If Donald Trump loses the November election, he almost certainly won’t concede. Incapable of admitting defeat, he still hasn’t conceded his popular-vote loss in 2016 despite its constitutional insignificance. It’s worth remembering that Trump was so wounded by his popular defeat, and so desperate to claim that it was the result of millions of illegal votes, that he ordered Vice President Pence to chair a Voter Fraud Commission, which, powered by neurosis rather than evidence, accomplished nothing during its May 2017 to January 2018 run but demonstrate its own vacuity.
It did however remind the rest of us, yet again, of two things. First, that Donald Trump’s megalomania drives him to say and do things that transcend mere untruth and verge upon seeming insanity.
Second, and much worse, it reminded us that because Trump, with the help of conspiracy-theory-level media personalities, has utterly enraptured and bamboozled the GOP’s right-wing “base,” the rest of the party has collapsed into a chronic, cowering tolerance of Trump’s sociopathic childishness.
And there was plenty of that on display during May’s special election in California’s 25th Congressional District. Trump was dusting off his rote tantrums about how unfairly rigged everything is against Republicans — as though anyone with his numbers could ever have won office if that were true.
If he cries foul in November (and if he loses, he will), and if Fox News backs him up, there will be guns in the streets (again). A defeated Trump would eventually be pushed out; the military wouldn’t defend his delusions and through sheer political calculation some Republican Senators would grow a semblance of a backbone. But in this scenario Trump — through his own democracy-wrecking paranoia — would give our country a significant parting push in the s***hole direction.
Nevertheless, a Trump win would be far worse, implying as it would four more years of wrecking balls being taken to the environment, the separation of powers, the independence of the Justice Department and the rule of law, and just about anything else worth preserving.
So we are in the unenviable position of desperately needing our shambolic Democratic Party to score a win against the determined, soulless Republicans. And because presidential nominees are tragically, idiotically chosen by a primary system rather than by party elders, the Democrats, God help us, have answered this historic moment by choosing a frayed flannel bathrobe — make that a soiled, frayed flannel bathrobe — to head their ticket, instead of a grounded, incisive individual (such as Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, if you’re asking). Meanwhile the thugs of the GOP are pulling out all the stops to keep likely Democratic voters from voting.
What can we do? Obviously Democrats need to use every possible means to increase the number of polling places, and expand vote-by-mail and early in-person voting. In the presidential race, Democrats not only need to win, they need to win by a margin of several states to blunt Trump’s inevitable attempts at nullification. Beyond that they should — monotonously and daily — remind the reachable 5 or 10 percent of likely Trump voters why the diehard Trumpists are diehards, and why they shouldn’t be.
The diehards support Trump because they feel powerless. They feel powerless because our government is in the hands of greedy careerists funded by unprecedentedly opaque money, because labor unions are weak, because our infrastructure is crumbling, because they watched our nation’s debt skyrocket and their own incomes stagnate as those of the wealthiest Americans soared into the stratosphere in a booming economy, and because the cost and the poor availability of health care is killing them. They feel powerless, in other words, because of the policies of the party for which they’re voting.
Donald Trump campaigned as a non-traditional Republican who would rectify this and stand up for the little guy. He promised “great health care for much less money,” telling 60 Minutes that “the government” would pick up the cost for anyone who couldn’t afford it. He viciously attacked Wall Street, saying he’d break up the big banks and get tough on the “large corporations and political entities” that had “bled our nation dry.” He blasted hedge-fund managers and said he’d raise their taxes and give relief to the middle class. He blasted the big-money, super-PAC Washington scene, claiming financial independence, repeatedly saying, “I don’t need anybody’s money!” And, of course, he was going to fix America’s infrastructure, and build that wall and get Mexico to pay.
All lies. All Trump has ever really wanted to do is socially distance himself from the little guy while ensconcing himself in golden pleasure palaces. His first two years in office he had a Republican House and Senate to work with and got nothing done but a giveaway to the rich. Anyone hoping to carry our smiling, soiled bathrobe to victory in November — a victory that might push the GOP back an inch or two in the direction of inclusion, lawfulness, and responsibility — needs to hammer this message home. And we all need to be ready for a bumpy ride.