I wish I had an old-timey ear horn, so I could stand atop the highest mountain and yell, “This is me straining to hear all of the respectable Republican officials in America condemning a United States president who is falsely declaring that he won an election while asking to shut down an ongoing vote count.” Then I would hold the horn to my ear and stand silently, listening to the sounds of silence.
These are the eloquent, historic presidential words that may mark the fatal turning point in the American democratic experiment: “We won states. And all of a sudden I said, ‘what’s happened to the election?’ It’s off. And we have all these announcers saying ‘What happened?’ And then they said, ‘Oooo.’ Because you know what happened? They knew they couldn’t win. So they said, ‘Let’s go to court.’ And did I predict this, Newt? Did I say this? I’ve been saying this from the day I heard they were gonna send out tens of millions of ballots. I said exactly — because either they were gonna win, or if they didn’t win, they’ll take us to court… This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election, and frankly, we did win this election.” The new Gettysburg Address, ladies and gentlemen. How can the opposition party be expected to match such powerful dexterity of language and character?
The Republican Party is, in aggregate, a den of gangsters currently trying to aid and abet the utterly corrupt theft of a presidential election by one of the worst people in the United States of America. That is simply a description of what’s happening. I know that many of us have had our heads deep in the weeds, obsessed with county-wide polling averages and whatnot, but it’s time to look at the big picture. We do not know how this election will turn out yet — all I’m asking for is that we discuss it honestly. If you think that a single Republican politician has a genuine concern about “voter fraud” not motivated by pure self-interest and disregard of public will, I invite you to bang your head against a wall until you fall down, because your intelligence will not be affected. I do not expect anything better from the Republican Party, of course, but I do expect everyone who is not part of the Republican Party to stop pretending that something other than this is happening, out of a misplaced desire to believe in happy fairy tales.
This is worse than cynical operators riding the coattails of a demagogue in a single election. Republicans are a minority party. They cannot win power in a system with free and fair elections and high voter turnout. The state legislature in Florida last year enacted a de facto poll tax that effectively kneecapped a ballot measure passed in 2018 to restore voting rights to 1.4 million felons. That single act of voter suppression could have provided the margin by which Donald Trump just won Florida. Voter suppression, gerrymandering, and outright lies are now standard parts of the playbook, discussed by pundits as if they are just another shrewd tactic. They’re not. They are corruption. They are gangster behavior. This gangster ass minority party now controls the bulk of the courts, and the White House, and is now trying quite openly to use those courts to steal back control of the White House again, hoping to stop counting votes that might prove inconvenient. If Trump was really such an outlier, every Republican in Congress would be lining up to decry this outrage against democracy. They’re not. Remember that.
We are living through a useful demonstration of how preposterously large the gap between propaganda and reality can get before the general population snaps. Last night, as everything hung in the balance, I saw James Carville on MSNBC, dismissing everyone’s anxiety and joking about the expensive whiskey he would be drinking very soon when everything came in for Biden. I note this anecdotally to make the point — like many important points, one that we already knew, but must be reminded of in the most painful way again and again until we fix it — that the class of people who make up the establishment powers of the Democratic Party are pathetically unprepared for the extremity of the political environment we’re living through. That is why they have been getting their asses kicked for most of the past five years. (Not literally — they leave that to the demonstrators in the streets, who they later mock for having unrealistic demands, like “we would like to live.”)
Democrats and many pundits seem to believe that we are all still playing chess. Meanwhile, Republicans long ago flipped over the board and started smashing it with a sledgehammer. Whatever the outcome of this election is, when it’s over, I would like to stop treating gangsters as honorable participants in civil society.
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Hamilton Nolan is a labor reporter for In These Times. He has spent the past decade writing about labor and politics for Gawker, Splinter, The Guardian, and elsewhere. You can reach him at Hamilton@InTheseTimes.com.