Donald Trump’s attempted coup against American democracy has failed. I call it a clownish coup not because what they tried to do isn’t deadly serious, but because the people involved were so incompetent or mad or both that they became ridiculous.
And that’s now just my view, but the view of Trump confidant Chris Christie:
In an interview on ABC News’s “This Week,” Christie said the president should give up his legal strategy. “Elections have consequences, and we cannot continue to act as if something happened here that didn’t happen,” he said.
“The conduct of the president’s legal team has been a national embarrassment,” Christie added, noting that Trump’s lawyers have made a flurry of fraud allegations but have offered no evidence to back them up in court.
Christie criticized Trump’s lawyers for proffering false conspiracy theories at news conferences and other media appearances.
One lawyer was so crazy, she was even too crazy for Trump. That was Sidney Powell who claimed the Republican Governor of Georgia was in a conspiracy with the dead Hugo Chavez and the CIA to steal the election from Trump.
Trump’s problems hasn’t just been the morons posing as lawyers, but Trump himself. He told so many people about his plans to steal the election before election day, that every media outlet in the country knew about them and knew he was going to claim victory on the night. If you are going to try and steal an election, you’re best not to tell everyone about it in advance.
There have been a number of different aspects to Trump’s attempt to steal the election. They are:
- General undermining of faith in democratic elections. Trump has raised baseless fraud allegations not just in 2020, but also in 2012, 2016 and 2018 elections. He has spent a decade telling people US elections are rigged. What sort of President campaigns against his own democratic institutions?
- Claiming victory on election night in states where the vote count wasn’t anywhere near complete. He had signalled he would do this for weeks ahead of time, but it doesn’t make it less shocking. He tweeted and raged that he had won various states, when there were millions of ballots not counted, that had been cast before the election.
- When he realises that merely claiming on Twitter he had won didn’t work, he spread numerous conspiracy theories about fraud. But not only has he been unable to find proof of widespread fraud, he hasn’t found proof of even minimal fraud. It’s sort of amazing that they have around 1,000 lawyers looking for fraud and there were 160 million votes cast and they haven’t been able to locate any fraudulent votes. Either those fraudsters are super smart or maybe his own Department of Homeland Security was right when they called them the most secure in history.
- Then you had the lawsuits. Now absolutely in an extremely close race it is quite proper to seek a judicial ruling on the election rules. But Trump has filed 36 lawsuits, of which he has lost 34 and had two minor wins which are of basically no consequence. The lawsuits are so incompetent and in such bad faith, that they are basically just a delaying tactic. It is possible Trump actually think if he can get one to the Supreme Court that the Justices there will rule for him simply because he appointed a third of them. He doesn’t really understand the concept of an independent judiciary or justice department.
- Then there was the pressure on Republicans not to certify election results. Sadly the US doesn’t have an electoral administration system totally removed from politicians like in NZ. In NZ we don’t have the Minister of Justice sign off on the election results. But in the US there is a bureaucratic procedural step where a board or state official must certify the results. Trump has pressured Republican officials to refuse to certify the results, which would effectively disenfranchise entire counties or states.
- Finally he has been trying to delay certification so that in the absence of a certified result he can then have a state legislature declare Trump the winner regardless of the popular vote in the state. This is the most brazen part of his attempted coup. Now the constitution does of course give state legislatures the right to select electors but for the last 175 years every state has a law saying the electors are assigned to who wins the popular vote in that state (or district). Now if politicians want to stand for office to the state legislature on a platform of taking the presidential decision away from voters and giving it to the state legislature they’re welcome to do so (and will no doubt get 1% of the vote). But to try and convince state legislators to ignore the results of an election, is authoritarian or worse.
So Trump’s coup has failed. He will go down in history as the worst President in the history of the United States, and also the biggest sulkiest loser. But his tactics have done massive damage. He has set the stage for someone smarter and more competent to try and do the same in future.
All because he can’t accept the fact he lost.