Too Close to Call
The presidential election is no longer too close to call, but there is another situation that teeters on the knife edge: whether the Republican empty shirts will or will not embrace Trump’s Last Gaslighting, viz., his claim that he really won the election, when in fact he lost the election. Mitch McConnell, for example, has detrained from the Trump Train on this score, while Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House, has embraced Trump’s alternate reality.
The truth is that Trump really has only two options to cling to office.
Military coup? Ain’t happening?
Getting the Pennsylvania Legislature to overturn the state election result? Ain’t happening.
The Supreme Court Option
The first conceivable option is to get the Supreme Court to overturn the election. So let me say this about that. The first thing is that anyone who claims 100 percent confidence in what shenanigans Justices Alito, Barrett, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Thomas will or will not get up to is making an unjustified claim.
But here are some things I do know.
I know that, back in 2000, when Bush v. Gore was decided, the state of Florida really and truly did hold the key to the election. I know that the state of Florida was so close that it was pretty damn hard to say who had actually won the race. (Kind of like Georgia as we sit here this afternoon—except that Georgia is not the key to the 2020 election.) And I know that the process was dragging out so long that the country was sort of in danger of not having a president at all.
That’s three things. Thing one? Not true this year. Thing two? Not true this year. Thing three? Also not true this year.
In 2000, in the face of those three circumstances, the Supreme Court chose to stretch the law to the breaking point, just to get the whole thing over. This year, there is no such exigency. So, if Justices Alito, Barrett, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Thomas make a unanimous decision to seize on some specious pretext to overturn the election, they know they will be overturning American democracy.
How is Trump’s Election Gaslighting Different from All His Other Gaslighting?
In 2000, the issue was not really about fraud. The issue was about hanging chads.
In 2020, Trump alleges widespread fraud. Fine. He and his legal team can waltz into federal district court, packed with Trump-appointed, McConnell-approved judges, and take their chances. If Trump loses, he can waltz into the local federal court of appeals, likewise packed with Trump-appointed, McConnell-approved appellate judges.
In short, to answer my rhetorical question, unlike the thousands and thousands of lies Trump has told, this time Trump is faced with institutional adjudicators, ready, willing, and able to hear any evidence he presents, and to render decisions based on the evidence.
He is faced with institutional adjudicators predisposed to accept his factual assertions, if he actually has any facts to adduce, or otherwise to call bullshit on the Dear Leader.
So far, it’s not working. And it’s not going to work, as long as the courts of this land continue to require plaintiffs to prove their cases based on actual evidence.
In a Mell of a Hess
Back when I was a legal counselor, I always advised my clients to reverse engineer their adversaries’ thinking by asking, “How would a rational bad person deal with this situation? What arguments would she make? What strategies would he pursue?”
The Republican empty-suited politicians are all—pretty much every mother’s son and daughter of them—bad people. Many of them are also rational.
Being rational bad people, they are now in a mell of a hess. They either rile up a good portion of their base, or they let themselves be known as the politicians who don’t want to count all the votes and who oppose democracy.
The choice will be especially interesting for Mr. Purdue and Ms. Leoffler, down in Georgia. Do they hanker to face the voters on January 5, having explicitly declared that the votes of African-Americans ought not to be counted? Or would they prefer to face the Georgia voters, having been excoriated by Trump and his minions for insufficient devotion to Dear Leader?
I am glad I am not in their shoes. It’s Georgia, so Loeffer and Purdue may well win. But, right now, I think their butts are well and truly suck on the horns of a very big dilemma.