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The GOP is petrified of losing the Senate, enabling Trump's most dangerous impulses
Joe Biden is assuming the presidency. But the fear of losing two Georgia Senate run-off elections has Republicans backing an attempted coup
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Several weeks ago I warned that Donald Trump would be immensely dangerous if he didn’t defeat Joe Biden, in a piece headlined, “Donald Trump is a threat to democracy — even if he loses." I noted that, seeing the hand-writing on the wall, Trump was clinging tightly to his base rather than trying to reach out to other voters at the expense of depressing or demoralizing that base:
In his mind, Trump needs his supporters to be ready for action if he loses. A lot of people have warned he might inspire violence on Election Day or in the days after if he’s not winning the count and attacks the ballot process, or that he might try to use the military — or paramilitary groups — to keep himself in office, refusing a peaceful transfer of power. But even if Trump realizes that something like that is futile, especially if it’s a clean win and is not held up in the courts, he could still threaten that violence in attempts to keep anyone from holding him accountable.
And now, here we are. First off, Trump needs money for his depleted campaign, and he’s raising a ton of it from supporters ostensibly for his “legal battles” against “voter fraud,” but the fine print on the pleas explains that 60% of the money goes to debts for his broke campaign. So he wants his supporters to believe there’s a real fight — though he’s lost ten out of ten legal challenges and everything he’s putting forth now is being laughed at by legal experts — that they can contribute to. But also, he’s freaking out about the legal ramifications for him and his family moving forward, as I noted in that column a few weeks ago:
Trump has got to be worried about investigations and prosecutions, and would no longer have the Justice Department, the military or the pardon power to wield as tools. And even if he tries to pardon himself for any crimes, which would ultimately go to the courts — or enacts the scenario his former fixer Michael Cohen envisions, in which he steps down in the lame duck, and Mike Pence briefly becomes president and pardons him — that won’t protect him from state charges.
Trump may begin bargaining to avoid these ramifications but in order to do so he needs to show himself to be as much of a threat to the peaceful transfer of power as possible — complete with the entire GOP giving him legitimacy in this bogus fight.
And the GOP leadership is happy to help him, not because there’s any real loyalty for or love of Donald Trump, but because they are deathly afraid of angering his base, which he grew to 70 million voters in this election. Specifically, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is concerned that Democratic energy is off the charts in Georgia — and across the country — and that Democrats could win the two Georgia runoffs on January 5 that would give Democrats control of the Senate, with a 50-50 split and Vice President Harris breaking a tie.
Both Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, Democrats who surged in the polls in Georgia as Joe Biden edged passed Donald Trump in the presidential race there, will head into run-offs. The fact that Georgia became so competitive is due to the hard work of Stacey Abrams and many others over the years at registering and organizing people. McConnell wants Trump’s base behind incumbent senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in that fight — and certainly angering Trump could risk depressing that energy. But this insidious plan could very well backfire, energizing Democrats even more to elect Warnock and Ossoff.
Already, the two petrified Georgia GOP senators have attacked the Republican secretary of state in Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, claiming “failures” in the election process, and calling for him to resign. He’s shot back that he’ll do nothing of the kind, that the election was a “success” and said their claims — for which they’ve offered no evidence — are “laughable.” It shows how desperate and fearful the Georgia senators and the entire GOP are that they’d now start eating their own over this — and enabling Trump’s authoritarian impulses.
President-elect Joe Biden accepted victory over the weekend after the votes were counted in key states and he won the Electoral College, and people celebrated all across America. Several Republican senators and former president George W. Bush sent congratulations, recognizing the new president-elect. But McConnell and others are, according to media reports, “humoring” Trump in pursuing court challenges — and thus not recognizing Biden’s win — as is Attorney General Bill Barr, who announced he’s allowing Justice Department investigations to be opened despite a lack of evidence of massive voter fraud. This has already prompted the DOJ’s elections crimes chief to resign in protest.
Biden is assuming the mantle of the presidency nonetheless. He’s moving fast to reverse Trump era destruction in the first days of his presidency, from rollbacks on environmental regulations to the Muslim ban. Biden is jumping into coronavirus relief package discussions with Congress this week, and put together an advisory board on coronavirus, making recommendations. All this, even as Trump is still preventing Biden transition team members from getting resources as he tries in vain to claim the election was stolen.
It’s great that the Biden team is undaunted by this, as the GOP leaders scurrilously still pander to Trump’s hurt feelings even as they all know the truth about his feeble claims. Just as in the case of former GOP Governor Matt Bevin in Kentucky — who lost re-election in 2019 and claimed there was widespread voter fraud, though there was no evidence, and eventually conceded the race — Republicans seem intent on entertaining this idiocy for a while, but are expected to eventually deal with reality when the challenges go nowhere.
But can any of us really be sure the GOP is just “humoring” Trump and won’t go full force with his attempt to steal the election, pushing this to Republican state legislatures who might try to invalidate the vote?
The media needs to call this an attempted coup and an outright attempt to steal the election, no matter whether they believe Barr, McConnell and others are just going through the motions to appease Trump or not. And we need to pressure reporters to do so.
But also, the most powerful thing we can do right now is help Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock to get elected, turning the anger over the outrageous actions of McConnell and the GOP into action among Democrats in Georgia and across the country.
Let’s commit to using this attempted coup to take back the Senate. So many issues are on the line, including Obamacare, which comes before the Supreme Court today — a court that could completely eviscerate it. That and many other issues should be enough to make people work hard to win those seats. But the enabling of Trump in stealing the election should be the gravest, most dire reason to act now.
This is a dangerous moment. And it’s probably one among many over the next 10 weeks until Trump is finally vacated. None of us can afford to take it less than seriously.