THANKS TO DONALD: Maybe now — finally — I can stop binging on reruns of The West Wing.
That’s the TV show starring Martin Sheen and, for a few memorable seasons, Santa Barbara’s own Rob Lowe — that depicted a White House populated by competent, decent, likable, conscientious, and only slightly Machiavellian Triple A+ personality disorder types who seemed to believe in something other than their own political tumescence.
For the past two months, I’ve imbibed that show to keep reality at bay. I might have tried opioids, but constipation doesn’t work as a lifestyle choice.
With the Georgia Senate election results now in — at least sort of — it appears I might be able to switch gears. Kelly Loeffler, the Republican incumbent who ran TV ads describing herself to be more conservative than Attila the Hun, seems to have “decisively” lost to Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock, a Black minister who for the past 15 years has preached from the same pulpit in the same church as Martin Luther King Jr. The other Republican incumbent, David Perdue, remains on statistical life support — at least as of this writing — but is all but certainly doomed.
These victories now give Democrats a Senate 50-50 majority, and for this they can and should thank President Donald Trump, whose delusional death throes over the past two months created nonstop chaos within the Republican ranks while energizing the Democratic base.
First, we had to endure Trump’s last-second effort to torpedo the new — and desperately needed — COVID stimulus package that his own negotiators had worked out. Trump, waiting ’til the 11th hour to dip his toe in the water — insisted on personal payment checks of $2,000 instead of the $600 agreed upon by his negotiators. Democrats, of course, loved the idea, which died a quick and predictable death in the Senate.
“Trump loves to play arsonist and firefighter at the same time,” said Santa Barbara’s Congressional representative Salud Carbajal — a child of Mexican immigrants who was first elected to Congress the same year Trump won the White House.
For the past four years, Carbajal has started his day catching up on Trump’s tweets from the night before, separating fact from fiction and wondering which threats could the president carry out and which ones were his bluster. After that, Carbajal would settle into his first cup of coffee.
More recently, there was Trump’s veto of the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act, painstakingly hammered out by Republicans and Democrats. Trump was incensed the bill requires that military bases named after Confederate generals be given new names — preferably ones that do not honor those who fought for slavery — within three years. He was even angrier the bill did not include language provisions that would punish social media outlets that have posted cautionary alerts when Trump’s tweets have not been supported by the facts.
Carbajal voted with the House — controlled by a Democrat majority — to override the president’s veto. But that was predictable. More striking, the Senate — controlled by Mitch McConnell and the Republicans — did so too. And overwhelmingly by a vote of 81-13. Nothing breeds such bipartisanship, a cynic might observe, more than Pentagon pork.
Trump’s escalating tirades about an election he most obviously lost has served only to fracture what remains of a Republican Party. He is not totally alone in this fantasy, but he’s joined mostly by terrified Republicans engaging in public displays of naso-rectal fealty or by the most brazenly opportunistic — Ted Cruz comes to mind — hoping to pimp Trump’s base for their own presidential ambitions.
Trump’s histrionic fantasies have already crashed and burned. To date, 60 judges — many Republicans, quite a few of whom are Trump appointees — found that Trump’s allegations of electoral fraud lacked any substantiating evidence. He lost by seven million votes. When it comes to electoral votes, Trump beat Hillary Clinton four years ago by the same margin Joe Biden beat him by in November. When Trump won, he declared that a landslide.
It is perhaps beside the point to observe that as of Election Day, 292,000 Americans had died of COVID or COVID-related complications. Today, that number is in excess of 353,483. The virus has since mutated into a far more infectious strain. In Santa Barbara, we now have 2,105 active cases, of which 172 required hospitalization. On Election Day, we had 103 active cases and only 10 were hospitalized. Little wonder Santa Barbara’s public health officer, Dr. Henning Ansorg, feels so overwhelmed. “I am at a loss,” he proclaimed at his first press conference of the New Year. “I honestly don’t know what to say anymore.”
Perhaps the one thing for which Trump can legitimately claim bragging rights is the speed with which the vaccine was developed. But the rollout of the vaccine has been fraught with almost as many snags as the initial development of COVID tests. Not all responsibility lies with ineptitude at the federal level, but too much does.
Efforts by Trump sycophants to derail the election results this week will no doubt die a slow and long-winded death. There are rumors that Trump — hoping to avoid the indignity of Biden’s inauguration — will travel to Scotland the day before to play golf at one of his many golf courses. He is reputedly very good, though a notorious cheat.
However, Trump is experiencing blowback from by Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who has insisted that no one will be allowed travel to Scotland except those engaged in essential services. “Playing golf,” said Sturgeon — a great admirer of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and politically conservative — “is not what I would consider to be an essential service.”
In the meantime, I need a new show to binge on. And Salud Carbal needs a new morning ritual.
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