One Last Big Lie
President-elect Joe Biden already has the United States of America headed back on the right track. The voters have made their choice clear and the simple math of a long, careful and legal count means the outcome is not in meaningful dispute.
Since the polls closed on the evening of November 3, Biden has set a presidential tone, directed the nation’s focus, and signaled a return to professionalism in the executive branch of the American government. The contrast between Biden’s leadership and President Trump is evident for all to see; even for the current president’s most faithful supporters.
Although the president is threatening to take his case to court, in an effort to invalidate the vote, he is not expected to succeed in a way that will change the outcome. There is no case to be made. It is likely that by the time all the votes are officially certified, Biden will have collected 306 Electoral College votes. The same number Trump collected four years ago.
When the race was called, there were celebrations in the streets of American cities. Black Lives Matter Plaza, which is a section of 16th Street NW in Washington, D.C. — and may not even exist if not for President Trump’s failure to lead on the issue of race relations — was filled with D.C. residents and families well into the evening. Times Square in New York City had the look of newsreel films from the end of World War II. There were similar scenes in Atlanta and all the way to Los Angeles and Oakland on the west coast.
By Saturday evening, when it was time for President-elect Biden to declare victory, the machine of the American government was confirming, in its own way, that Biden will be the 46th president of the United States. Biden and Harris are now symbols of that government and of American democracy. The security apparatus surrounding them has grown to battalion size proportions. Their motorcades approached the celebration site in Wilmington, Delaware in what looked like mile long columns of flashing police lights against the night sky. The package has been secured. It is no longer Joe Biden’s wish to be president of the United States, he is just a few weeks away from being sworn in.
Unlike the chaos of the last four years, President-elect Biden has laid out an understandable agenda for the transition and his first months in office. He will begin by getting the COVID-19 pandemic under control as the first step toward getting people back to work and strengthening the nation’s economy. This is the most obvious task before the country and one the Trump administration has refused to attempt or even understand.
Biden, through his early speeches, is sending signals to the rest of the world that the new American administration is returning to the world stage. He is reaching out and the world is opening the door. As predicted, Biden is extending a hand to Republicans in Congress. Understandably, most observers are skeptical about whether a Republican controlled Senate will ever work cooperatively with a Democratic president, but most also agree that Biden is in the best position to try. Hopefully, even Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can see that the American people are ready for something other than complete partisan gridlock. It would be great if just a few times a year, Republicans could find a way to say “yes” to their Democratic colleagues, for the good of the country.
Nearly 150 million people voted in this election. Biden and Harris received the most votes of any ticket in U.S. history and Trump and Pence received the second highest numbers. In those numbers is another big problem. About half the American voting public, despite the post election celebrations we all witnessed, voted for another four years of President Trump. What does that mean? What role will Trump play in American politics after he leaves office?
Over the next few weeks, reality will slowly force President Trump to accept that his time in the White House is over. The election results require him to leave office and for Biden and Harris to be sworn in. In this environment I do not wish to disparage Trump any more than he tends to disparage himself through his own words and behavior. A defeated former president does not have the same ability to command attention as a sitting president. He may try to remain relevant, but there is no guarantee he will succeed. In a sign of things to come, most major news networks broke away from live coverage of a White House news conference, on the day after the election, when the president began making false claims. I have never seen this happen before. What happens to a bully when his pulpit is taken away?
Trump’s post White House success as a political force will depend on his followers. There are predictions that he will try to run again in 2024. History is against him on that possibility. Political parties rarely re-nominate a candidate who is a proven electoral loser. He could create a third political party formed around his personality. This is another historically losing path if your goal is to actually win a national election. There are others who predict that Trump will simply use his status as a former president — with millions of supporters — to launch some kind of money making enterprise built around his brand; perhaps a multi-media company with an anti-establishment message selling Trump merchandise.
Many commentators, since the election, have pointed out that the close vote totals show that we are a country divided. I am not so sure we are as divided as the election results suggest, because the pool of Trump votes can be broken down into at least two groups. There are Republicans who were voting as much against Biden as they were voting for Trump and there are those who simply believe everything President Trump says. To me, this second group, is the scariest, because its members deny reality.
I have been amazed at how willing so many Americans have been to believe President Trump when his almost daily lies are so apparent. For decades, there has been a split policy debate between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives. That debate often includes spin and half-truths employed to win the bigger argument. That’s different from what we have witnessed from the Trump administration in the last four years. Led by the president, this is a group who has used the credibility of the Office of President, to sow discord and attack the credibility of institutions that have helped make America one of the most successful countries in world history. It is not an exaggeration to say this White House has lied to us almost every day for four years and they are still lying to us today.
Trump and his administration, have been saying for months that the Coronavirus pandemic is a hoax — conjured for political reasons — that would “go away” after the election. Well, if you buy into that tale, I am sorry to tell you that the rates of infection in this country and around the world continue to rise as do the deaths. It’s a week after the election and the virus is still the number one issue we face.
Now the president is trying to convince us that the election itself was rigged and that legal votes were actually illegal votes and Joe Biden is not the president-elect. Given the willingness of his supporters to believe his lies, this is truly dangerous. Thankfully, local elected officials, state governments and the news media are in a position to destroy this big lie with the facts using numbers, video and eyewitness accounts. This last, flailing, untruthful attempt, to stay in power may be the claim that erases any chance for Trump to remain politically relevant after he leaves the White House. The attempt at this big lie is more likely to turn him into a disgraced political figure destined to wander through the wilderness, mumbling to himself, for his remaining years.
Supporters of President Trump say that what his opponents do not understand is that he presents the last best hope for a segment of the U.S. population that feels it is being left behind. Trump appeals to the “forgotten man” or the silent majority of Americans who privately believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. They believe too much emphasis is being placed on the needs of minority and fringe groups and that those, who in previous generations helped build the country, are being cast aside. It is said that these forgotten men and women resent government and intellectual elites, who have unfair control over the news media, and are in a position to tell the rest of the country how they should think, act, and ultimately vote.
Those feelings exist and are real, but what I do not understand is why so many who feel this way turn to someone like President Trump as their protector? What is more demeaning than someone who tells you he is there to help, but offers only lies? What is more elitist than someone who, using the power of your vote, uses your trust to enrich himself? What is worse than a U.S. president who clings to power and makes false charges of foul play in the election when the vote total, which is based on simple counting, shows his dishonesty?
President Trump never expected to win the White House in 2016. He has said so and people around him have said so. His winning campaign, for him, was about growing his personal brand, and it worked better than expected. He spent his first few months in office telling the story of his improbable victory to anyone who would listen. He showed no interest in the job. He allowed ideologues to use him as a tool to implement their own extremist agendas on issues like immigration, the environment, and energy. He tore away at our justice system and denigrated our military and intelligence community. He turned his back on our long time allies and gave comfort to our known enemies. It was all fine with President Trump personally, because it kept him at the center of attention and protected him in his position as the most powerful man in the world. He has no core beliefs except for a belief in the need for complete personal victory at the expense of others.
Nowhere is this better symbolized than at the intersection of 16th Street in Washington, D.C. and the entrance to Lafayette Square. Sensing an impending defeat, a few days before the election, barriers were placed around the White House to keep American citizens an extra block away. This was done to protect the president from the people he is supposed to be in office to serve. It is inside this great — temporary — fortress wall that President Trump learned how the voters feel about the accomplishments of his administration. It is inside these barriers that he sulks, lashes out, and schemes about how to stay in power. The fortress is necessary, because of the way President Trump conducted himself in office and chose to show his utter disrespect for the institutions of the government he leads, the law, and the people who put him there in the first place.
At noon on January 20th, or maybe even before, those walls will be taken down, Joe Biden will move into the White House and America will be on the right track once again. Common decency, professionalism, and commitment to public service will return to the presidency of the United States. Joe Biden may not have been your choice, but he is the best choice if we have any hope to return to some version of normal life.