The Republican Party and the “conservative” movement these days do not generate policy or principles. Instead, they produce grievance and resentment toward people who do not respect them. (It is hard to respect someone hollering about nonexistent voting fraud.)
The notion that people in public life might be held accountable for their actions is now considered threatening to the MAGA crowd. Suggest that Trump administration figures who enabled child separation or sought to undermine democracy not be rewarded with plum jobs, and shrieks of complaint from Trump supporters will ring out. They are eager to take offense and embrace victimhood because that is what their movement is about. It’s tiresome and takes up too much of our national psychic energy.
I firmly believe that the very loud chorus of election deniers will not contaminate the rest of the country. A vote for Biden was a vote for sobriety, sanity, calm — and even boring politics. Around 80 million people chose that option. We can see business leaders and mainstream news outlets (including conservative pundits, who a week ago were irresponsibly rationalizing Trump’s conduct) are recognizing reality and moving on. Even many who voted for Trump because they wanted tax cuts or thought Biden was a “socialist” understand he lost. They are not in the streets; they are working, taking care of families and going about their daily lives.
Trump’s “coup” isn’t a coup. It’s a temper tantrum without a vehicle. There is no theory, let alone facts, that would justify overturning an election in which, when the vote counting is done, one side will probably have won more than 300 electoral votes with a margin of 5 million or more popular votes. To pretend that the threat is real is to give Trumpers the attention they don’t deserve and to prevent well-meaning, ordinarily apolitical people from moving on.
It is important to make clear that lawsuits from the Trump campaign present no facts to warrant court action. That’s why around 10 suits have already been dismissed; some of those cases are rehashes of previously dismissed cases. (No wonder major law firms are getting queasy about filing frivolous claims.) Yes, it is troubling that Attorney General William P. Barr feels compelled to mollify his boss by releasing a memo that says the Justice Department may investigate claims before voting is certified, but it also makes plain that he is not encouraging the sort of nonsense suits we now see.
“While it is imperative that credible allegations be addressed in a timely and effective manner, it is equally imperative that Department personnel exercise appropriate caution and maintain the Department’s absolute commitment to fairness, neutrality and non-partisanship,” Barr wrote. “While serious allegations should be handled with great care, specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims should not be a basis for initiating federal inquiries.” That’s his way, I firmly believe, of doing nothing.
I do not mean to excuse the conduct of right-wing media stoking the lie that Trump won. Nor do I want to let Republicans off the hook for playing to the worst instincts of their base with deeply unpatriotic and anti-democratic sentiments. The best way to combat such behavior is to elect Democratic Senate candidates in Georgia so as to deprive Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) of the power to obstruct and cynically assault democracy. Similarly, while we should not minimize Barr’s grotesque politicization of the Justice Department, there will be time for the agency to conduct ethics reviews and housecleaning once the new administration moves in.
So allow me to make several suggestions: Unfollow Trump on social media. In fact, like the Biden campaign did, ignore social media for a time. Do not check in to hear the latest outrageous utterance from an unhinged radio talk show host or a right-wing TV personality. Acknowledge and applaud the few Republicans who have recognized reality. And enjoy the moment and the prospect of professionally run government, of a covid-19 panel stocked with the best and the brightest and of a president who will conduct himself with dignity and end noxious policies such as the attempted Muslim ban. There is an awful lot to be happy about in a democracy in which 150 million people performed the most optimistic public action possible — voting.