Not as Bad as We Feared

Revisiting predictions about what would happen if what has happened happened.

In January, I wrote a post titled “What if November’s Loser Refuses to Concede?” in response to a column by Rich Hasen. His scenario for a Trump refusal was eerily prescient, especially since it was written well before the COVID outbreak that led to a massive mail-in voting:

What would happen if President Trump had an early lead that evaporated as votes were counted, and then he refused to concede? The idea isn’t too far-fetched; Trump has raised it himself. Before the 2016 election, he wouldn’t agree to accept the results if he lost. After winning in the electoral college but losing the popular count by about 3 million votes, Trump claimed — with no evidence whatsoever — that at least 3 million fraudulent votes had been cast for his opponent, Hillary Clinton. He set up an “election integrity” commission headed by then-Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach to try to prove that “voter fraud” is a major problem. But after the commission faced attacks from the left and the right for demanding state voter records with an apparent plan to use them to call for stricter registration rules, Trump disbanded it, with no work accomplished. In 2018, the president criticized elections in Florida and California, where late-counted votes shifted toward Democrats, suggesting without evidence that there was foul play.

My reaction:

Most of the rest of the column is about the nature of the current political climate, wherein groups aligned with both parties have sewn distrust in the legitimacy of the system. Hasen is clearly a Democrat and argues—correctly, I think—that Republicans have done more to give people reason to doubt the fairness of the process. But the bottom line is that people are unlikely to see the outcome as fair.

Not mentioned by Hasen but important: the fact that most people live in news bubbles that distort their understanding of the state of play ahead of the race. My late mother, who lived in Alabama and got her political news almost exclusively from Fox News, was genuinely shocked when Mitt Romney didn’t win in 2012. Things are much worse eight years later.

[…]

There aren’t many journalists left these days, especially on the national airwaves. The broadcast networks and cable outlets have every incentive to make predictions. That’s especially true for Fox and MSNBC, who have political agendas on top of their business agendas.

[…]

I would also point out that there’s a crucial difference in Trump losing and failing to give up and a Democratic opponent doing the same: Trump is already President. The former would be an out-and-out Constitutional crisis, testing the very system. The latter would be a sideshow, in that Trump would continue to occupy the White House. Absent large-scale rioting in the streets, it would just be an even worse version of the status quo.

But the fears were largely overblown. Trump is throwing a tantrum and the Republican leadership is enabling it by refusing to firmly declare Joe Biden the President-Elect. That’s shameful.

Still, even Fox News did its duty. It’s Election Night coverage was by many accounts better than CNN’s. Their Decision Desk was the first to call Arizona for Biden. And, while they were fifteen or twenty minutes later than others Saturday in calling Pennsylvania and thus the election for Biden, they did so full-throatedly. And, at least on the news side, they’re pushing back hard on nonsense claims of fraud.

Meanwhile, Trump voters are slowly coming to grips with reality. There’s no rioting in the streets. The whining about stolen elections seems to be more akin to a sports fanatic blaming their team’s loss on the refs than a systemic crisis.

And, despite a flurry of articles in the fall by people who should know better, there’s no credible threat of the military or other armed agents of the government keeping Trump in office under the force or arms. Even with his abrupt firing of the Defense Secretary, the organizations are mostly doing what they’re supposed to do.

Yes, the GSA Administrator is taking her time in issuing a letter starting the Biden transition. But it’s the morning of the second workday after Biden’s win became semi-official. It’s maddening that there’s been a delay at all but I’d be shocked if we’re still waiting this time next week.

The bottom line is that, as broken as the political system is, the people have voted and the people have more-or-less accepted the outcome. Only the Toddler-in-Chief hasn’t. But it really doesn’t matter because nobody who matters actually thinks he’ll still be President on January 21st.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Campaign 2020, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. KM says:

    It’s maddening that there’s been a delay at all but I’d be shocked if we’re still waiting this time next week.

    I would prepare to be shocked then. The GOP plan is clearly stall, stall, stall and obstruct everything once Biden’s officially in power. They’ve literally said as much over the last few days and given what they did to Obama and Biden last time, we should believe them.

    I think she’s going to find a reason to delay for as long as possible. Maybe a week, maybe more but she’s going to push what we find reasonable or tolerable till it breaks. Don’t be surprised if the logic is “ongoing legal battles” and the letter appearing around Thanksgiving at best.

    Only the Toddler-in-Chief hasn’t. But it really doesn’t matter because nobody who matters actually thinks he’ll still be President on January 21st.

    Ah ah, James – we’re not supposed to diminish their feelings or be dismissive to our fellow Americans, remember? You don’t want to be accused of being a coastal elite. We get lambasted for saying things like this all the time as insensitive and disrespectful to the 27%. We can’t tell The Forgotten People that Jesus is ignoring their fervent prayers and their delusions of a Trump win don’t matter to reality. That’s hurtful! They’re not “nobodies” or “deplorables” – they’re people we’re supposed to reach out to and offer a shoulder to cry on while they try to stab us in the back.

    Also, I have a bad feeling here. Some loon who decides to go postal over this is going to “matter” the same way McVeigh or Omar Mateen or Nikolas Cruz did- a domestic terrorist who feels slighted and had the election stolen from his Lord might decide to make us care about fee-fees. Way too many conservatives and GOP are pushing the line the election is fraudulent to please Whiny Donald at the expense of feeding his more extreme follower’s paranoia. It ain’t a switch you can just flick on and off – these folks still hold grudges over things like Ruby Ridge. Some nut who legit thinks Trump’s POTUS-in-Exile might finally get pushed into doing something drastic. These people exist and are willing to act; it’s not just Trump refusing to accept reality and we need to keep an eye on them.

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  2. Jen says:

    I hope you’re right, but this declaration might be a bit premature. The longer Republicans drag out this nonsense about “fraud,” the more likely we are to see some kind of unrest. It’s the perceived delay in acceptance that will lead to problems. Just look at some of the WaPo headlines this morning: “More Republicans back legal push to contest Biden’s victory,” and “Despite lack of evidence, GOP forms ranks around Trump.” This is dangerous territory.

    A lot of Trump’s supporters have decamped to Parler, which sounds like a den of despair. One sheriff in Arkansas has already lost his job after calling for Democrats to be murdered.

    Again, I hope you’re correct but I think the longer this takes for Republicans to start PUBLICLY accepting Biden, the more likely we are to eventually see violence.

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  3. @James: I have to admit, you are a lot more sanguine about this situation than am I. I find McConnell’s action shameful and harmful (ditto the rest of the GOP leadership in the main).

    This is sowing anxiety and anger with Democrats and uncertainty and distrust with Republicans and is ultimately deepening our polarized politics.

    At this point, I won’t be surprised if this drags out until the votes are certified and the EC voted in December. That will mean several weeks of poisoning the well. (I ultimately won’t be surprised if some version of this doesn’t persist until January when the EVs are counted).

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  4. Sleeping Dog says:

    Yes, the most dire predictions of a trump loss have not occurred and trump’s attempt at a coup has been more comedic that serious, but that is only due to trump’s incompetence that it won’t be more successful. Imagine if the incumbent were Ted Cruz or Tom Cotton?

    There is evidence that again, that the governmental leadership of one political party will refuse to engage with a president from the opposing party and will do whatever is possible to obstruct that president. The fact that we are facing such a situation again, shows that the American system of governing is irretrievably broken and there is little evidence of a desire to fix it.

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  5. Put another way: GOP leadership is showing zero interest in moving forward and putting Trump behind them. They are, instead, looking like a party that knows they are in the minority and therefore are willing to further damage democracy to help maintain their power.

    They also continue to look like a party not interested in governing.

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  6. BugManDan says:

    For a more paranoid take, here is Bill Krystol

    https://thebulwark.com/be-alarmed/

    Edit: Not sure why but link is not showing up when made into an actual link. But I can edit.

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  7. DeD says:

    I am honestly tired of living like this. If not for my wife, I would’ve left the country a couple years ago. The GOP isn’t playing games anymore and I think it’s time we stopped making excuses for it. McConnell, Graham, Cotton, Cruz and Rubio are making a concerted push to grab absolute, unchallenged power.

    That’ll be okay if you’re White; but the rest of us don’t have that camouflage to blend in and lay low. James, you say it’s not as bad as we feared. I say it’s getting pretty damned close to what we fear.

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  8. Kathy says:

    I’m reminded of the joke about the pessimist and optimist sons. The former is mad when dad gets him a dirt bike for Christmas, thinking he’ll surely ride it and break his neck. The latter is overjoyed over a pile of horses**t he finds under the tree, because it’s not his dad’s fault the horse he got him escaped.

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  9. drj says:

    Not as bad as we feared

    While there aren’t any tanks on Pennsylvania Avenue, the notion that the American people should simply accept that every Democratic electoral victory is suspect IS already pretty bad.

    As a society, how do you come back from something like this?

    It’s not that Republicans are simply going to stop doing this at some point. Rather, they are doubling down. Looking at other countries’ histories, this is a very, very dangerous escalation.

    American exceptionalism isn’t going to ride in to the rescue. Not by itself, at least.

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  10. mistermix says:

    I’m more in S. Taylor’s camp here – this is a big problem, and the mere fact that Biden will probably (probably! and he’s the clear, obvious winner) be President doesn’t mean that the current undermining of faith in the election system isn’t a big deal. The point isn’t to keep Biden from becoming President, it’s the constant undermining of legitimacy of our systems in service of a party that can’t or won’t change its approach to chase a majority, and therefore wants to govern as a minority party.

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  11. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Again, I’m not the least bit happy about it. But, honestly, I see McConnell and company trying to appease Trump and his voters while ginning up some enthusiasm for GOP turnout in the Georgia runnoffs. I see zero evidence that they’re seriously trying to keep Trump in office past January 20.

    We were seeing hand-wringing about Trump brown-shirts keeping him in office. It’s just not materializing. Hell, I’m not even seeing a lot of complaining from Trumpist Facebook friends about the outcome.

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  12. Modulo Myself says:

    Part of me hopes this continues. Based on the numbers, it’s going to be very hard for the Democrats to flip both GA seats. Having the GOP devote itself to denying anybody who isn’t a Republican the right to vote will keep the turnout high on the Dem side and hopefully force both of the Republicans to spend their time defending this crap. It’s hard to imagine the turnout on the GOP side being as strong. Trump minus Trump on the ballot equals Roy Moore.

    I’m also looking forward to the whiplash of having to pretend these people are decent human beings as soon as Trump leaves.

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  13. Jen says:

    @James Joyner:

    I see zero evidence that they’re seriously trying to keep Trump in office past January 20.

    Nor do I, but what they are doing is damaging. Very damaging. They aren’t trying to keep him in office, they are trying to appease him and his base, and they’re chipping away at trust in our electoral process to do so. This is BAD.

    Hell, I’m not even seeing a lot of complaining from Trumpist Facebook friends about the outcome.

    Nor am I, but that’s because many, many of them made drama-queen exits from FB to Parler. That’s where they are doing their collective whining and barbaric yawping.

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  14. charon says:

    @James Joyner:

    It’s true that they would prefer someone else to Trump, Trump is an agent of chaos and they would prefer order. But they would be happy to settle for Trump if Biden is the alternative.

    And they are certainly all in on establishing Trumpism, they would just like Trumpism better without the Trump.

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  15. @James Joyner:

    But, honestly, I see McConnell and company trying to appease Trump and his voters while ginning up some enthusiasm for GOP turnout in the Georgia runnoffs.

    But at what cost? And is this even the right way to do it?

    I see zero evidence that they’re seriously trying to keep Trump in office past January 20.

    To be clear, neither do I, but that doesn’t obviate the damage being done.

    They are actively encouraging their voters to doubt the electoral outcome without any evidence for short-term gain. That is irresponsible and is playing with fire in my view.

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  16. charon says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    McConnell’s top priority is the GA runoffs, everything he does is colored by that, the same for many other Republicans.

    It’s hard to say which base any of this stokes more, the R or the D.

    I do not think anyone has any real clue how the runoffs will go, the situation is too unusual, polling will not help because it is hard to see any likely voter screens being useful

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  17. Michael Reynolds says:

    You’re speaking too soon, James, way too soon.

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  18. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: @Michael Reynolds: Dr. Joyner has returned home–to continue an already tired metaphor. He needs to find whatever he can to believe that it’s not the same dysfunctional crap hole he left 2 or 3 or 4 years ago. Expect the excuses and the “it’s not as bad as all that”s to continue until he can see what he’s looking at realistically.-

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  19. gVOR08 says:

    Kevin Drum sees what McConnell and company are doing.

    The answer is pretty simple: they want to enter the Biden presidency with their base riled up about a stolen election. Maybe Lindsey Graham will start up an endless Senate investigation to keep it fresh in everyone’s mind. This provides Republicans with a great excuse to obstruct everything Biden tries to do, and two years from now it gives them a great foundation to turn out their base and win back the House.

    And instead of the patently absurd (like that’s ever stopped him) ‘Democratic president’s can’t appoint a Justice within four years of an election’, McConnell will babble on about, ‘This appointment is tainted by a stolen election.’ Drum continues,

    Still, having said that, about half the country feels just fine supporting a party that acts this way. The rest of us better figure out what to do about that.

    I’d suggest that rather than talk about the unfairness of their actions and the threat to democracy, we laugh at them. “Four Seasons press conference”, “idiot woman at GSA”, “Lawyers at Jones Day laughing at his stupid lawsuits as they cash his $800 an hour pay checks”, “Bunkered down in the White House in fear of people dancing in the streets”, “Loser”.

    Please stop asking why the GOPs are still sucking up to Trump. As I keep saying, it ain’t just Trump. The GOPs were running their con on their own voters long before Trump rode down his escalator and they’re going to keep it up after Trump is gone. “The Stolen Election” is going to join “The Lost Cause” and “The Stab in the Back”.

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  20. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    It’s sort of a reversion to the mean. Or as you say, ‘Can I come home now? Is it safe?’

    I admire James, but he has not yet come to grips with the fact that his party was already a racist, misogynist, autocratic party long before Trump. And that he over the years helped lay the table for Trumpism. There is no home to return to, it was always a mirage.

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  21. Michael Reynolds says:

    @gVOR08:

    “The Stolen Election” is going to join “The Lost Cause” and “The Stab in the Back”

    As Rick Wilson says, fascists require a stab in the back theory.

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  22. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I predicted shortly before the election that McConnell, Barr, SCOTUS, and state governments would steal this election for Trump.
    We have already seen:
    McConnell and the Republican Senate has indeed begun to do their part.
    Barr, yesterday, put his part into play…which prompted the Justice Department’s top official overseeing voter fraud investigations to resign almost immediately.
    The SCOTUS is next…it’ll only take one of these suits that can be appealed.
    Brian Kemp, Governor of GA, has begun to make his move.
    We will see how the Wisconsin Legislature acts going forward…they have directed an investigation of “suspected” fraud before they will certify the election results.
    Pay attention…the end of Democracy, and thus the Republic as we know it, is happening while we watch.

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  23. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    They are actively encouraging their voters to doubt the electoral outcome without any evidence for short-term gain. That is irresponsible and is playing with fire in my view.

    Oh, absolutely.

    But I’m really returning to an argument that I made in the days after Trump won. The Resistance painted a picture so bad—a modern-day Hitler—that Trump couldn’t possibly live up to it. I think we (and, while I pushed against the worst strains of it, I was part of it) had too much faith in the Cult of Personality somehow keeping Trump in office By Any Means Necessary. Instead, we’re seeing it fizzle out and I think quickly.

    Again: Bad! Really, really bad. But not nearly as bad as we feared.

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  24. James Joyner says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    It’s sort of a reversion to the mean. Or as you say, ‘Can I come home now? Is it safe?’

    No, mostly I’m just arguing that the institutions and systems look likely to hold up against Trump’s tantrums. Even as an institutionalist, I underestimated the ways in which just the ordinary mechanisms of our system—like local election boards and honorable behavior by journalists—would preclude the worst from happening.

    I’ll write a longer post at some point but I doubt we’ll see the day where I’m a genuine partisan again. I’ve effectively been a Democrat since 2016 but am not by any means a fan of large factions of the party. Then again, it had been awhile since I genuinely liked the leaders of my former party.

    If the Republicans went the way of Larry Hogan—which looks exceedingly unlikely from here—I could certainly see myself voting for their nominees. Especially if the Democrats go the AOC route. But, in the more likely scenario in which Democrats run Pete Buttigieg or Mark Warner types, I’ll likely keep voting that way.

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  25. James Joyner says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    You’re speaking too soon, James, way too soon.

    It’s the nature of predictions, I guess. But, thus far, I’m feeling a giant “Meh” about the claims of voter suppression. There doesn’t seem to be a public outcry. Judges are literally laughing cases out of court. Even Republicans in Congress are calling for actual proof.

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  26. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:

    It’s the nature of predictions, I guess.

    Fair enough. I never think it worthwhile to predict or to bet unless the odds are clearly against me. There’s no rush in a coin toss. The rush is in getting it right when everyone else didn’t.

    Which is why I don’t play games in Vegas anymore. Turns out they built that whole city on the backs of guys who like the rush.

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  27. drj says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m just arguing that the institutions and systems look likely to hold up against Trump’s tantrums.

    This is simply not how institutions and systems work. Whether they hold up is not binary – either 100% holding up or not holding up at all.

    Looking back at the past four years, it is obvious that the institutions and systems have already failed to a significant extent – just not yet to a complete breaking point. Conversely, they also won’t be back to full health once Biden gets sworn in.

    McConnell c.s. are now further degrading what’s left of them. At some point these institutions WILL break down completely. That point has now come markedly closer.

    To further illustrate my point:

    a modern-day Hitler

    Even Hitler didn’t start off as Hitler. The radicalization of his followers and German society as a whole took time. Even Hitler’s own radicalization was a process.

    “Not Hitler now” ≠ “Not Hitler ever”

    Obviously, we don’t even have to reach the full Hitler stage before some really bad stuff starts happening.

    What I am saying is that you are being unreasonably optimistic about the current state of affairs and the long-term damage that is being wrought.

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  28. James Joyner says:

    @drj:

    Even Hitler didn’t start off as Hitler. The radicalization of his followers and German society as a whole took time. Even Hitler’s own radicalization was a process.

    Four years in, Hitler had consolidated power as dictator. Conversely, Trump has been voted out of office.

    Obviously, we don’t even have to reach the full Hitler stage before some really bad stuff starts happening.

    Well, sure. My point is that the predictions about how bad they’d get were wildly off.

    What I am saying is that you are being unreasonably optimistic about the current state of affairs and the long-term damage that is being wrought.

    I’m literally just comparing it to predictions by highly credible observers of a successful coup against the electorate.

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  29. charon says:

    @drj:

    To further illustrate my point:

    a modern-day Hitler

    Even Hitler didn’t start off as Hitler. The radicalization of his followers and German society as a whole took time. Even Hitler’s own radicalization was a process.

    “Not Hitler now” ≠ “Not Hitler ever”

    Obviously, we don’t even have to reach the full Hitler stage before some really bad stuff starts happening.

    Germany had recently been a monarchy and had little experience with being a republic.

    It’s the United States that isn’t Germany, not Trump that isn’t Hitler.

    Trump actually tracks Hitler pretty closely in personality, management style, even personality quirks.

    The 21st century isn’t the 20th either.

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  30. Raoul says:

    Since nobody is mentioning it I will – the Arizona call was way premature- they did screw up. I would not see that as a point of pride. So why exactly did Fox have the better election coverage (and please do not bring up Van Jones).

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  31. Teve says:

    @Jen: @Jen: The funny thing about parler is that a bunch of hard-core right wing nuts were like fuck Facebook fuck Twitter we’re going to parler and soon parler filled up with neo-Nazis talking about what to do with the Jews and killing abortionists etc. and parler was like fuck fuck fuck and started banning people.

    Without moderation, discussion sites become 4chan.

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  32. drj says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m literally just comparing it to predictions by highly credible observers of a successful coup against the electorate.

    Oh come on. The fact that the absolute worst case scenario has not happened, is pretty thin grounds to argue that “things are not as bad as we feared” and that “the institutions and systems look likely to hold up.”

    You see a return normalcy because you want to see it; not because things are, in fact, turning back to normal.

    The GOP’s actions speak volumes.

    That the US is not on the exact same traject as Nazi Germany is hardly a consolation in my book.

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  33. Jen says:

    @Teve: Yeah, I’m really wondering how long my conservative friends will last on it. I can’t decide if I think it’s going to tone down the place to have a bunch of aggrieved Trump supporters who are otherwise normal people on there, or if the isolation-chamber effect will be that they get nuttier.

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  34. SKI says:

    Shorter James: “Well, there aren’t death camps so we should all be grateful.”

    Reality: This is dangerous and harmful and we should be demanding that all elected leaders condemn the efforts – not appease the toddler – and outraged they aren’t.

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  35. Teve says:

    @gVOR08:

    Please stop asking why the GOPs are still sucking up to Trump. As I keep saying, it ain’t just Trump. The GOPs were running their con on their own voters long before Trump rode down his escalator and they’re going to keep it up after Trump is gone.

    I’d be hard-pressed to think of a bigger con than Supply-Side Economics. And yet, I’ve had poor people defend it to my face. “Rich people can’t create jobs without money! When’s the last time a poor person gave you a job?!”

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  36. inhumans99 says:

    @Raoul:

    What are you talking about, I just clicked on an AZ news source (azcentral.com) and Biden is still up. Being annoyed that AZ was called before literally 100% of the ballots were counted is just picking at nits, and the NYT election map might be able to switch AZ over to blue before the afternoon is up (or at worst, later tonight we should have confirmation that yes, Biden did win AZ).

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  37. Jen says:

    John Hudson, national security reporter at WaPo, just tweeted that Sec. Pompeo just said “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”

    That…doesn’t sound like someone dealing in the current reality.

    These idiots need to stop this sh!t, right now.

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  38. Gustopher says:

    @inhumans99: The fact that they called Arizona right doesn’t mean they didn’t call it too early. It’s like calling a coin flip while it is in the air — there just wasn’t enough data in for something as close as this, in a strange election year.

    I do think Fox did the nation a service by calling it too early. Given how everything has been playing out, undercutting Trump’s attempts to declare victory was a very good thing.

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  39. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    The Secretary of State of the United States, today;

    “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”

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  40. SKI says:

    @James Joyner:

    But, honestly, I see McConnell and company trying to appease Trump and his voters while ginning up some enthusiasm for GOP turnout in the Georgia runnoffs. I see zero evidence that they’re seriously trying to keep Trump in office past January 20.

    Explain Pompeo stating that “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”

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  41. Beth says:

    @SKI:

    That is a shockingly horrific clip. I can’t wrap my mind around it. That’s the Secretary of State saying that the election doesn’t matter and they will retain power no matter what. How can you even begin to explain that away.

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  42. EddieInCA says:

    @Raoul:

    What are you talking about. Biden is still leading in AZ. There is nothing in the forecast on the votes remaining to make anyone think Trump will overtake him in AZ, so, until that changes, it was a good call.

    Care to share any evidence you have to the contrary, or are you just blowing smoke?

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  43. ImProPer says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    “This is sowing anxiety and anger with Democrats and uncertainty and distrust with Republicans and is ultimately deepening our polarized politics.”

    I am afraid that this has become more of a feature than a bug for a large segment of us.
    Power has not only corrupted the obvious players, but much of the electorate as well. An unintended, and perhaps unavoidable consequence of a Democracy. Empowerment, is a hell of a drug. It is more powerful and intoxicating than ever, its addicts more intense than ever. However, right now, there is a broad coalition that are putting Country before feelings. I hope they don’t get drowned out by
    the voices that don’t.

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  44. ImProPer says:

    @ImProPer:

    Darn it, the edit button has gone away.
    Oh well, if not obvious, I am not an English major.

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  45. Michael Cain says:

    @inhumans99:

    Being annoyed that AZ was called before literally 100% of the ballots were counted is just picking at nits, and the NYT election map might be able to switch AZ over to blue before the afternoon is up (or at worst, later tonight we should have confirmation that yes, Biden did win AZ).

    I would have probably also called it when Fox did, but have to admit that the reason I thought it was proper to do so hasn’t materialized. In recent elections, once the remaining ballots are down to late-voting Maricopa County, there has been a pronounced “blue shift”. (Eg, in 2018 Sinema went from a dead heat on Wednesday or Thursday to winning by 2.4 percentage points once the late Maricopa County ballots were counted.) The blue shift didn’t happen in AZ this year: Trump has been narrowing the lead instead of Biden stretching it out. At the point when I would have called it, I thought Biden was going to win by 100,000 votes, not 10,000.

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  46. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Dip your head in a bucket of cold water, James. Here’s Mike Pompeo today claiming that there will be a “successful transition to a second Trump administration.”

    https://twitter.com/cspan/status/1326230270421426183

    Whether Pompeo himself believes it or not is no longer the issue.

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  47. Andy says:

    Honestly, I think people should just chill and have a little more faith in the system.

    Biden won and the turnover process will continue as directed by the Constitution and the relevant law. That Trump and many Republicans have yet to internalize his defeat or feel the need to virtue signal to their base that they are “fighting” is irrelevant to the facts of how this is going to play out.

    Like it or not, Trump and his allies have every right to go to court which is all they can do. You can’t stop them and they don’t care about your opinion any more than any of you care about theirs.

    It’s practically certain their efforts will turn up nothing which will be evidence to support the position that the election results are legit. It’s frankly better over the long run to do that and concretely dispel any ambiguity.

    So there’s no reason to freak-out over this process.

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  48. Teve says:

    @SKI: @Beth: People who seriously await the imminent apocalypse and their rapture are arguably insane.

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  49. SKI says:

    @Andy:
    Have you seen the posts and comments by the folks, numbering in the literal millions, if not tens of millions, who actually believe the lies that the election was impacted by fraud?

    It only take a handful of those to commit horrific acts of violence – something many of our communities have already suffered from. Think of the violence – and attempted violence – carried out by those who believed the lies. Pittsburgh, El Paso, Poway, etc…

    So excuse me if I don’t have the luxury of just waiting to see what happens but I don’t. This is dangerous and every day that goes by, every time a GOP leader leans into it instead of condemning it, pouts me and my family at risk – even if the process “works” and Biden gets sworn in.

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  50. SKI says:

    @Teve: Yes but they are dangerous.

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  51. Kurtz says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Here’s the thing about former Republicans like James:

    What’s an actual conservative to do? Trump and his (apparent) effect on the GOP isn’t some new movement.

    You can start the germination with Goldwater or Reagan. It doesn’t matter. The seeds planted then were subsequently sown by Limbaugh, Gingrich, and countless others following in their footsteps.

    Democratic norms didn’t just erode since 2015. When the party line gets repeated over and over, the people targeted gradually accept electoral gamesmanship as truth, this is the result.

    All those votes for Republicans over the years rewarded that behavior.

    Do I think James acts in bad faith? No. But do I think it’s hard to come to terms with complicity in this situation? Yes.

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  52. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Andy:

    Like it or not, Trump and his allies have every right to go to court which is all they can do.

    I’m not sure where the right to frivolous litigation is enumerated, perhaps you can enlighten?
    I do know Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and many similar state rules, require that an attorney perform a due diligence investigation concerning the factual basis for any claim or defense.

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  53. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Teve: It seems like a category error to me. While having money might be necessary for creating jobs (and it really isn’t because businesses borrow money to expand–and by expanding, create employment–all the time), need to have work done is what creates jobs, not the availability of money to pay salaries.

    There are no landscaping companies in Korea, but it’s not because people can’t afford landscaping; it’s because they don’t have lawns.

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  54. Kurtz says:

    @Andy:

    Biden won and the turnover process will continue as directed by the Constitution and the relevant law. That Trump and many Republicans have yet to internalize his defeat or feel the need to virtue signal to their base that they are “fighting” is irrelevant to the facts of how this is going to play out.

    You’re more than likely correct. But if you think that true believers aren’t going to hold on to the idea that their guy was cheated, I think you’re being too optimistic.

    Even if it’s less than 10% of the population, we’re talking about millions of armed people who think their votes were nefariously rendered irrelevant. They think they’re Patriots in the mold of Patrick Henry. They have a Lieutenant Dan death wish and some may try to take as many enemies down with them.

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  55. KM says:

    @Andy:
    The main reason people are “freaking out” as you say is because they understand something fundamental about the GOP – the system only works if everybody agrees to play by it and they’ve been actively refusing to do that for a while. Trump’s not even really relevant to this anymore. Almost all of the power structure of a major party – the party currently holding power – is going “meh, the rules are more like guidelines and we don’t really feel like following them”. This goes beyond norm breaking – it’s system destruction.

    This is a matter of concern for any democracy when the losing party start talking like they didn’t lose and don’t plan on leaving. Not contesting, not litigating – straight up there’s no way in hell they lost you dirty cheating illegal-voting bastard. When major government figures are like “yeah, we’re having a second term” when there’s no feasible way other than overturning legitimatie election results, citizens have a right to be concerned. This is what history documents happens before societies go down bad roads.

    If the GOP decides to enforce their delusion and run with Trump won….. then what? The GOP pushes the narrative that Trump’s the One True POTUS and Biden’s a pretender… then what? If they start inciting the MAGAts to “Stop the Steal” like those who went after the ballot counting centers and showed up with weapons… then what? When they decide to stop playing nice…… it’s too late to “freak out”. There isn’t a magic switch they can flip when they’re done placating the Big Baby. They can’t unring this bell and if it gets out of their control, there’s a lot of very angry people who’s buttons they’ve been pushing HARD these last few days. They’re not going away and they’re not going to magically just come to terms with it. This can go very bad, very quickly and we all need to be wary since the GOP keeps dumping gas on the fire.

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  56. mattbernius says:

    Another data point of how not normal things are:

    “White House tells federal agencies to proceed with plans for Trump’s February budget in latest sign of election defiance”
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2020/11/10/trump-federal-budget-post-election/

    Admittedly (and this is in the article) the Presidental budget has become less important in recent years, but this is still not normal behavior for a time of transition.

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  57. reid says:

    @Andy: That raises a good question. Can Trump, etc., file lawsuits that have no evidence and are essentially frivolous? I would think that there has to be some basis for a lawsuit; below that threshold, and there should be repercussions.

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  58. mattbernius says:

    On the plus side, Biden’s presser today was great and definitely projected an excellent sense of “no drama,” looking forward to January and a far more steady hand in the White House:

    https://twitter.com/MollyJongFast/status/1326254158106783745

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  59. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kurtz: I’m not saying that Dr. Joyner is a bad faith actor; although I can see why one can read what I am saying that way if they choose to. I absolutely know what you are talking about when you speak of coming to terms with the situation because I came to terms with the complicity and left conservatism behind about 15 or 20 years ago in the same way the disillusioned Catholics and evangelicals leave the church.

    I have no use for conservative philosophy at all. I see it as dead. Irredeemable. Shitty people who believe and do shitty things to quote Teve. And I understand that Dr. Joyner can’t do what I did. First of all because would be pretty stupid to call yourself a political scientist when you don’t vote anymore because there’s no acceptable compromises available among the competing ideas and ideals. Secondly, because institutionalism is for him what religion is for people who hold that as a true faith. Everyone contextualizes what the experience within a framework of some sort and ultimately, adjusts reality to conform to that contextualization.

    Dr. Joyner has to be optimistic. He has no choice. I have to be cynical because I recognize that the system is completely broken–even if it isn’t really, I won’t be up to admitting that because I’ve rejected the politics of America. I, too, have no choice. To riff off of Martin Luther for each of us

    here I stand; God help me, there is no other place.

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  60. Andy says:

    @SKI:

    The hard truth is that your fear of what might happen by random acts of violence by disaffected Trumpers isn’t going to change anything, and neither will comments on a blog populated almost entirely by people who mostly agree with you. Trying to convince James that he ought to be more outraged than he is similarly does nothing.

    Presumably, you’ve already contacted your elected leaders to let them know how you feel – which is something I’d encourage everyone to do.

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    I’m not sure where the right to frivolous litigation is enumerated, perhaps you can enlighten?

    If they are truly frivolous, then they will be quickly dispatched.

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  61. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @reid:

    I would think that there has to be some basis for a lawsuit; below that threshold, and there should be repercussions.

    My understanding is that the repercussion is that your case either doesn’t get heard at all or gets thrown out. I guess that sometimes, one side gets their court costs depending on the jurisdiction, but without debtors’ prisons–which were outlawed sometime back, the ability to collect damages can be impaired.

    It’s not much, granted, but it is what it is. The social contract functions because we agree to allow it to. Once we stop agreeing…

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  62. Andy says:

    @Kurtz:

    But if you think that true believers aren’t going to hold on to the idea that their guy was cheated, I think you’re being too optimistic.

    No, I don’t believe “true believers” will be convinced, but that is not necessary and it’s why there is a process that doesn’t rely on people’s opinion.

    @KM:

    This goes beyond norm breaking – it’s system destruction.

    No, it’s not system destruction. Yes, it is norm-breaking. Sadly, norm-breaking has become normalized. But the system is working just fine. The system doesn’t require the outgoing President to publically concede. Once the final votes are tallied and any challenges dealt with the states will certify the results and the electors will choose Biden as the next President. Engaging in a speculative chain of worst-case “what if” scenarios doesn’t change that and it serves no purpose except to increase fears.

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  63. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    https://twitter.com/PreetBharara/status/1326002207972601858 (Sorry, no link button)

    Who will be the first Senator to call for an Inspector General investigation over the AG Barr memo that just prompted the head of the Election Crimes Branch at DOJ to step down?

    I don’t think I’ll hold my breath waiting for that to happen–or anything to come of it even if it did.

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  64. Kurtz says:

    @Andy:

    No, I don’t believe “true believers” will be convinced, but that is not necessary and it’s why there is a process that doesn’t rely on people’s opinion.

    I think the fear around here is two-fold:

    -that the GOP is a long-term threat to American democracy as evidenced by their public show of support while leaving a trap door. They likely take the exit they left for themselves post-inauguration. But the fact rains they are willing to call the system into question for short-term gain.

    -that there are millions of armed people with delusions of grandeur willing to act with extreme prejudice.

    I think you’re most likely correct. But to say the fears are unfounded is wishful.

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  65. ImProPer says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    “The Stolen Election” is going to join “The Lost Cause” and “The Stab in the Back”

    “As Rick Wilson says, fascists require a stab in the back theory.”

    Of course, by their very make up they can’t lead, or rule a political system of any complexity. Destruction is their only strong suit.
    To extrapolate on your truism, Fredrich von Heyeck said: “Fascism is the stage reached after communism has proved an illusion”. Glaring example of this was the creation of the neoconservative movement, by disillusioned Trotskyites. All extremist roads lead to the same place, and is only amenable to demagoguery. The generation before us, learned this the hard way. I like to point out that as stoned as they were, Abby Hoffman would of never been nominated to be a dog catcher. Now here were are in the age of Trump, et al., that are just symptom, of our National crisis. Right now we have a remarkably large coalition, the only viable solution to running a large, complex Democracy.
    We have the benefit of history to learn from, but so do the “fascists”. They now have many more hobgoblins, that are much more sophisticated and plentiful, than old Adolf’s.

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  66. Kurtz says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Yeah, I didn’t think you were casting aspersions toward Dr. Joyner. I was clarifying how I see it and making sure I didn’t come across like I sometimes do.

    Then again, I don’t really know why I care. HL seems to have a decent reputation while also being a dick about 33% of the time. On the other hand, I prefer to think the best of people.

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  67. gVOR08 says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    need to have work done is what creates jobs, not the availability of money to pay salaries.

    That. To use the economic term, Aggregate Demand creates jobs. Giving money to poor people, who will, of necessity, immediately buy stuff with it, creates jobs. Giving money to rich people does not. (That’s marginal propensity to consume.) Rich people do not get rich by growing the pie, they get rich by being very good at slicing the pie.

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  68. DrDaveT says:

    Meanwhile, Trump voters are slowly coming to grips with reality.

    There is no evidence of this. 70% of Republicans believe the election was stolen illegally; you can’t spin that away.

    There’s no rioting in the streets.

    Yet. See above; the disinformed public still believes that victory can be achieved without rioting; their leaders are telling them so. (James, you seem to be a bit hard of hearing in that regard; the message is much clearer to the rest of us.)

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  69. DrDaveT says:

    @Andy:

    No, it’s not system destruction. Yes, it is norm-breaking. Sadly, norm-breaking has become normalized. But the system is working just fine.

    I think this is the nub of where we disagree. As best I can tell, the norms ARE the system. The written Constitution and laws are insufficient for function; the norms are not optional. There is no system if a majority of the Senate and a majority of the Supreme Court decide that they don’t care what the laws say. Which is very nearly where we are — we’re there in the Senate, and we might be there in SCOTUS. It hasn’t been tested yet, but the clear intent of the outgoing (oh please) administration was to achieve that state.

    We already have a Senate willing to excuse treason, an Attorney General interested only in protecting the administration, and high-level civil servants acting in blatantly partisan ways without apology. Let me know when “the system” fixes that.

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  70. Steve V says:

    A Wisconsin Republican legislator floated the idea of overruling the election results yesterday. Hey, it’s allowed under the system, right?

    I’m sorry, I think it’s way too soon to say everything’s going to work out.

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  71. ImProPer says:

    @Teve:

    “I’d be hard-pressed to think of a bigger con than Supply-Side Economics. And yet, I’ve had poor people defend it to my face. “Rich people can’t create jobs without money! When’s the last time a poor person gave you a job?!”

    How about Trump being a benevolent billionaire, business extraordinaire, wanting to save us little people from the consequences of the bad US economy…. Oh wait, just a more vulgar version of the same bull shit

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  72. ImProPer says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    “I do know Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and many similar state rules, require that an attorney perform a due diligence investigation concerning the factual basis for any claim or defense.”

    There are also rules against vexatious litigators,
    of which Trump is certainly one of, if not THE most prolific in history. Just another of the many examples of him being under a much lower bar than, not only the corrupt swamp monsters he purports to be after, but us little people as well. I guess to save us from our corrupt selves, the classical protections must be set aside so the Messiah bring about the greater good. For any Trump supporters that may be reading this, I’m being sarcastic.

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  73. Andy says:

    @Kurtz:

    The fact remains that the current opinions don’t matter. The states will finish counting, certify the results, electors will decide and that person (Biden) will become President. It’s only November 10th, the world is not ending because Republicans have not yet come to terms with Trump’s loss.

    As best I can tell, the norms ARE the system. The written Constitution and laws are insufficient for function; the norms are not optional.

    Nope, you’re just wrong on the facts here. The process is very clear and it does not require that the loser formally concede or accept the results.

    We already have a Senate willing to excuse treason, an Attorney General interested only in protecting the administration, and high-level civil servants acting in blatantly partisan ways without apology. Let me know when “the system” fixes that.

    The Senate, the AG and civil servants have no role in the election process. The process is working and the Executive branch has no influence or power over it. The states will finish tallying votes, deal with any challenges, and then certify the results. The electors will then formally declare Biden the next President. Then on January 20th the government will start taking orders from Biden. None of that depends on one side or the other adhering to “norms.”

    No one has yet explained how the actual process can not only be subverted, but overturned by the Executive branch and Trump’s allies, even if one makes the worst possible assumptions about their intentions.

    The only thing that matters at this point is any court challenges. Those will take place at the state level and might eventually make their way to the Supreme Court. We have no idea if that will happen much less what the details and the merits of such cases might be. But the expert consensus is that these suits will go nowhere and even if they are successful, can’t change enough vote totals to give Trump wins in enough states to get to 270.

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  74. Andy says:

    PS: Edit function seems to not be there. Everything after the first paragraph was a reply to DrDaveT and not Kurtz.

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  75. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @DrDaveT: Trump can only break the norms applicable to the Executive Branch–and even that has a check. Future Congresses can pass law codifying norms. The ‘system’ is bigger than the Executive Branch and its operation.

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  76. DrDaveT says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    The ‘system’ is bigger than the Executive Branch and its operation.

    Of course. But neither the Senate nor the Supreme Court are part of the Executive Branch.

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