This Time Will Be Different

When Donald Trump and his enablers falsely bray election fraud, they are speaking to their own dark plans.

A Biden-Harris 2020 sign seen in Webster Groves, Mo. (Photo by author.)

The fraud Donald Trump speaks of is his own.


That is invariably the case for this lifelong conman. Beyond dividing people and appealing to the worst in their natures, perpetrating fraud is a key performance indicator for all con artists. In fact, “Committing Fraud Daily” could very well be the motto of the so-called Trump Organization.

Trump is playing from the 2000 “Stop-the-Recount-in-Florida” playbook, which, apparently, he felt made America great again. Certainly, the Republican bully boys who staged their riot to shut down the count in Miami-Dade county looked really sharp in their Brooks Brothers, suitably dressed for the business of fascism.

And with 537 Floridian votes (out of almost 6 million cast) the country got Texas Governor George W. Bush as its new president, although he lost the popular vote to Vice-President Al Gore by about half a million (0.5%) and may have lost Florida had there been a full recount.

Gore quickly conceded to Bush and then rethought it and called Bush to take back his concession. Weeks later, after a 5–4 Supreme Court decision to stop the recount in Florida, Gore relunctantly capitulated. Though he said he “sharply disagreed” with the court’s decision, he felt he was doing the right thing by stepping aside. As he said in his concession speech from his office at the White House:

Oh, those were still the days of some political comity — at least on the part of Democrats.

In 2016, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also won the popular vote, by nearly 3 million (2.1%), but lost by fairly small margins in three key states — Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania — and thereby lost the Electoral College to real estate mogul/businessman Donald Trump. Like Gore, she conceded and stepped aside for the good of the democratic process. Looking back, it may be that she should have contested the election results in those key states, where she lost by fewer than 80,000 votes in total. But, like Gore, Clinton is a classy person who believes in the democratic process.

This time of Trumpian tantrums will be different: Biden’s lawyers are assembled and ready to go. You could even say they are “standing back and standing by.” Trump told us over and over how he was going to behave, that there was no way he would accept a loss. He was trying, as usual, to normalize this idea, his planned bad behavior. And so the Biden/Harris campaign had plenty of notice that a legal fight was in their future. Judges have already tossed out, or otherwise ignored, a number of Trumpian lawsuits to stop the count.

This morning, after a president of the United States called our democracy into question, a friend said Trump’s peculiar madness reminded her of Shakespeare’s Richard III. (If we are going with the Bard, I would call Trump King Leer. In this version of the play, many die but the king learns nothing from it; the Fool shambles along to warn people in oblique riddles that while the king may be out of his mind he will nevertheless manage to spot and hone in on the most buxom of the local maidens. I was trying to figure out who Leer’s Fool would resemble, but, as my wife remarked, there are just too many possibilities.)

Richard III or my salacious King Leer — whichever play you might choose, we are witnessing a tragedy for the country.

As I write this, on Friday morning before my run (we all have to maintain a level of normalcy in an absurd time), Biden has not yet been declared the president-elect, but that should happen soon. The Biden/Harris campaign focused its attention on Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania and had reasonable hopes for Arizona, Georgia, and North Carolina. At this point, it looks like the Democratic ticket will win back at least five of these states that Trump flipped in 2016, in addition to Nebraska District 2.

So the Biden/Harris campaign will win in nearly all of the so-called battleground states it focused on. Wouldn’t it be nice if campaigns had to appeal to all Americans, rather than the population in a handful of states? And perhaps “battleground” sends a bad message?

Speaking of the Electoral College, another friend shared a color map of the United States that breaks down the vast areas of the country, only six, that match the population of California alone. Our system proves itself to be absurd, time and again, unable to actually represent the people.

But it does appear that, this time, we will manage to count all the votes that were cast, even in the face of relentless Republican attempts to stifle the vote.

But this time? This time things will be different. The win will end up being large enough. And even if it were to remain close, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will not back down from any of the unfounded charges from Trump and his enablers in what was once known as the Grand Old Party.

Kirk Swearingen is an independent journalist living in St. Louis. His work has most recently appeared on Salon.

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