair. This rhetoric is not only being espoused by the President and these outlets but also by leaders in the Republican party.
High-level Republicans have either supported the idea of a “rigged” election or have refused to congratulate President-elect Biden on his victory. These same individuals have celebrated and acknowledged Republican victories from the same ballot. Backchannels reports that some Republican officials support Trump’s attempts to discredit the election simply because they want to appease him.
Dozens of lawsuits have been filed by the Trump administration, questioning the vote-counting validity in states where he lost. Most of these lawsuits have been summarily thrown out of court due to a complete lack of evidence. Despite this reality, Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, talks about having incriminating evidence that he will reveal “soon.” A tactic that he has used in the past to drum up outrage. He has yet to support his claims. As I write this, several large law firms have dropped out of their efforts to defend the President, most likely to save their reputations.
As a bystander, these events seem surreal. As a citizen, they are frightening. All sound and credible sources have concluded that Joe Biden will be the next President of the United States. This is going to happen, so why has there been so much bluster to the contrary?
I don’t claim to know the inner thoughts of Donald Trump or the inner workings of the Republican Party, but each is likely working towards their own self-serving goals. Contrary to their statements, their actions are not supporting democracy; their actions are hurting democracy. So what possibly could be some of the reasons for their actions?
A significant concern for the Republican Party is the upcoming runoff Senate elections in Georgia. These types of elections tend to have less voter draw than presidential elections. A lower Republican voter turnout could favor the Democratic candidates, as Democrats have been mobilizing voters in that state. By beating the “Stop The Steal” drum, Republicans keep their base active and engaged. This could be beneficial for them in these two critical elections.
As far as Republican politicians are concerned, there appears to be a genuine fear of Donald Trump, who continues to bully and cajole them. Mr. Trump has a base of 70 million voters, and that is nothing to ignore. However, these politicians seem to have forgotten that their loyalty is supposed to be to the American people, not Donald Trump. Their sycophant behaviors will likely come back and bite them in the future. Mr. Trump has no problem throwing people under the bus when it suits his needs.
As far as Mr. Trump’s motivation is concerned, there are several possible explanations. He may believe that he can’t lose at anything. He was raised as a privileged child who got his way. His upbringing emphasized destroying the competition as normal behavior. His father rewarded winners and despised losers.
When he has failed at businesses in the past, he has been able to find a savior to rescue him or a loophole to protect him. This would be the first time that such options are unavailable to him, as his legal challenges seem more theater than anything else. The idea of losing appears to be anathema to him, as indicated by his retorts of regularly calling his enemies “losers.” The term “loser” has more significance to him than it would have to the general public.
It is also possible that Mr. Tump’s actions center on his desire to gain attention and be in the spotlight. A lame-duck president gets less notice than someone who is “fighting for the American way.” His “love of the crowd” is well known. His need to be praised may be heightened since he knows that someone else is about to gain his former limelight.
Beyond personality issues, Mr. Trump may be creating this crisis to further his own financial and power interests. If he can continue to control his base, he becomes an influence peddler who can make or break other politicians. In this scenario, he would become his own “group” no different than other power groups, like evangelical Christians.
He may be gearing up for a career after politics. He loves being in the media, and he has had success as a reality TV host. Keeping his following engaged could offer him ratings boost if he decides to launch his own TV show or “news” network. He has embraced conspiracy theories and fringe groups, and he would have a following among fellow believers. He is already making dismissive comments about his former ally, Fox News. This could signal a move to his own network or a show on more radical networks, like Newsmax. A video outlet that makes Fox News look progressive.
Unlike other presidents, Mr. Trump has retained control of his businesses and has significantly profited by merging the presidency with those enterprises. He has generated many millions by charging the US government for services and has benefited from other governments who have stayed at his properties. Leaving the presidency would limit this income stream.
Mr. Trump will have to deal with legal issues when he is no longer President, and many of these issues are not all pardonable by a presidential mandate. As President he is protected from prosecution, and it is to his legal advantage to continue to hold this office.
There are reasons for both the Republican Party and the President to question the election as it serves both of their needs. However, it does so at a high cost to the American people. Mr. Trump gained celebrity status by his name-calling style of divisive behavior. His popularity has motivated Republicans to vote not only for him but also for his political allies. However, his divisive actions have harmed the overall fabric of our democracy. A country divided can not stand, and this reality is even more evident during a national emergency, such as the COVID pandemic. At a time when we need a national message, none is being heard. Instead of looking for solutions, we continue to look at who to blame. The Chinese, the WHO, the Democrats, 5G cell towers, and the list goes on.
The country must move towards national solutions now, and it is imperative to transition to a new president in January smoothly. Every day lost could mean lost lives.
In some ways, I can forgive Mr. Trump for his actions, as they are wholly consistent with how he has conducted himself for his 74 years. We all knew what we were getting with him; some chose to turn away from reality as they embraced his promise of a great America. However, I have fewer kind feelings towards all of the other politicians who have latched onto his coattails for their power-hungry purposes. By doing so, they have placed their own needs first, which has sometimes placed the people’s needs last.
This is not to say that all Republicans are evil or that all Democrats are right. However, it does indicate that we cannot move forward as a democracy as long as our officials behave like spoiled five-year-olds who have to get their way.
I hope Mr. Biden can reach across the aisle and start a healing process. However, I’m fearful that the Senate he knew is a memory rather than a current reality. With that said, all pendulums swing, and at some point, our officials will likely move from a position of opposition to one of cooperation. This has happened when past emergencies have threatened our nation. However, this does not seem to be the case with the COVID pandemic- a disaster that impacts the nation’s health, economy, and international standing. I believe that this is the case because the pandemic was politicized. I hope that this polarization will change once Mr. Trump is out of the office. There are some indications that this metamorphosis may be occurring, as some Republican governors are changing their position of “individuals right to choose” to a more rational stance that emphasizes public health.
Trump’s bi-line of “Make America Great Again” is an idea that resonates with many. However, you can’t strengthen a country by blaming other nations and organizations for our failings. A resilient government needs to be healthy on the inside, and the only way to do that is to be inclusive and cooperative with all individuals. Eliminating or hampering entire groups weakens our country, as does a culture of divisiveness. To make America great again, we need to be doing the exact opposite of what we are currently doing. We need to even the playing field for all; political parties need to work together; leadership needs to role model and demonstrate appropriate behavior. We need to rely on experts instead of opinions when making decisions that impact millions.
Our waring political parties were present before 2016, the Trump administration just capitalized on this disharmony. If we continue to be divided, there will be no winners; we will all lose. January will come, but it will be business as usual if we haven’t learned our lesson.