It seems as if it has been a thousand years since Republican leaders whispered behind their hands about giving Trump a few days to adjust to the idea of losing. “What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time?” asked one official interviewed by The Washington Post back on November 9. “No one seriously thinks the results will change. He went golfing this weekend. It’s not like he’s plotting how to prevent Joe Biden from taking power on Jan. 20. He’s tweeting about filing some lawsuits, those lawsuits will fail, then he’ll tweet some more about how the election was stolen, and then he’ll leave.”
Ten days later, Rudy Giuliani and the rest of Trump’s crack legal team had expanded their claims to include a vast international conspiracy that moved against Trump in state after state. This conspiracy reached across time, space, and the barrier of death to bring together Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and former Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez in a scheme that includes “Democrat run cities,” secret vote-counting servers in foreign countries, and garbage cans filled with pre-filled Biden ballots. It’s at once patently ridiculous, and outrageously threatening to the continued existence of the United States. And to underscore that, members of Trump’s team—and the official voice of the Republican Party—are openly calling for the overthrow of democracy.
At Thursday’s press conference, the hair dye pouring down Rudy Giuliani’s face may have stolen most of the chuckles, but it was Sidney Powell—first lady of right-wing conspiracy theories—who stepped up to declare that Biden had planned in advance for the election to be stolen using software developed to secure the election of a South American dictator. As utterly nonsensical as Powell’s ideas sounded, and are, she took them on to Fox News where she joined with Lou Dobbs to make it clear she was not only holding a knife to the nation, she was more than prepared to deliver the deathblow. “The entire election, frankly, in all the swing states should be overturned,” said Powell, “and the legislatures should make sure that the electors are selected for Trump.”
What harm can “a little bit of time” do? That’s how long it’s taken to get from “no one seriously thinks the results will change” to Trump’s legal team openly calling for the election results to be overturned, regardless of courts, certifications, or evidence.
As The Washington Post reports, Trump is exerting the full power of his office for no purpose other than to remain in office. This was one of the greatest fears of the founders, and the reason why George Washington walking away from the White House is universally regarded as his most powerful act—because he didn’t have to. Washington set a precedent for peaceful transition and surrendering the office to political opponents, but he didn’t have to. The White House offers tremendous access to both power and information that provides leverage for any occupant. Trump used that power in his attempt to demean Biden and his family before the election. Now he’s using it even more blatantly in his attempt to simply stay, no matter what the voters want.
And Republicans are doing … nothing. Nothing except encouraging him.
It’s not as if this should be a surprise. After all, Trump was caught using that same power of office to extort a foreign government into providing false information he could use in this same election. The House of Representatives rightly impeached him for this act. Republicans in the Senate then decided they didn’t even need to speak to witnesses to give Trump a pass. What’s happening now is a direct result of what happened then: Republicans put Trump above the law, and have shown no sign of attempting to bring him down.
As multiple sources have noted, despite Giuliani and Powell waving around claims of affidavits, they have not submitted their claims of a vast invisible conspiracy that changed votes in Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia, and everywhere else that Trump lost. It’s all but certain they never will. Instead, they will just continue to chum the waters for the 70% of Trump voters who already believe that election fraud is a real thing.
Trump has invited the Republican leaders of Michigan’s House and Senate to join him Friday in Washington. The purpose of that meeting is expressly to discuss the proposal that Powell bellowed about on Dobbs—replacing the electors selected by the voters with a slate guaranteed to vote for Trump, despite his losing the state by 155,000 votes. Why start with Michigan, when that state was not even close? Exactly. If Trump can convince the Republican legislatures of Michigan to join him in a coup, then states with a narrower margin should be a pushover.
Trump’s direct manipulation of the electoral outcome has already been evident in the state, as electoral canvassers got calls directly from the White House telling them to refuse to certify the vote, regardless of the information. This is the very top of the political pyramid, reaching down to the very base, to deliver a literal order from on high to subvert democracy.
Thursday’s press conference, with Giuliani’s hair dye flood and Powell bellowing about someone who secretly met with a dictator who has been dead for almost eight years, was certainly ridiculous. But it doesn’t matter. Because Giuliani might as well have stood before the microphones and said “we don’t care about the evidence, we’re here to steal this thing for Trump.” The effect would be the same. Ridiculous doesn’t always equal frivolous. There’s no evidence for anything Trump’s team is saying, but there’s very much a point.
If Michigan lawmakers come to talk to Trump today, it will be one of the darkest moments in the nation’s history—and no amount of hair dye pouring down or insects dropping in will change that.