BY A LOT: Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek displayed great timing, kicking the bucket this past Sunday after waging his astonishing, long-lived 18-month battle against stage-four pancreatic cancer, just one day after this year’s presidential nail-biter was “called” in favor of Democrat Joe Biden.
We live in a shifting universe. For the moment, it appears to be shifting back. Time will tell.
I don’t pretend to know which way Trebek — impeccable and persnickety to the very end — leaned politically, though the onetime Central Coast part-time resident was all about facts. The whole show was all about facts. The Orinoco either is or is not a river in Venezuela. No “alterative facts” exist. This despite the fact that “alternative facts” was one of the major innovations given to the American public by the Trump regime.
With Trebek at the helm of the big board for 37 years — that’s the equivalent of FDR’s four terms in the White House and Cal Ripken’s tenure at shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles combined — we had a pretty good run of facts.
Every night, Monday through Friday, nerds and geeks by the millions shouted out what they thought were the correct answers, which by game rules had to be framed as a question. The fact Trebek’s show remained so abidingly popular suggest that the nerd-geek demographic is bigger than thought, which explains why Trebek — always definite but understated — could emerge as a cult celebrity, part ironic but mostly not. It also indicates that facts — if not the truth itself — still matter.
In the days and weeks ahead, we will be forced as a nation to sift through allegations of voter fraud for which no substantiating evidence has yet been provided. “Alternative facts.” In the process, Generalissimo Trump and his Clown Posse have proved themselves not just losers, but the sorriest losers there could possibly be.
The Secretary of State, a perilously overstuffed sausage of a man, is proceeding as if Trump won, and Trump’s bean counters-in-waiting are moving ahead preparing a new budget for 2021.
In the meantime, Trump has dispatched one of his hyper-loyal legal henchmen to the General Services Administration — the agency legally charged with ascertaining the results of presidential elections — with orders to make sure that no such ascertainment gets ascertained. In so doing, Biden’s transition team is effectively denied the funding critically needed to hit the ground running come inauguration day.
One might dismiss such alternative facts as nothing more that the desperately entertaining meltdown of our despot-in-chief. But given the surge in COVID cases now seizing the land — more than a million new cases in the past 10 days, hospitalizations on the rise, and some intensive care units strained to the breaking point — these facts could provide more new dead bodies than the graveyards and crematoriums can handle.
Absent any hint of federal leadership, we are bombarded instead with as-yet baseless allegations of wholesale voter fraud that rise only to the level of effective clickbait. Dead bodies by the tens of thousands registered to vote? The sharpie pen conspiracy? The Pennsylvania postal worker who claimed he overheard orders to backdate mail-in ballots?
It’s been a week now. If there were any fire to go with all this smoke, presumably we would have seen it by now. Instead, the president’s press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, has urged “patience.”
It’s worth noting even Fox News cut away from McEnany’s recent press conference where she was blasting the election results as fraudulent. Fox News host Neil Cavuto — citing conspicuous lack of evidence — stated it would be irresponsible to broadcast such explosive and defamatory charges.
The New York Times — fake news, I know — contacted the top election officials in 50 states. Not one has uncovered evidence of voter fraud, wholesale or otherwise. In Nevada, it’s been ascertained that one allegedly dead voter — just one — somehow cast a ballot in last week’s election. The zombie’s handwriting was hard to make out, so it wasn’t clear if Biden or Trump won that ballot of the living dead.
Election fraud, it should be acknowledged, does happens. Voter irregularities even more so. But at a volume necessary to change the outcome of a national election? Exceptionally unlikely. In a recent voter fraud investigation conducted by Loyola Law School, one billion ballots — cast between 2000 and 2014 — were examined. Only 31 credible cases of fraud were discovered.
Mike Stoker, Santa Barbara’s peripatetic Republican Party operative ever on the prowl, was dispatched to Pennsylvania on behalf of the Trump reelection committee to sniff out voter fraud. While Stoker said he heard of irregularities that sounded sniffy, he told a News-Press reporter there was nothing of the magnitude to change the results. Stoker, who takes pride in first launching the “Lock ’er up” chant at the 2016 Republican convention that nominated Trump, was quoted in the News-Press saying that Republicans should wish Biden success for the sake of the country.
The News-Press, one of the few newspapers to endorse Trump this year, on Sunday declared, “Biden elected president.” The next day’s headline read: “Election remains undecided.”
When Trebek started at Jeopardy! in 1984, Ronald Reagan was going to be elected to his second term at the White House. He famously told the nation, “It’s morning in America.” Since Trump took office, every day’s been High Noon, instead. That’s the movie, shot in glorious black-and-white and starring Gary Cooper as sheriff, that ended with a big shootout and a heap of dead bodies.
Hopefully, it won’t come to that.
In the meantime, I want to say thanks to Alex Trebek for giving me something positive to scream at all these years. And that’s a fact.
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