Today is Pearl Harbor Day. On this day in 1941, 2403 Americans died. On 9/11/2001, about 3,000 Americans died. In both cases, Americans pulled together to make sure this could not happen again. Huge effort and trillions of dollars were expended. How times have changed. Now, with a daily death toll rapidly reaching 3,000, we are suffering a Pearl Harbor or 9/11 every day. Yet Trump has done little more since losing the election than stay in hiding, play golf, and make wild accusations about “rigged elections.”
It has been clear for weeks that Joe Biden won. Trump not only refuses to accept the result, but he has actively promoted the idea that the election was stolen. Trump’s own appointee for election security called it the most secure election in US history. Trump quickly fired him for his competence and honesty.
It is not an exaggeration to call this an attempted coup. Trump prepared the ground, he used his enormous power in every conceivable way, and after failing to attain the desired outcome, he tried, with a series of frivolous lawsuits that were thrown out for completely lacking merit, to reverse the election results. His supporters actually issued death threats and appeared in armed groups to intimidate key officials involved in the election, and he refused to allow the transition to begin in the way dictated by law.
The fact that Trump’s coup has failed does not change the fact that the attempt was made. If the election results had been closer and Trump had managed to sway a few more people, the outcome might have been quite different. The fact that his own GOP party has enabled his efforts prove that there are really no guardrails left- Trump has come close to breaking our system and subverting the clear intent of the Constitution.
The idea of guardrails came up repeatedly as Trump’s presidency staggered along. But guardrails are there for a reason. People who hit them or take them down endanger public safety. They are only needed by really bad or drunk drivers.
The bizarre and cult-like loyalty of his followers would be easier to understand if Trump had ever shown a high level of competence or good judgment. He has never been a good driver. He has been awful on both counts. He claimed elections would be rigged. Wrong. He claimed the Pandemic would be proven to be a hoax. Wrong. He claimed a Biden win would cause the collapse of the stock market and that the US would swerve into socialism. Wrong. Wrong.
There were two things he was right about. Election results would take a long time and masks would be a problem. Yet both are true only because his own actions made them a problem. Most presidents would have simply asked everyone to wear mask. Trump choose to make masks a badge of political loyalty rather than a simple, effective medical expedient. Likewise, election results were only slow in coming because Trump created so much confusion about the process both before and after the election: his delayed a prompt result. The dual crisis Trump has created would be farcical if it weren’t so tragic, dangerous, and unnecessary.
Trump leaves office with his followers disillusioned, disappointed, distraught, diseased, and/or deceased. His opponents, (for quite different reasons) are in a similar, sad state. It is a tragic end to a dangerous experiment- we made a supremely unqualified man, with serious character flaws, our president. We can expect 500,000 Americans to die before this Pandemic ends. New Zealand, Taiwan, and South Korea are all in double or low triple digits. The difference is Trump.
It’s nice to think we have learned our lesson, but as long as people continue to minimize the fact that Trump has both failed the Pandemic test and attempted a coup, and we cling to the idea that our system “worked” and “the guardrails” finally held, we will not understand the lethal nature of the bullet we have just very narrowly dodged.
December 7, 2020