It’s Thanksgiving week, and so I guess we should be, well, thankful that things didn’t turn out worse.
Yes, Joe Biden has won the presidency, if not by the landslide Donald Trump claimed in 2016, but with, it turns out, the exact number of electoral votes — 306. And then there is Biden’s comfortable, if still meaningless, margin of six million actual votes.
The election was not pick-‘em close as it was in 2000 or 1960. It was just more of what we expect from 2020, meaning it took 16 days after the election was called before Trump would allow Biden to begin the presidential transition. Even so, Trump proclaimed — well, tweeted — that he would “never” concede. And who would possibly doubt that? He’s also promising/threatening more lawsuits, a promise he may or may not keep. Even Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson have said Biden is probably going to be the next president.
But for democracy, which was also clearly on the ballot, it was a squeaker. I’m not saying it could have gone either way — Biden just had too many votes for an incompetent would-be authoritarian like Trump to overcome — but it was still way too close. I mean, look how many Trump enablers were re-elected.
And, to me, that’s the lesson of 2020. Democracy barely survived four years of Trump, and still 74 million voters thought it was a good idea to reelect him, thereby giving Trump another four years to work at upending our nation’s small-d, democratic project. You can make your own highlight reel of Trump’s anti-democratic moves, but don’t forget the “emergency” needed to steal funds from the Pentagon for Trump’s joke of a wall, his sharpie weather map, his attacks on his own intelligence teams, his love affair with emoluments, his misogyny, his demagoguery, his assault on the press as the “enemy of the people,” his never-ending, lie-filled tweets, the Republican leaders who cheered him on. (Can I give a special shoutout to the loathsome Ted Cruz who guaranteed no one would say a word about the coronavirus a day after the election? Does anyone expect Cruz to admit he was wrong or to note the 179,000 new cases on Monday or the more than 1,000 deaths that day?)
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We are told that Biden’s win heralds a return to normalcy in America. His cabinet appointees, to this point, have all been normal. In my view, a few of them have been too normal. But any kind of normal is welcome. I mean, we need something to be thankful for in a time when millions are apparently defying all reason and advice by crowding airports and train stations and highways to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday even as hospitals are fast filling up with COVID patients.
Biden was nominated because he was normal and he was elected because he was normal — in other words, the opposite of Trump. If by chance, Democrats are able to win the two Senate runoffs in Georgia on Jan. 5 and thereby win the Senate, Democrats would be able to pass some progressive legislation. Otherwise it’s the Biden White House vs. Mitch McConnell. Whose chances do you like in that one? Meanwhile, Republicans are already looking to 2022 midterms as a chance to retake the House.
Imagine, though, if the results had been closer. Imagine if Trump had been able to round up a legal team that had a better argument than suggesting that long-dead Hugo Chavez was somehow to blame. Imagine, well, we did imagine all of it and didn’t exhale until Monday when a brave Republican on the Michigan board of canvassers refused to fold to Trumpian pressure, and when Emily Murphy, the apparatchik heading the Government Services Agency, finally allowed the Biden transition to begin, sending off a grievance-filled letter in which she called Biden the “apparent” president-elect.
We saw in a light that was at least semi-blinding just how fragile our democracy is, just how dependent it is on traditional unwritten norms, just how much damage Trump was willing to inflict on America’s longstanding institutions, just how much doubt and fear he was able to implant in the minds of tens of millions, just how willing — and this may be the critical point — his Republican enablers were to go along with the farce. They knew, as we knew, that Trump has been saying for months that any election he lost would have to be rigged. They knew, as we knew, that Trump had called for a “revolution” back in 2012 when his then-pal Mitt Romney lost to Barack Obama, Trump saying, of course, that the election was rigged.
They knew, as we know, Trump even claimed the election was rigged in 2016 when he won, but lost the popular vote. And we knew, as they knew, after surviving impeachment, he sent out his attack dog Bill Barr to bring the Justice Department to investigate whether Obama had spied on Trump. (Hint: He hadn’t.)
It was absurd. It’s all absurd. It has been four years of theater of the absurd, when all the Trumpian players could be summed up in Rudy Giuliani’s My Cousin Vinny courtroom impersonation. The apt movie, though, would be Monty Python and the Holy Grail with Giuliani playing the ‘tis-but-a-scratch black knight. For those keeping score at home, Trump is, at last count, 1-36 in court cases concerning the election. Trump and McConnell may have packed courts across the country with right-wing judges, but, let’s just say, most of those judges, even the unqualified ones, aren’t likely to be traitors.
It’s a holiday, so I probably shouldn’t even bring this up. But according to the latest Granite State Poll, two thirds of New Hampshire Republicans think Trump should run again in 2024. (In case you were ready to panic, when including Democrats and independents, 64% of New Hampshire voters say he shouldn’t.)
In Colorado, soon to be congressperson Lauren Boebert is leading the charge for Trump, that is when she’s not asking the Capitol police if it’s all right for her to pack heat in the Capitol. Sadly, the answer is that she can. Some Republicans have come forward. As you may have heard, Bill Owens, the only Republican governor elected in Colorado since 1973, called for Biden to be certified as president-elect before the GSA did.
But as I write this, no sitting Colorado Republican in Congress has yet called for Biden to be recognized. Cory Gardner, of course, has said nothing. According to a New York Times story, some leading Republicans are pushing Gardner as a candidate to replace close Trump ally Ronna McDaniel as head of the Republican National Committee. Trump may be out the door on Jan. 20, but you should not expect many Republicans to cross him or his Twitter followers for some years. And if Gardner, who lost his Senate seat in a landslide while sticking with Trump, did get the RNC job, it would mean a chance to further burnish his credentials as a Trump cheerleader.
But I’m going to forget all that when I sit down for turkey dinner with my live-in family— and only that family—and I promise that once the meal is done, if the TV happens to turn on, it will be for a football game and not cable news.
Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
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