Well, I suppose this is progress. Yesterday, when Donald Trump’s top hostage/running mate was asked on “Meet the Press” whether he’s prepared to accept the results of the election, he replied:
We will absolutely accept the results of the election. The American people will speak (and) we’ll accept the will of the American people, you bet….One of the great, great traditions of America is the peaceful transfer of power….We will accept the will of the American people.
Two thoughts: (1) Mike Pence is way out of sync with his boss, who has been busy pre-spinning his imminent loss by dropping dark hints of a conspiracy that’s plotting to deprive him of what he delusionally believes is rightfully his. (2) It’s astounding that a presidential ticket nominee even needs to be asked whether he will accept the vedict of the voters.
But alas this is where we are, 22 days out, as Trump continues to trash our proud democratic traditions, all in the service of salving his seriously damaged psyche.
He’s down 11 points nationally in a new bipartisan poll – “The guy is losing support on his way to November,” says Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who co-conducted the survey – but never mind, Trump says it’s all “rigged.” The “international bankers” are out to get him (the Nazis used the same code), the lying women are out to get him, “the media” is out to get him (the same media that disgracefully greased his ascent with nearly $3 billion worth of free air time), the urban citizens of “certain areas” are out to get him (because if blacks and Hispanics vote heavily, it’s gotta be fraud). Heck, the entire election process is out to get him – even though the election process is run by the states, not the feds, which apparently means that the Republican regimes in Florida and North Carolina are out to get him, too.
(By the way, Trump hath now decreed that “Saturday Night Live” is part of the media rigging. He doesn’t like the way Alec Baldwin is portraying him. Yesterday morning, in a tweet that read as if it were written by Alec Baldwin, the aspiring commander-in-chief addressed an urgent matter of statecraft: “Watched Saturday Night Live hit job on me. Time to retire the boring and unfunny show. Alec Baldwin portrayal stinks. Media rigging election!” Apparently he forgot that media-rigging SNL gave him free air time last November by making him the host.)
But anyway. What’s most hideous is that his un-American “rig” talk is inspiring some of his pitiable followers to flirt with violent sedition.
Check out this concerned citizen in crucial Ohio: “If (Hillary Clinton) is in office, I hope we can start a coup….We’re going to have a revolution and take them out of office if that’s what it takes. There’s going to be a lot of bloodshed. But that’s what it’s going to take….I would do whatever I can for my country.” And check out this guy, another Ohioan: “Trump said to watch (voting) precincts. I’m going to go, for sure….it’s called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can’t speak American. I’m going to go right up behind them. I’ll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I’m not going to do anything illegal. I’m going to make them a little bit nervous.”
It’s nice that Pence spoke up yesterday for the peaceful transfer of power, but he barely rippled the boiling cauldron. Trump’s demagoguery trumps anything Pence says. And in the same NBC News interview, Pence contradicted himself. While claiming that he and Trump would abide by the election results, he still parroted Trumpspeak and said the election is “rigged.” (He somehow failed to mention that Russia’s pro-Trump hacking of our election – which has been confirmed by intelligence agencies – is itself a blatant bid to rig the outcome.)
What’s needed now is a forthright statement from Republican leaders, defending the integrity of our election process and condemning the nominee’s demagoguery as dangerously irresponsible. I tried to write that sentence with a straight face, because I’m well aware that the Republican leaders – fearful of the pitchfork crowd – long ago contrived to have their spines surgically removed.
As Republican strategist Mike Murphy remarked this weekend, “Trump is now attacking our democracy. Any elected Republican who doesn’t condemn this anti-American thug will carry a moral stain forever.”
Over the weekend, Paul Ryan did rouse himself via a spokesman – “Our democracy relies on confidence in election results, and the speaker is fully confident the states will carry out this election with integrity” – but that statement didn’t confront the existential Republican ailment, Trump’s toxic contempt for the democratic system and the rule of law. As for Mitch McConnell, forget it. He has retreated into his turtle shell. John Thune, a GOP senator on the leadership team, insisted one week ago that Trump quit the race; he caved on Tuesday and said he’d vote for Trump.
So what Pence said yesterday is likely the best we will get. The top Republicans, girding in silence for Trump’s impending defeat (and, possibly, their own), sadly bring to mind the opening lines of a famous T. S. Eliot poem:
We are the hollow men / We are the stuffed men / Leaning together / Headpiece filled with straw.
By the way, electoral violence is wrong, no matter who is doing it to whom.