The Sore Loser, and the Malign Loser

Picture of Donald Trump with his face flanked by the words

Original photo by Gage Skidmore. Used under Creative Commons License (CC BY-SA 2.0).

John ScalziDonald Trump has lost the 2020 presidential election and has absolutely zero chance of winning it now. This is because the election has already been run, and it resulted with Joe Biden winning, with, to date, 77 million votes, 50.8 percent of the voting electorate and 290 electoral votes, with another 16 likely to come once the recount in Georgia is done. The margins by which Biden has won these states are impossible to overcome, as historically recounts change the vote totals by hundreds of votes, and Biden is up by 14,000 in the closest race of the states where numbers are being contested (that’s Georgia). The suits that the Trump campaign has filed regarding election fraud have been shot down as hearsay or because of other flaws in the filing; they are historically flimsy suits, and even the ones that aren’t affect a number of ballots that will not change the results of the election. There was no systemic or systematic electoral fraud.

The idea that the Republican legislatures in the “contested” states will rebel and name their own electors is a pipe dream, you decide which kind of pipe, and in any event the legislatures in at least some of the states have signaled they have no interest or intent to get involved. That leaves an autocoup attempt, I suppose, but given how much open contempt this president has had for the military forces in the United States, and the seriousness with which our military takes its oath, let me just suggest I don’t see that move ending up happily for Trump.

To repeat: Donald Trump has lost the 2020 presidential election, definitively and decisively. If you believe this, congratulations, you have some minimal relationship to reality as it exists in the world. If you do not believe this, either you have been trapped in a bread box at the bottom of a well for the last two weeks and are just now catching up, or you have some injury of the brain which does not allow you to process information in a reliable manner, or you simply choose to live in a fantasy world for your own, probably at this point frantic and malign, reasons. Or, alternately, you know Trump has lost the election, but you choose to pretend this fact is not real, because you are, in fact, a mendacious piece of shit.

Which brings us to President Trump and the GOP.

There is no scenario that exists in which the GOP’s “brain trust” — I use that phrase advisedly — believe that there is a path to Donald Trump winning a second term in the White House. None. They are smarter than that and they have been doing this too long. They are going along with this nonsense because, bluntly, they don’t want an angry retaliatory Donald Trump, and at this point that’s more important to them than any damage they’re doing to the country or its institutions. It’s frustrating for me to continually have my nose rubbed in the fact that the GOP literally does not give a crap about anything other than the GOP and the GOP’s interests (coddling the rich; tossing civil rights over the side to keep its white supremacist base engaged), but here we are in November 2020 and the GOP is acting absolutely to spec.

In the White House itself, I imagine everyone around Trump knows it’s over (it certainly seems that way), but there’s his ego to be salved and money to be scammed off of the president’s dimmer supporters, and at no point has Trump ever been interested or concerned in anything other than Trump. So again, this is all to spec.

One of the ways that Trump is coming around to accepting being defeated is to suggest he was robbed of the election (which to be clear, is absolutely incorrect in every way; he lost it fair and square), and thus to suggest he’s going to be the GOP candidate for 2024. On one hand, what a horror that would be, to have the GOP dragged around by Trump and his grifty children and hangers-on for another four years; on the other hand, what absolute karmic justice, for the GOP to be dragged around by Trump and his grifty children and hangers-on for another four years. I can’t decide what is better, or worse.

(Note well that all of this elides the fact that Trump (and his family) are going to spend the next several years at least, and probably the rest of his life, fighting criminal suits and creditors, and dealing with the inevitable reveals of just how massively he sold out the country for his own interests. The Trump family has grafted (and grifted) itself onto the GOP like a parasite in order to scam money and lawyers from somewhere. I suppose the GOP will have to decide whether it wants to spend the next several years propping up a bad businessman’s debt and a bad president’s reputation. Neither of those is going to be a good deal for the party in the long run. I have some popcorn set aside for how this plays out.)

Trump lost the election. I didn’t expect him to concede; I still don’t. He’s too insecure and pathetic for that, and we all knew that going in. At this point, most of my actual ire is with the Republican party, which really has just gone over to the working principle that it only acknowledges elections that go its way, and that all other elections are illegitimate. It does this because over the years its cultivated its base to be ignorant and reactive and resistant to facts — which is why we had Trump at all.

The GOP, as it is, is a cancer of American democracy. Not because it’s conservative — there will always be conservatives, and if we must have political parties, then conservatives should have one no less than anyone else — but because it fundamentally no longer acknowledges either the necessity of American democracy or the need for an informed electorate. It wants a mob that is open to authoritarianism whenever it loses a vote.

Trump is a sore loser. But the GOP is a malign loser. We can and should blame Trump for not conceding this election and starting the transition process to the Biden administration. But even more, we should blame and condemn the GOP for supporting and encouraging a position that endangers the county, internally and around the world. It knows better, and simply doesn’t care.

— JS

88 Comments on “The Sore Loser, and the Malign Loser”

  1. Political post! Mallet is out. Be polite to each other. I have BINGO cards ready for various political positions.

    Also, what we will not be doing here in this comment thread is entertaining the position that the man who has objectively lost a presidential election by the largest number of popular votes in history, and by the widest percentage of total votes against an incumbent in nearly 90 years, and who is has no legitimate path to electoral vote victory, is somehow a) still going to become president, b) has been cheated of the presidency. In this house, we acknowledge reality. If you don’t wish to acknowledge reality, there’s always Parler and Newsmax for you. Attempts to get around acknowledging reality will result in the Mallet.

  2. Have always found your political posts to be an enlightened take on current events. Suppose it helps that I usually also agree with them. Suspect we’ll see some interesting GOP moves over the next few years. But wonder what you think of the Lincoln Project? Friend? Foe? Frenemy or the future of some former GOPers?

  3. The only thing I have even a small disagreement with on this piece is where it says Trump lost fair and square.

    Trump lost *despite* the GOP stacking the deck in his favor with voter disenfranchisement measures that targeted groups expected to favor Biden. It wasn’t fair and square, it was rigged to give him an advantage…and he *still* lost.

  4. Absolutely true. That’s what I have been telling my wife for a week. Trump is who and what he is. He isn’t ever going to change. He doesn’t give a sh!t about anyone but himself, period, and yes, I include Ivanka in that assessment. But the Republicans who are going along with this charade, and thereby doing their part to undermine the institutions of our country, are the ones beneath contempt, because – presumably – at least some of them know better. Go watch the video (MSNBC has shown it several times) of Hannity and “Judge” Pirro (sic) and Laura Ingraham and the rest from a mere TWO YEARS AGO about how the Democrats can’t admit they lost, won’t concede, etc.

    Hey, Sean. Your buddy LOST BY FIVE MILLION AND COUNTING. Deal with it. Then go away.

    As for McConnell and Cruz and McCarthy and the rest: I invite you to drop dead.

  5. It isn’t so much that the rest of the GOP doesn’t want an angry, retaliatory Donald Trump, but that a huge chunk of the Republican base adores Donald Trump, as demonstrated by all the people who voted for him, and coming out against Trump is a good way to lose in the next primary to a candidate who supports that love.

  6. Am concerned about the firing of many civilian folks at DoD and replacing with Trump loyalists – looks like precursor to military coup. Need more info if that’s possible.

  7. The fact the vast majority of the GOP is staying silent while Trump doesn’t concede shows they are happy to enable a fascist. The fact they think that GOP controlled legislators in states Trump lost will be able to select electors that will vote for Trump is both insane and a very threat to democratic norms. The GOP is now riddled with delusional fascists and I can’t wait until they are shown the door.

  8. While Trump never has had any concern about what is real or not, there is another advantage to him in faking it besides his history that faking it often works.

    He’s getting lots of donations to pay for his legal challenges, some of which will be used for personal legal challenges, and some which will be used for other personal wants.

  9. I have seen some commentary suggesting the motive of the GOP In “going along with this angry nonsense” is the recount in Georgia – if they alienate Trump supporters there, they’re likely to lose both Senate seats.

    If Trump were merely a poor president and the Republicans a respectable political party (rather than of haven of bigotry, cruelty, and voter suppression), I’d accept that yeah, okay, politics. But when doing so actively undermines trust in our country’s democracy, that’s so far from okay that I don’t have a good word for it.

  10. There are also plans for Trump and family to create their own SuperPAC.

    I’m for it. The more rich GOP donations are going to paying for Trump’s lawsuits and to keep his debtors from breaking his legs, the less rich GOP donations are going toward actually electing anybody.

    And also once that obvious grift comes to light, it’ll put some eyes on the whole SuperPAC scam and maybe we can create legal methods of disarming and dissembling them.

  11. Great column. Republicans who believe that evil forces conspired to deny their leader a second term are delusional.
    Also, I found a typo in the following: “It wants a mob that is open to authoritarianism whever it loses a vote.” I have been copy editing news articles and columns all day and caught the “whever.”

  12. The Lincoln Project is one of the homes of the Never-Trump Republicans. And while they are sort of going after the GOP, they still consider themselves part of it. Over at The Bulwark they’re in burn it all down mode with respect to the GOP. Both groups are becoming Very Concerned about the Debt now that the Trumpenfuhrer is out.

    On the “Marketplace Make Me Smart” podcast one of the correspondents noted that Democrats have a major problem with white voters that they need to solve if they ever want to get a stable Senate majority.

    What the US needs, desperately, is ranked choice balloting in all elections, and redistricting reform. I don’t see how we get there, but we really need it.

    Watching the GOP work to convince its voters that the election was a fraud, while simultaneously trying to convince those voters to turn out for the Georgia election that somehow, miraculously, won’t be a fraud, is amusing.

  13. Chris S, I’m gonna go out on a (very short) limb and suppose that you have no real contact with soldiers. Don’t feel bad, because 75-80% of the US has no real contact with soldiers (and no, “Grandpa served in Vietnam” is not the kind of contact I’m talking about…interacting with soldiers, when they’re soldiers, in units).

    John is EXACTLY right, more with this part, “…the seriousness with which our military takes its oath…” than even the first part of that statement regarding the contempt. Soldiers are used to getting crapped on, although usually its “say one thing and do another” than actually expressed contempt. There’s a reason BOHICA is an acronym. In any case, the services, as services, are not a much risk of participating in a coup.

    When Civvies talk like that, service people and vets hear the equivalent of a white person telling a Black person what being a Black person is like. Ummm…don’t do it.

  14. Chris S
    November 12, 2020, 12:03 pm
    Am concerned about the firing of many civilian folks at DoD and replacing with Trump loyalists – looks like precursor to military coup. Need more info if that’s possible.

    A coup is unlikely. It’s treason, punishable by death. Even for the lowest soldier. “Just following orders” is still a crime.

    For the gop to start CW 2.0 seems … impossible.
    They have things that they don’t want to lose.

    But what about the militias?
    IF enough of them mobilized, trump might support them. But, they can’t even plan a kidnapping and assassination without getting caught. My guess is that the fbi would stop this crap before it got started.

  15. I have gone over to some of the Twitter accounts and “blogs” of the various anti-Scalzi’s (which John has previously referred to as the “racist, homophobic dipshits” and who need no further ID or press here) on the web and must say, that is just some strange head-space to be living in. The denial of reality is both delicious and horrifying.

  16. My current favorite evidence against systemic fraud comes from Trevor Noah:
    “You’re telling me that the crafty Democrats have used their satanic powers to steal the election, but for some reason they didn’t steal the Senate? Because what? They were using a free version of satanic powers, and taking the Senate is a premium feature?”

  17. They are too afraid of Trumps base and have lost all spine. I live in a stare where Jeff Sessions lost his primary because he was too ethical and got on Trumps bad side. His opponents platform was to be Trump’s puppet.

    A world where Jeff Sessions of all people loses for being too ethical, a low bar if there ever was one.

    They are afraid of Trump opposing them and have no personal ethics. (With a few minor exceptions).

  18. The malignant orange pustule will immediately announce a run for 2024 so he can keep the grift going and provide employment for his kids’ consorts. I agree, he will spend the rest of his days in court, but will never see the inside of a jailhouse, unfortunately – he’ll pay fines for bank fraud and tax fraud, you’ll always have a Trumpalo on a jury who will hold out as he is being “persecuted”
    The GOP has revealed itself (for those who weren’t paying attention) as the sham that it is, merely an oiligarch’s lobbying tool for lower taxes, with the opium of anti-abortion and religious nutjob judges for the evangelical wing.
    Sad thing is the Dems will lose heavily in the mid terms as McConnell will obstruct everything, no judges appointed, probably no cabinet, so then the GOP will scream “do nothing Democrats” and the US public, with the attention span of a stunned gnat, will vote them back into control of the House.

    Hopefully we’ll have retired outside the US by the time the next Presidential election roles around, can’t see Biden getting re-elected and if it’s Kamala by then, no way on earth will the US public vote for a BIPOC woman as president.

  19. Doug Clark: Please don’t be offended, because I don’t disagree with a word you’ve said, but I do suspect that you are kind of maybe missing the point of people like Chris S being concerned? As you say, the problem is that we don’t know soldiers. Those who don’t have much contact with serving military really do need more information. You are providing that information, and I thank you for it; it was reassuring, and I appreciate the reassurance. As it happens, I do have recently-serving military in my family, so I don’t need much reassurance–I’ve been trying to reassure friends myself, as best I can. But knowing the occasional honorable individual isn’t enough reassurance for a lot of people. Maybe it should be, but–as I think you are at least implying, with your paragraph about “contact”–it just isn’t. So being told, by someone who has more experience than I do (as you evidently do) that I’m not being naive and that the U.S. military is as honorable and intelligent overall as I believe it to be, and that it won’t agree to destroy the Constitution even if commanded to do so by some of the fools or criminals we currently have in office–that’s helpful. It is, frankly, a Good Thing to hear. Repeatedly. Especially since the firing of civilian leadership at the Pentagon IS disturbing, for several reasons, and I wouldn’t trust Trump and his minions not to at least TRY to contrive such destruction.

  20. “Not because it’s conservative — there will always be conservatives, and if we must have political parties, then conservatives should have one no less than anyone else.”

    True, though at this point I really wonder what conservatism even means. Like, what does a “principled conservative” even believe right now? It seems like even the unicorn-like “good” Republican is mostly a “I preferred it when we said the quiet parts quiet” person.

  21. Harsh and spot-on, as it should be.

    I think this will bring about the fracturing of the GOP into separate parties. There is no room in the GOP as it exists now for both Trump supporters and those who believe in what the party used to stand for, and Trump & Co. have stained and strained it beyond repair. As Lindsey Graham said 5 years ago, “If we nominate Trump, he will destroy us, and we will deserve it.”

    So, let Don Jr & Ivanka have the GOP, and let any decent-minded Republican who has been appalled by Trumpism and claims to believe in family values, fiscal conservatism, personal responsibility, and integrity, splinter off in a new party. Kind of like the Tea Party movement, but actually well-intentioned and less bonkers.

  22. What is the rationale for Trump’s DoD moves? It looks as if he is positioning himself for a military coup. We can joke about “only following orders,” but that was an acceptable defense against accusations of torture in the Bush administration. I doubt that the military would overthrow the government here, but that is based on my hope and belief that most military people are loyal and patriotic Americans. On the other hand, militias have found a fertile recruiting ground there.

    Assuming that we have a peaceful transition to a Biden presidency, I do NOT want to look forward. I want to make an example of everyone who tried to destroy my country, beginning with Trump and working down until the last of the rot has been excised.

  23. I don’t think the military would ever go along with a coup, but that doesn’t mean Trump isn’t trying to position people in order to try. More than likely all of the Pentagon shuffling is for other reasons. Maybe Trump wants to take military action against Iran before the end of his term, or he wishes to please Putin by withdrawing US forces from key strategic locations around the world.

  24. I find it somewhat dismaying that a Larouche page is the second Google hit for this query.
    Where is our Smedley Butler?

    Business Plot – Wikipedia
    The Business Plot (aka The White House Putsch) was an alleged political conspiracy in 1933 in the United States. Retired Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler asserted that wealthy businessmen were plotting to create a fascist veterans’ organization with Butler as its leader and use it in a coup d’état to overthrow President Franklin D. Roosevelt.In 1934, Butler testified before the …

    The Morgan Fascist Coup Plot and How FDR Defeated It
    This article appears in the August 11, 2006 issue of Executive Intelligence Review. The Morgan Fascist Coup Plot and How FDR Defeated It. by L. Wolfe. Introduction. Some 12 years ago, this news service published a report on the 1930s fascist coup plot against the Franklin D. Roosevelt government, led by a Morgan-centered cabal of powerful financial interests; the coup would have replaced FDR …

  25. @Susan Mind, being spotted every possible advantage and still screwing up beyond recognition is how he’s lived his entire life.

    His casino went bankrupt, for Ghu’s sake. People would have sworn up and down that that wasn’t actually possible.

  26. What is the rationale for Trump’s DoD moves?

    He thinks the military is slow-rolling him on getting the troops out of Afghanistan, and wants loyalists to speed things up seems to be the non-coup interpretation.

  27. I’d reconsider the “Morgan Facist Coup Plot” link above as it comes from Lyndon LaRouche, the Qanon of the Left.

  28. Thanks, sir, for a fine summing-up.

    One of the things that still gives me cold chills is the statement along the lines of “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by” that was apparently made in a debate. I do know career military folks (have some in my family, in fact) and I’m not concerned about the professionals, but the amateurs worry me. I live in the middle of a large and very blue bubble, but there are a lot of folks I care about who live in what I would describe as riskier parts of the country to be if one is not a trumpist.

  29. A couple of random points:

    1) The recounts are an even longer shot than you indicate because Trump has to win at least 2 and possibly 3 to change the outcome of the election. If winning one is a thousand to one shot, winning two is a million to one shot. It gets worse from there.

    2) One funny thing about the lawsuits is that the one that is outstanding that the R’s might actually win is the one to prevent votes in Pa. that were mailed before 11/3 but arrived after from being counted. Trump is behind in Pa. before counting those votes, so at this point it would actually be in his interest to count them if it weren’t for the fact that there aren’t enough to put him over the top even if they were 100% Trump.

    So, yeah, not going to happen. On the other hand my wing nut relatives are now discussing leaving Facebook for Parler because they feel FB has been too harsh about labeling their conspiracy theories about the election as the BS they are. My feeling is “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.” (Although I’m not going to say that to them.)

  30. The other non-coup interpretation for the DOD maneuvers is that there will be sudden new large arms sales agreements between now and the inauguration. These sales will be to countries run by autocrats, and President Superspreader will receive a kickback from the purchasers. The new appointees are to positions that could block the sales.

    I think this is more likely than a military-backed coup.

  31. “….The idea that the Republican legislatures in the “contested” states will rebel and name their own electors is a pipe dream, you decide which kind of pipe …”

    Crack pipe. Having so much control over so much of the federal and many state governments for so very very very long, just as it led the South to the War of the Rebellion, has done the same with the rethugs who have had it and had it and had it since Reagan, pretty much.

  32. The GOP support for Trump’s non-concession is all about the Georgia runoffs. The Trumpers need to be kept engaged to hold those seats for the GOP. Abandoning Trump now means those voters will more likely not show up to vote. I know this is cynical and destructive, but I think this explains the current situation.

  33. Mary Frances. It’s because I’ve worn myself ragged for almost a week. And no matter how much context I supply, It’s, “But…but…but…”

    At some point I have to conclude that they’re listening in bad faith, or the gap is insurmountable and I’m just TIRED of trying to get people determined to freak out, to listen. At some point, it’s not MY job as a former soldier to try, yet again, to get through, but on the listener to actually hear it.

  34. Also, Black people trying to explain things to white people? I get it now, I really, REALLY do…

  35. Thanks, as usual, for expressing what I suspect many of us have been thinking (and more) much so eloquently. I still say that if I were reading a novel, and Trump (and McConnell, Graham, and their ilk) were fictional characters, I would get annoyed at the author for creating such two dimensional villains. Reality is strange.

  36. I am a combat veteran, the granddaughter of a combat veteran, the daughter of a combat veteran, and the mother of a combat veteran. The chance our military supports a coup is vanishingly small. One of the reasons is that there is no way ALL the brass would go along. And ALL the brass knows that anyone going along will result in service members being in the position of taking action against their fellow service members. Nobody wants that scenario, except maybe the orange menace. Also, everyone in the military gets training and refreshers about what constitutes an illegal order and the consequences for following one. I think all the shuffling at DOD is about revenge and grift.

  37. Hyman Rosen: “It isn’t so much that the rest of the GOP doesn’t want an angry, retaliatory Donald Trump, but that a huge chunk of the Republican base adores Donald Trump, as demonstrated by all the people who voted for him, and coming out against Trump is a good way to lose in the next primary to a candidate who supports that love.”

    You’re essentially saying the same thing in a slightly different way. They don’t want an angry, retaliatory Trump BECAUSE a huge chunk of the base adores him and if he gets angry and retaliatory, he will do his best to ensure that the base votes against the Republicans with whom he is angry.

  38. @Ken “What is the rationale for Trump’s DoD moves? It looks as if he is positioning himself for a military coup”

    What, exactly, do you think a “military coup” is? And how do you think putting temporary loyalists into the DoD is going to achieve one? How, exactly, are a bunch of acting appointees (who will be gone in January) supposed to convince the heads of the various branches of the militaries and all the soldiers, sailors, marines, and so forth under them to follow illegal orders to attack the White House and Congress and remove Joe Biden and duly elected Dems by military force?

    All of these people are gone come Jan 20th, 2021, anyway.

    Most likely what Trump is doing is venting his spleen, like he always does, firing people who he feels aren’t “loyal” to him. The idea that Trump has to have a rationale for anything belies the last 4 years of his presidency (and indeed the last 60 years of his life). Trump is angry and lashing out. He is going to try in the next 70 some-odd-days to throw a big monkey wrench into Biden’s administration (just as he is by denying him briefings and access to the State Department and offices). He might try to order troop movements – he keeps claiming that he’ll have all our troops out of Afghanistan by Christmas – and I’d be 100% willing to bet that those in charge in the field are going to do whatever they can to stall and regroup and shuffle things around so that nothing big will happen before Biden is sworn in.

    The other thing that is being floated is that undermining the DoD and intelligence agencies puts Biden off on the wrong foot at the start of his presidency and could make us more vulnerable to terrorist attacks, especially during the early part of his term. I have no doubt that Trump doesn’t give a flying damn about the US and would be more than happy to see a terrorist attack and the resulting economic downturn on Biden’s watch. It would give him fodder for his late night tweeting and gloating about how it didn’t happen when HE was POTUS.

    But a military coup? Nah. That’s just not realistic

  39. Scalzi sums it up with typical profane aplomb. (I still giggle when I recall “festering shitweasel.”)

    But … What do we do? It’s easy to say and probably true that 1/2 the country seems to live in a reality separate from the one we (I’d guess most readers of this blog) do, and that their craziness is abetted by well-funded crazy and/or greedily cynical leaders and mouthpieces — the malign losers. I personally would send them for “re-education” at all of those FEMA “facilities,” but I realize that’s probably not a winning solution.

    Rational argument doesn’t work. Lying and rabble-rousing is what the other side does. How can we craft message and policy that offers a bridge back to reason, thoughtfulness and responsibility? I’m not optimistic. Most nations have to learn these lessons the hard way, but we’ve proven a hard teacher like the pandemic can still be ignored. Will our lessons have to be very, very hard?

  40. @azlib–If the Georgia GOP wants to turn out voters, I would think that they would try saying, “Look, both the House and the White House have gone blue. If you want to stop the nasty libs, we have to keep the Senate red.”

  41. @Kara – these “people” aren’t gone on Jan 21 from the intelligence positions, Dump is forcing them into civil service positions which can’t be summarily fired. Though I suspect that they willbe asked to resign and if not, reposted to the DC branch of the Bureau of Cherry Blossom county.

  42. Hmmm. I’m another veteran. I have been concerned about the orders Trump might give our military from the outset. I’ve discussed the training we receive about our responsibility to follow lawful orders. It’s a crime in the military to refuse a lawful order, so the penalty is more severe than civilians understand. However, it is *also* a crime to follow an unlawful order. Our training makes it abundantly clear that “I was following orders” is not a defense if by a reasonable person standard you knew or should have known the order was not lawful.

    I’m not sure what our military would do other than I’m pretty certain they would not all fall in line and follow such an order. The problem, though, is less than the specific outcome if such an order is given and more with the order itself. Because there are no good outcomes in that scenario.

    The first possibility and the most unlikely is that the military broadly supports the dictator and keeps him in power. I don’t see that happening and never have.

    A scary possibility is that a significant portion follow the dictator triggering a full civil war. I hope that won’t happen and I think it’s less likely after such a decisive election.

    But the third possibility is still not a good one. Trump could order such an action. The military could refuse it as unlawful pretty throughout its officer corps, especially at the general officer level. That’s not good. Even if the military does nothing but effectively take control of the country away from the President until the newly elected one is installed, recognize that if forced to reject the orders of their commander-in-chief, that *is* what will have happened. And that is an extremely dangerous state for any nation.

    As others have mentioned, I think the changes are more likely about grift and corruption. I think they are supposed to facilitate sales of weapons, state secrets, and who knows what else. Pretty much anything is on the table. These people care nothing for our country. But the prospect of the orders Trump might still give the military remain a troubling prospect.

    And, of course, he could start a war or launch nuclear weapons at any point on his sole discretion. We need legislation to fix that moving forward, but it’s definitely an issue we face right now.

  43. The GOP has a long history of shitting on its losers. You don’t get a second chance. But Trump is a unicorn. As long as he maintains his grip on his base, he is at least a kingmaker in the Republican party, if not a candidate.

    I’ve been arguing for a while now that the Republican Party is beyond redemption. Not because they are conservative, but because their behavior since 2000 calls into serious question the moral judgments of the party’s leaders, and these moral judgements are now so ingrained that I see no hope they’ll ever be abandoned. Perhaps in a different media universe they would have already paid a price for this, but in a conservative media universe dominated by Fox News, talk radio, and the Wall Street Journal editorial page they can get away with almost anything. Most Republican voters probably don’t even know their party has sunk to this level.

    For that reason, GOP delenda est.

  44. Doug Clark: It’s because I’ve worn myself ragged for almost a week. And no matter how much context I supply, It’s, “But…but…but…”

    You have my complete and profound sympathy. I’ve been able to keep my focus on the repeated questions as a sign of just how deep people’s fears are, and how undermined their trust in, well, EVERYTHING has been by Trump–but that doesn’t make it less irritating. Does it help to get a bit of back-up from this thread? (And not just from me, I think, as I read through the rest of the comments; you certainly aren’t the only one saying that “Nah, that won’t work; a military coup isn’t realistic.”) I hope it does, a little at least.

  45. Re: DoD purge and troop withdrawal. It sounds completely plausible that he wants to pull troops out over the objections of any competent people at the Pentagon, but this explanation still begs the question. Why would he do that at this point? What’s in it for him?

  46. What’s in it for him? The Russian mafia as an arm of the Kremlin appears to hold many of Trump’s debts that are coming due. The Kremlin and Putin’s oligarchs care less about the money than about power. What can Trump do that benefits their interests and results in his debts being forgiven as a payout?

    That may not be the specific quid pro quo involved in whatever he’s planning, but it’s the sort of thing everyone needs to consider. Trump cares about Trump. He cares about nothing else. He certainly could care less about this country. He thinks even his own cult followers are losers.

  47. “The other non-coup interpretation for the DOD maneuvers is that there will be sudden new large arms sales agreements between now and the inauguration.”

    Nope, can’t happen. As someone who’s worked with the ITAR the process for arms sales in either a direct sale or FMS case is so lengthy and involved that there’s no way Trump could legally make such agreements in the time remaining.

    Re a military coup in support of Trump (or following the direction of his political appointees to take to the streets to defend his continued occupancy of the White House): Of all the things to worry about this isn’t one. All military, both officers and enlisted, have the concept that their loyalty is to the Constitution and not the current occupant of the Oval Office beat into their heads from their first day in the service.

    I was a senior cadet at the USAF Academy in the summer of 1974, leading new cadets through their summer Basic Cadet Training in a field encampment a half-dozen miles from the Cadet Area (classrooms, dorms, the famous chapel, dining hall, admin building, etc), living in tents. Late one afternoon we were directed to throw over the scheduled training program, get everyone fed as soon as possible, and form up the thousand plus basics for a forced march back to the Cadet Area. We had no idea what was going on, but as good minions made it all happen. Three hours later after a rushed meal and march we all filed into the theater, the only room big enough for all of us to fit in. All the cadets back in the Cadet Area in other summer training programs were already present and waiting on us. We were all called to attention and told by the ranking general at the Academy to pay close attention to the video we were about to watch.

    This was August 8, 1974. The video we watched was a tape of Nixon’s TV appearance earlier in the day where he announced his resignation.

    After the very short video we formed everyone back up and marched them in the gathering dark the half-dozen miles back to the field encampment. The message was clear–our loyalty wasn’t to the current occupant of the Oval Office, it was to the Constitution.

  48. It’s sad (Sad!) and almost a little funny that Trump is claiming that he was robbed and that there was rampant election fraud and so on and so forth, and that this is supposedly the only reason he lost, when here in actual reality, the fact of the matter is that Trump decisively lost despite all the short- and long-term malfeasance that has occurred, perpetrated by him, by his Congressional supporters, by whatever other domestic and foreign third parties one may care to name, among others, on his behalf, all designed to help steal the election for him. But then, as has been observed many times over the past four-plus years, pretty much any cheat or crime that Trump accuses others of committing is one which he, himself, is sooner or later shown to be guilty of doing.

  49. What is the rationale for Trump’s DoD moves?

    Moving the remaining troops out of Afghanistan is a process that does not necessarily fit within a window that closes 20 January. Given that the new “acting” civilian heads of the DOD make this a “priority”, January 21st leaves (then) President Biden in an interesting position:

    Given that the withdrawal is stopped or slowed down – Trump has the opportunity to trumpet that blood of any casualty is now on Biden’s hands as “I would have had all those beautiful people out of harm’s way by now”.

    Stopping or potentially reversing the order to any degree gives Trump the opportunity to assert that he was bringing an end to the Endless War and that the Democrats are prolonging it – or trying to start a new one.

    This provides Trump a drum he can beat each time he appears as a commentator on TV, radio, podcasts or at his “Trump 2024” rallies (tickets at a reasonable price still available online!) – all while “building a war chest” which is then used to interesting ends and means .

  50. Mary Frances Actually It does. It helps a lot to know I’m not the only one saying these things to people who seem unready to hear it. Can I invite you all to some Facebook threads? (j/k That’s too hazardous…IEDs are easier to face).

  51. My mom brought up an interesting question this weekend. If Trump is convicted of a crime and sent to jail, how do the secret service deal with protecting him?

  52. @Steve ish
    Why do people keep trying to bothsides what Hillary said? It is blindingly obvious in context that she specifically meant that Biden shouldn’t concede too soon, given that we knew there was likely to be a red mirage while mail ballots were still being counted. Literally no one in the Democratic Party has said that Trump could only be elected if there was cheating or that Biden should never concede the election.

  53. The scariest part is he is just enraging his base who have many guns that these conspiracy theories are correct……and the GOP sits by and watches…..these people aren’t going to sit idly by.

  54. I still won’t feel completely at ease, despite knowing that Biden has won and Trump is a loser, until I see Biden being sworn in in January. I know it is irrational, but after the last few years the brainworm of fear is not easily so defeated by mere facts and actual truth. I suspect I will not be alone in letting out a long held breath on that day either.

    I do still wonder about a last minute “diplomatic” flight to Russia, or, worse, Trump deciding to take the fragile white man’s act of last resort and go all murder-suicide on us all with the nukes. There are far too few safeguards on that, always have been, for my liking. I can all too easily picture him speaking to his old buddy Vlad on the phone and demanding sanctuary or he unleashes the nukes. It is his way. I’d actually be happy to see Trump give a press conference from Moscow saying he was setting up some fantasy government in exile, that would be a constant thorn in the Republican side for years [or months, anyway, even days would do] until he was slipped the old polonium smoothie.

  55. Trump can squirm on the end of the hook until the states finish certifying the election results. After that Congress and the senate have to act so that the electoral college can vote. Up until then the race is only called by the media.

    Normal people can see the writing on the wall and will bow out gracefully. The Orange thing has no grace, even if the narcissism bath his brain is floating in can even see the truth of anything, to bow out. He will be forced out and it will be ugly. It will probably be an everlasting shit stain on our history.

    He will be forced out just to get the government back to work. Do not count out another government shutdown, he did it once just to get money for the wall, he will do it again just for spite.

    The DOD thing is just spite.Esper told the Dump that he would not invoke the Insurrection Act. That marked his days. Some of the others stated their displeasure at Esper being fired, they were fired before they could quit. It will not have a lasting effect, unless Putin thinks he can press some issue.

  56. I’m with Susan. Biden did not win the election fair and square; and Trump did not lose it fair and square. Biden won with the deck stacked against him. Not just the systemic disadvantage democrats have (an electoral college tilted towards small rural states), but a political party and administration who worked overtime to suppress the vote (voting roll purges, the whole mess in Florida with ex-felon franchise), to make voting difficult (USPS slowdowns; one collection box per county in Texas, including counties that are huge geographically or huge in population), to the administration blatantly violating the Hatch Act and using government resources to push for re-election explicitly and overtly.

    Having all of those advantages, breaking all those laws, and still Trump couldn’t hold on. It wasn’t fair. And it wasn’t square. But it was definitive.

  57. I happen to think that the DOD and now Cybersecurity moves are a matter of stealing information, which could be used to pay off his loans, and a matter of trying to bury evidence of wrong doing.

    And we’ll find out a LOT about those attempts because a) it is very, very hard to destroy information in the government, and b) these are clowns, who can only dream of being merely incompetent.

  58. Thanks John! As always, “Follow the money.” for as long as they can, GOP and DJT will raise, pay crony lawyers, build up a war chest for civil and potential criminal cases to come. State of NY prosecutors care not much about what the Feds say, at least till it gets high up in any appeals process. Russian powers both civil & criminal (plus maybe some in the Middle East) have $ skin in the game, too. Some Dem operators will even profit, politically & professionally, if not financially. So, …one more roller coaster ride, then the park closes & we clean up to get ready for next year (& next 4-8).

  59. Today I saw this shoggoth coup described as “the Fyre Festival of coups.”

    There is nothing he doesn’t turn into failure. Next will be his own broadcast network to be financed by the donations to his PAC for 2024.

  60. Well like many commenters here, I think the idea that the changes at DOD have little to do with a coup attempt (highly unlikely to happen) and more to do with
    1. Removing people who have been blocking his policy decisions in the most petty and vindictive way possible.
    2. Putting people in who will follow his policy decisions
    3. Corruption/money.
    While I think Trump has been a terrible president and his foreign and domestic policies have been dumpster fire level but when anyone has started calling him the worst president in history I point out that up until the Covid crisis where his mismanagement has clearly resulted 100k+ excessive deaths in the US, he has been relatively restrained in actually getting the US military involved overseas (his rhetoric and soft power decisions are another discussion) . We only need to look back 20 years to see what happens when you invade countries in the middle east. While the excess deaths of the Bush era policies have been largely confined to the native populations of those country’s, they are still dead or displaced based on Bush’s poor policy decisions.
    With respect to money/corruption, I agree with an earlier commenter that I don’t think this is about getting new money/contracts done before he leaves office in January but it is completely possible that this is about hiding/cleaning up shady things that have already happened. It’s been 10yrs since I was a civilian DOD contractor but I have seen no signs that a serious effort has been made to revise the classification process to avoid it’s use to hide graft/fraud and general incompetency. Once again look back to Bush to get an estimate of just how much fraud can be generated out of the DOD.

  61. I don’t know what else the GOP has at this point. They haven’t had fiscal responsibility for a long time (Reagan, W and Trump have put paid to that), they don’t have personal dignity or decency, they don’t have pro-life (they have anti-abortion, but when you’re willing to let lots of people die for your convenience, I’m not sure that “pro-life” is accurate, if it ever was), they don’t have justice or freedom (other than for white, wealthy guys), and they don’t have logical or moral consistency. They can’t be conservative in the sense of supporting institutions because they aren’t getting what they want from them.

    All the GOP has is guns, anger, and power (and they’ll probably be disappointed to find out other people have guns, too if they try to use theirs). They double down on the last two because they have nothing else without them. If their members are decent, they probably couldn’t be Republicans. But these matter less than they should because they have lots of people, from whence their anger and power come. And I don’t know if it’s possible for them to change, and there are too many to ignore or to wall off like cells in a tubercle.

  62. The GOP might not HAVE fiscal responsibility et al….unfortunately the press and half the country THINK they do.

  63. I have low expectations now, resulting in less surprise. As I see it, except for the politicians and the secret elite, the vast mass of card carrying GOP members are regular Americans—just like the Americans who surprised the world by electing Bush for a second term. Regular human nature, on this side of the pond, is pretty prevalent.

  64. @Paul Wiley: Yeah, but they’re also going to have to redefine a lot of those things. “Family values” has come to mean naked bigotry against anything but heterosexual, married, monogamy without birth control. “Fiscal conservatism” has come to mean “fuck the poor, but spend wildly on military tech and militarized police tech.” “Personal responsibility”…pretty much likewise re: “fuck the poor.”

    I think a functional GOP would look a lot more like the centrist wing of the Democrats–more OK with police, prisons and war in theory than a lot of leftists, willing to phase out fossil fuels rather than stopping their use or extraction suddenly, budget-conscious but not the RARGLEBLAH TAXATION IS SLAVERY WORK IS A MORAL VALUE deal that the Tea Party etc have going on.

    I don’t know that I’d ever vote for that if the alternative was more leftward, but I could see respectfully disagreeing with people in it.

    I don’t think there’s any way to rehabilitate “family values” or “personal responsibility” as phrases or core values, though. Better to rebrand as the party of pragmatic math wonks or similar.

  65. John,

    The transformation of the Republican party into a non-democratic one is incomplete. (That means things are going to get worse.)

    Currently, Republicans can be divided into three groups:

    (1) Those committed to democracy. This ranges from Mitt Romney, to the leadership of the Pennsylvania Legislature, to W, to (slightly belatedly) your own Governor. It is clear that large parts of the Republican party still believe that elections matter and should be respected. However, outside of Utah, this group seems to consist primarily of figures out of the past of the Republican Party, who would lose Republican primaries. (No one imagines Jeb Bush or Mike DeWine as a future Republican Presidential candidate).

    (2) Those who are ready to toss democracy now. See for example, the Governor of Georgia, the Senators from Georgia and at least several Republican members of Congress from Georgia. Also, a few legislators in Pennsylvania, Sen. Graham, the Governor of West Virginia… I could go on and the list would not be short.

    (3) Finally, there is a very large portion of the Republican Party whose commitment to democracy is unclear. Most high level Republican elected officials are in this category. They have not overtly disputed the legitimacy of the election, but have not yet acknowledged the results either. Senator McConnell is in some sense the leader of this group as he is of the institutional Republican Party.
    [Senator McConnell, to his credit, shot down suggestions by the losing Republican candidate for Governor of Kentucky last year and some Republican legislators to invalidate the Kentucky gubernatorial election in 2019. But he has been notably silent this year as Trump has attacked the election. (Would he support the Presidential election being overturned if it seemed doable? The honest answer is no one knows, but I would not want to bet a large sum of money or the future of America that he wouldn’t.)]

    And in thinking about Republicans whose commitment to democracy is unclear, it is important to note that Fox News has accurately reported the results of the election and not been too indulgent of conspiracy theories about it and baseless attacks against it. If Fox had taken a different view how would the vast middle of the Republican Party have reacted? It is a problem (to put it mildly) if our democracy depends on the views of an 80 year old Australian media magnate.

    When we next have this conversation four or eight or twelve years from now, (perhaps when the Democratic candidate is not a straight white male former Vice President with 50 years on the national stage), more Republicans are likely to not be committed to democracy and the Republican voices acknowledging the legitimacy of a democratic election regardless of result will be far fainter.

    Ultimately, if one of the major political parties, in a two party system, does not, over the long term, accept democracy as legitimate, that democracy will die. I have no idea what to do about this, but we should acknowledge that we are staring at a process which if it continues (and it likely will) will end American democracy, as flawed as it is.

  66. …you have some injury of the brain which does not allow you to process information in a reliable manner, or you simply choose to live in a fantasy world for your own…

    I submit that rather than brain injury, what’s going on to prevent reality-testing is having a set of views and opinions that make some things invisible, and that adopting such views and opinions is not always completely a free choice.

    There is no scenario that exists in which the GOP’s “brain trust” — I use that phrase advisedly — believe that there is a path to Donald Trump winning a second term in the White House… They are going along with this nonsense because, bluntly, they don’t want an angry retaliatory Donald Trump, and at this point that’s more important to them than any damage they’re doing to the country or its institutions.

    They don’t think Trump didn’t lose, and they don’t think his attempt at a coup attempt will succeed even at being an attempt, but they would be fine with being wrong about that. They are going along because it doesn’t cost them anything and it might even work, in which case they can look forward to Republican rule forever. It’s not that they don’t want an angry retaliatory Trump so much as they like the idea that he might pull it off, as long as they don’t get fail stink on them when it doesn’t.

  67. People should stop freaking out about the DoD shakeup. One of the benefits of having a professional military is that it is led by a professional officer class that knows their role. The new Assistant Deputy for Procurement Policy can’t issue orders to the Joint Chiefs, and the Joint Chiefs have been pretty consistent on their “We don’t do elections” stance in any case.

    General Milley should get a medal for putting up with what he has had to put up with.

  68. @Wade
    They’re not doing it because they think Trump will prevail or even because they particularly want another Trump term. They’re doing it because it benefits the GOP more generally to have an enraged, “activated” base that’s convinced that they are true patriots who have been victimized by scheming libs. It’s the political strategy they’ve been using for decades, and Trump just took it to its logical conclusion.

  69. Enjoyed your recent analysis, but there are other factors. Yes, the Prez did not tally enough votes, but votes don’t count with his followers. The lasting legacy of this prez is the doubt that has been cast on the integrity of the institution of the federal government and the media which collude to alienate the “real Americans.”. It’s another trufan disagreement, basically.

    There will be more trump, possibly literally. In your analysis you blame whites but there were large numbers of non-white votes too. Jobs trump even trump. No matter how odious, he is a useful lever for the marginalized. Cause he don’t care. He just smash it all up.

    He is useful to the good because a two-party system works for our nation. They will let the fool lead, and deny, deny, deny, all the way to Electoral majorities. Look how hard it was to beat the fellow, and it almost didn’t work.

  70. In the final para of my earlier message, for “good” please read “gop.” I don’t usually bother with corrections because: who cares? But I guess this time I care. Dumb smart phone; negligent typist.

    Why Trump? The civil war, the new deal, the Viet nam war and roe v wade. Elephants never forget. We’ll be riven over race, abortion, taxes and patriotism until the nation ceases to be because some people refuse to lose, gracefully or otherwise.

    Trump is of a piece with the gop.

  71. I sent this post to everyone I care about. I read it aloud to my mother who immediately asked me if she could borrow some of your books from me. You cut right through all the fog and all the panic-induced, lost-in-incredulity sputtering that have been all I’ve been able to manage the last few weeks. Thank you for posting this.

  72. Marshall Ryan Maresca: Corey Robin describes conservatism as “… the felt experience of having power, seeing it threatened, and trying to win it back.” In short: Defend your status and the hierarchy that sustains it.

  73. For me, the telling line in this post is “if we must have political parties”…because my own take on the current state of affairs is that *both* parties are equally invested in the current structural gridlock in DC. I think the single most likely method for enabling long-term reform in national politics is to disenfranchise both major parties simultaneously.

    Which may sound improbably difficult, but I think it’s actually doable, with the right combination of tactics. There are just two necessary steps: (1) Eliminate party affiliation from every government voter registration record in the US, and (2) fully enforce all the usual obligations of nonprofit membership organizations, including maintenance of membership records and compliance with tax codes, on any and all political party organizations.

    The first of these is easily justified. As a matter of principle, I see no good reason (and several bad reasons) for government to keep records of voters’ political affiliations in the first place. And as a matter of logic, if a political party is a membership organization, it should be that party’s job and NOT the government’s to maintain an accurate and up-to-date record of its membership. Foisting that job off on state and local governments is an inappropriate delegation of duty and puts an undue burden on taxpayers. (Also, not coincidentally, the single most significant use of that party affiliation data is to draw boundaries for legislative and Congressional districts – get rid of it, and nobody can gerrymander anymore.)

    The thing is, once one has nuked voter party affiliation data (and it must be destroyed, not passed to the party organizations, since it’s the government’s data and not theirs), what becomes apparent is that both so-called “major” parties are really pretty small organizations, at least in terms of “members” who actually participate in the activities and affairs of the organization. That in itself should drastically reduce their influence, but a further consequence should be that political parties should be subjected to any and all of the disclosure and other regulations enforced against any other “special interest” lobbying entity. And once you’ve gone that far, it seems reasonable to adjudge – by civil suit, if need be – that the infrastructure whereby the parties have taken over the manner in which Congress does business is entirely extra-Constitutional and thereby invalid on its face.

    That approach is the one way I see of really getting past today’s political gridlock. Politics done properly should not be an adversarial process; rather, governance and policy-making works best in an atmosphere of collegial thoughtfulness and honest negotiation – and *both* parties, irrespective of whose policies one agrees with, are now too invested in the adversarial infrastructure to govern effectively for all of us.

  74. isabelcooper, the GOP is still the party of “family values.” Under Trump, it’s Manson family values.

  75. John Bunnell, I disagree with your proposition to abolish political parties. For good or for ill, political parties are a necessary, proper and inevitable part of democracy. Both politicians and electorates tend to have shared interests, and partie makes organizing and negotiating these interests both efficient and effective.

    We have examples of democratic and non-democratic republics that show what governance looks like without political parties. Politics centered around a personality tends to look like the caudillismo in Latin America or something very similar in the Philippines with Duterte. Vladimir Putin (and copied by Orban in Hungary and the Polish Law and Justice Party) may have ushered in a distinctly 21st century version of politics that could be best described as postmodern. It’s not so much an ideology or a vision of the economy and/or the state; rather, it’s a politics of aesthetics in which nationalism, history, culture and religion serve as devotional totems or sources of public spectacle.

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