(A better and longer version of this appeared Dec. 11 in The Washington Post. A better and shorter version came out Dec. 10 in the Fergus Falls Daily Journal.)
You and I both had hoped that by now I would be done with Donald J. Trump. But January 6 blew that up. I apologize: I must key one more, hoping to understand the madness.
Flash back to the conclusion of Trump’s dark, short, apocalyptic Inaugural Address in 2017. George W. Bush turned to Bill and Hillary Clinton seated alongside him, smiled grimly and said “That was some weird shit.’ It’s become much weirder.
What could constitute a theory of election fraud sufficiently vast to turn a 7 million vote margin victory into a “landslide loss”? Reading between the lines of the words of Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell it goes like this: There was a multi-state conspiracy to steal millions of blank ballots, turn them over to Democratic operatives who filled in the blanks for their candidates, mailed some and used food trucks to deliver others after dark, while states using Dominion election machines featured software jimmied by software engineers hired by a Venezuelan dictator who died in 2013. But wait, the FBI, the CIA, and dozens of elected Republican officials at the state and county level were in on it too, as was Attorney General and legal bodyguard William Barr.
Occam’s Razor is a hypothesis made famous by a 15th century Franciscan friar, William of Occam. Some say it means “The simplest explanation is most likely correct”. Others prefer a milder version “Make no more assumptions than necessary.” Take your pick. Then consider the conspiracy theory advanced above, which was shown to have no evidence in dozens of state and Federal courts, compared to the one below.
Over his entire four year term Trump’s approval rating never reached 50% for as much as a day, bouncing between 40 and 49%. In that time his disapproval rating ranged from just over 50 to 55%. His approval rating was 43% on Election Day, but had been as high as 47% in the June – October run-up to the vote. His share of the reported vote, 47%, is within that range. Everyone who voted carried a very strong opinion of Trump – you love him or hate him – which is plenty to drive the huge turnout that came to be. Biden will never be exciting but he is not yet controversial, and therefore he was the candidate of choice for Democrats and Never Trumpers. His polling popularity in the six weeks before the vote varied from 52 to 55%. His final vote: 52.3%.
Why can’t Trump voters accept these results? Fox News, OAN, and Newsmax aren’t exactly a good source for all the facts. But Trump has set the expectation of voter fraud in the minds of “his people”, and then lit the fuse of his most rabid. Trump is correct in his assertions that major fraud was the intent of one side – he just doesn’t want “his people” to know that side is his own.
Democracy survived Nixon, race riots, and the Vietnam War. I think Biden will do a better job of handling Covid-19, and then the economy will bounce back quickly, and maybe attitudes will soften under the balm of prosperity. Perhaps we can have a more civil election in 2024. I’m hopeful.