A president in winter: the man on a ledge
I still find it extraordinary that Donald Trump found 74 million Americans whose only wish was for four more years. And he continues to find compliant Republicans in Congress and out, along with White House aides and cabinet members that support and justify this man who cares not a whit about them or our democracy but only about himself.
Of course, these now-ending four years have been riven with examples of chaos and corruption. But we need only consider these past weeks, during which Trump has demonstrated the depth and breadth of his insatiable need for power and attention, a need often framed by ranting paranoia and ad hominem attacks.
Of late he has conducted a quixotic quest in eight states to overturn the results of the 2020 election. His lawsuits, in search of windmills, fueled by conspiracies, encouraged by his closest aides, have been repudiated by court after court. And yet just recently he tweeted that the election was “the biggest scam in our nation’s history.”
The drama is endless, ever erratic and exhausting. His refusal, until the final hour, to sign the COVID relief package was beyond reprehensible, bordering on the malevolent, all the while knowing that Americans, awash in pain, were forced to endure days of anxiety and uncertainty while thousands died daily from the coronavirus. Golf club in hand, he relished this moment of power and its concomitant attention. It was a deplorable display of ego-driven dereliction of duty and breathtaking indifference.
But, there’s more. Trump, devolving further into denial regarding his election loss, has concluded that Congress will be his final stage center appeal. On Jan. 6, the House and Senate will meet to validate the Electoral College’s vote. Trump recently tweeted, “The ‘Justice’ Department and the FBI have done nothing about the 2020 Presidential Election Voter Fraud.” He followed that now frayed grievance with two more ominous lines: “#Never give up. See everyone in D.C. on January 6th.” This entreaty is the equivalent of his “stand back and stand by” comment, it’s a call to protest (and arms while demanding that the November election be overturned.
According to reports, a number of rallies are planned for most of the day, drawing to Washington groups such as the Proud Boys (known for aggressive confrontations); members of armed right-wing militias (known to show up in military-style cammies, carrying assault rifles); conspiracy theorists; #Stop the Steal advocates; and white supremacists. Some have dubbed these rallies the “Wild Protests,” referencing Trump’s earlier tweets. One group calls itself the Eighty Percent Coalition, referring to the percentage of Republicans who have declared Biden’s win illegitimate.
For Trump, the presence of thousands of his supporters will be cathartic, a day to revel in, flags and signs held high, speeches made, the 2020 vote demonized and his monarchical presidency lionized.
Consider Jan. 6 as the third act in Trump’s raw and blatant grab for power, a desperate culmination of his anti-democratic campaign to disenfranchise more than 81 million Americans who voted for Joe Biden.
All of the above will take place while Congress meets in a joint session to ratify the Electoral College vote. According to news reports, some 12 Republican senators and 11 Republican House members will object to the results, forcing an up-or-down vote count in both chambers. The objecting senators, arsonists all, have called for the formation of an electoral commission to conduct an expeditious audit of the 2020 election results before the inauguration. Their evidence provoking their objections has yet to be disclosed.
And so the morality play continues. As for a denouement, an enraged Trump has told his closest aides that he will refuse to leave the White House on inauguration day, conjuring an image of the man who would be king being talked off the ledge of a basement window.
Chris Honoré is an Ashland Tidings columnist.