2020 Election III: The Great Republican Temper Tantrum

November 2

J: Hey T, did you vote yet?

T: I thought Election Day was tomorrow.

J: It is, but nobody would be so gauche as to wait until Election Day.

T: Nobody?

J: Ok, a few people will be in line tomorrow. But about 100 million people have voted already.

T: Gauche?

J: Leave me alone. Florida had almost as many early votes as they had total votes in 2016; 65 percent of their registered party voters have already voted. Texas has an even higher percentage than that; last I saw they were over 70 percent of their 2016 total.

People are seriously fired up about voting this time around.

T: Let me ask you an incredibly stupid question, only because it keeps coming up in rightwing news outlets:

J: By news outlets you mean …

T: Yes. I could just say that Nationally Enquiring minds want to know.

J: The National Enquirer is to news what Burger King is to:

T: Thanksgiving.

J: That scans.

So what’s this incredibly stupid question?

T: You better sit down, it’s pretty stupid.

J: (bites nails)

T: Are mail-in ballots real ballots?

J: What???

Of course they are. And yes, that’s an incredibly stupid question.

T: We both know that Trump will be calling mail-in ballots fake ballots tomorrow night.

J: Those 100 million votes I mentioned up there have already been received by the states; they will be counted. It’s going to take a few days to do it, though, and that’s where it gets sticky.

T: Because Trump will be yelling, “Are we there yet?” all week?

J: It’s worse than that. Trump will be ahead the first few hours, so he’s going to try to knife the ball and yell, “I win!” before anyone gets a chance to count all the mail-in ballots.

T: He’ll be literally knifing the Constitution.

J: Yep.

T: He won’t get away with it — at least I hope he won’t get away with it — but he’s going to try to intimidate election officials in the key states, whichever ones they are.

J: The big Kahuna is likely Pennsylvania. And there are lots of ways Trump can narrate that into a Constitutional crisis.

T: It’s a little strange (and a lot depressing) that we have to point out something so obvious, that mail-in ballots are just ballots.

J: It’s like explaining politics to children.

T: My aching ass, you got that right.

But nothing Trump has claimed about election law, fraud, or tampering is true. If anything, the endless accusations might qualify as election tampering.

J: It’s telling that the Republican Party has concluded that their only path to winning is by suppressing as many Democratic votes as possible. And it starts from the top, of course.

T: Oh, no doubt. But to be fair — or frank, I guess  (in this election, fair is a place to see a pie contest) — voter suppression is something both parties have used. And both parties have used voter turnout tricks, hence the need for voter suppression.

If your voting base is larger but has a hard time voting, you want to soften the voting rules. If your base is enthusiastic but outnumbered, you want to tighten the voting rules. Voter suppression is one side of the highly partisan coin, with things like legalizing felon voting or letting illegals vote on the other side. One side hires busses to bring voters to the polls, while the other hires thugs to turn the busses around.

J: It used to be common to buy votes, and perfectly legal.

T: Women couldn’t vote until about a hundred years ago.

J: If we went back to the Constitution, only landed gentry could vote.

T: Right. So voting is a fluid process.

J: It’s 50 fluid processes. States make most of the rules.

T: And campaign managers try to break them.

J: It’s their job, basically.

T: Snidely Whiplash had the heart of a campaign manager.

J: Assuming he had one of those.

T: Well, he was a cartoon character, so I doubt it.

J: I was speaking figuratively, you talcum snorter.

T: Ok, you got me there. But what Trump is doing is a whole new level of (Snidley) Whiplashing. He’s not just blocking voters, which would be bad enough. He’s trying to block actual votes. Votes that have been cast legally and well ahead of the deadline.

J: What he’s doing is beyond suppression; it’s disenfranchisement.

Voter fraud (actual voter fraud) has been shown to be a vanishingly small problem, with something like 1,200 instances of it in the Heritage Foundation’s database. That database goes back to 1982. So 1,200 cases of voter fraud in 38 years.

T: How many total votes in that span?

J: In the billions.

T: So one in a million?

J: At least a million. If one in every million ballots was subject to fraud, all in a single state and all in a single direction, it would not have changed the results in any statewide Presidential election. The total would be a little over 100 fraudulent ballots. The closest votes were several times that many ballots; for example: 2000 Florida, which took weeks to sort out, was a difference of over 500 votes.

T: Trump’s tactics are brutal in their audacity. He is, in effect, accusing the Post Office of election fraud.

J: In cahoots with 100 million citizens.

T: How about a rundown of the early states? Which ones can we expect to see results on Tuesday night, and which ones will take several days to count?

J: The East Coast states should be Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida. Florida is already counting, as is NC; the NC Secretary of State says they should have 97 percent of ballots counted on Election Eve.

The big enchilada among those states is Florida. If Biden wins Florida, we can all go to bed early; Trump will have no path to win without it. If Trump wins all three (FL, GA and NC), then the spotlight will shift to Pennsylvania.

In that scenario, the Quakers would be more or less Trump’s last stand. But we won’t have complete numbers from Pennsylvania for a few days.

T: If Biden wins one of those three states (Georgia, Florida or North Carolina), he won’t need Pennsylvania?

J: Nope.

T: So all of those delayed ballots would be background noise.

J: Yep. How peaceful that would be?

T: The shy Trump voter narrative is dominating the news cycle. But what if the shyness goes the other way? What if there is an assload of shy Biden voters?

J: Landslide.

T: Trump’s tantrum would be epic.

J: You sometimes refer to 2016 as “the last gasp of the angry white man.”

T: Yes, or the white-guy Battle of the Bulge.

J: What if it really was? What if too many of those angry white men have gone from old and crotchety to dead and worm-foody? What if the Republican base is now such a minority that it’s essentially impossible for them to win national office?

They’re left with two options: 1) cheat or 2) rebrand. But how do they rebrand themselves after hitching their wagons to Trump for the last four years?

T: The GOP was already in crisis when Trump rose to power.

It’s possible that Trump himself is the only thing keeping the party from going the way of the Whigs and the Federalists, replaced by a new conservative party.

Hopefully, one that’s less (cough) socially conservative.

J: And more (belch) fiscally conservative.

T: You mean one that cares about deficits when it’s actually in position to do something about it, when it’s in power? Not just as an excuse to whine about those dammed spendy liberals?

J: That would be the dream.

T: I want to take a minute to describe the transition from the old GOP under Eisenhower and Nixon, the middle-class GOP, to the new GOP under Trump.

J: I imagine it won’t be a particularly pretty story.

T: Not really …

The GOP completed their successful move from a middle-class voting base to a redneck voting base in 1980, when Reagan swept the South and won easily. In 2008, they pissed away what little remained of their middle-class loyalty when the Tea Party (now the Freedom Caucus) rose to power. The 2008 rightwing schism — often referred to on this blog as the Great Republican Temper Tantrum — effectively neutered the GOP establishment.

The GOP tried to maintain business as usual in 2016; longtime GOP operative Mike Murphy took on Jeb Bush and his $100 million supePac with every intention of cruising to the 2016 nomination. But Jeb’s voting base of social moderates and fiscal conservatives was anemic; by April it was obvious that the establishment wing of the GOP had to wrap its tent around Donald Trump’s socially hyper-conservative, fiscally naive MAGAs if they wanted to win anything in 2016.

J: Fiscally naïve is an understatement.

T: My aching ass, yes.

So here we are. The GOP is reduced to riding Trump’s stampeding herd of MAGA cattle by the ears. How do they get off without getting trampled?

J: They can’t.

T: Right. They have no choice but to hold on and pray it all ends peacefully.

Editor’s note: I was not foreshadowing the events of January 6, 2021; I figured we all knew that MAGA was going to riot if Trump lost.

J: The average age of a Fox News viewer is 66, and there isn’t a new generation of right-wingers coming up to replace them. 18-39 voters are overwhelmingly Democratic or independent, something like 3-1 over Republicans.

So in the next ten years or so, the GOP will face a demographic identity crisis to go along with its ideological identity crisis. How will they appeal to a generation that grew up with Trumpian excess?

T: I guess we need to see how the voting goes tomorrow. If Trump wins again, that demographic can is going to get kicked so far down the block that we won’t see it again for a generation.

J: Well, it’ll get kicked four years down the road, anyway.

The best thing over the long haul for the Republicans would probably be to get absolutely nuked tomorrow. That way they could start the inevitably necessary flushing process earlier. Yes, they would have to spend a few years in the political wilderness, but they’re going to have that eventually, anyway.

It might be better for them to take their medicine this time, and face up to their problems honestly.

T: Do you know what worries me? Even if Biden wins, there will still be 60 million people who bought into the Trump vision. You and I know that a great deal of that vision is ridiculous, but (paraphrasing Morticia Addams) try explaining that to an angry mob.

J: The Trump personality cult will go the way of all personality cults after the leader falls; it will dissolve into infighting as a dozen or more wannabes try to claim the mantle as Trump’s successor.

T: Trump is going to be a huge pain, yelling on Twitter and holding rallies.

J: He needs some face-saving excuse to let up, and maybe Covid-19 gives it to him … an excuse for why he lost. But he’s so stubbornly arrogant that he might not take the hint.

T: The election might be his last chance to bow out gracefully. The mainstream media will probably stop following him around by early Spring, and the short attention span public will have no shortage of new rabbits to chase. All the bluster in the world won’t get far without amplification.

Trump will eventually realize that he’s a man without a country and — after a beat, maybe — he’ll realize that he did in fact have a soul.

J: And he sold it to get even with Obama.

T: He traded a life of indulgence, excess and entitled, arrogant posturing for the most treasonous power-grab since the Civil War.

J: Film at 11.

T: Is it too late to wet the bed?

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