Here we are, on the Monday before a somber Thanksgiving holiday, waiting for the word. The election boards in three states — Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Arizona — are set to certify Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump in the 2020 election, except maybe not, because Trump and his dwindling cadre of allies are attempting to stage a broad-daylight coup d’ état… or are they?
Trump’s decision to lean into obscure, low-lever state election officials and demand they unilaterally overthrow the will of the people is unprecedented in our national history. Beyond being unseemly, gross, and harrowingly damaging to democracy, the effort — at least in Michigan — appears to be thus far comprehensively unsuccessful.
The two Republican board members in Michigan are using “we need to investigate the election more” as their fig leaf for doing what Trump wants them to do. The state’s law, however, turns that demand into a warped circle: There can be no audit or investigation until the election is certified by the board, so these two Republicans are asking for something they themselves are refusing to provide.
“If the board showed no signs of acting to certify, someone would almost certainly sue in the Michigan Court of Appeals, seeking an order requiring the board to do so,” reports The Detroit Free Press. “Such an order could then be appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court. Once court proceedings are concluded, preferably before the Dec. 8 ‘safe harbor’ date by which Congress is required to accept Michigan’s electoral votes, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer would certify the state’s 16 presidential electors ahead of the Dec. 14 convening of the Electoral College.”
Similar firewalls in Pennsylvania and Arizona stand before Trump’s efforts to thwart the mandate of the people, not to mention the “quiet resistance” of local officials who do not like the integrity of their election efforts dragged through the mud. Georgia — one of the other late states on Election Day — has already certified Biden’s victory.
Trump’s dozens of legal efforts in various courtrooms have fared about as well as honeybees do when the murder hornets come calling. For his own part, Trump is already laying the groundwork for a 2024 presidential run, unmistakable evidence that even he knows the deal has gone down.
Trump is also conspicuously losing friends, albeit slowly. A trickle of Republican officeholders have come forward to say it’s time for this to end. This morning, a clutch of prominent Republican foreign policy “experts” went public with their demand that Trump allow the transition process to begin. Stephen Schwarzman, the highly influential CEO of Blackstone and boon Trump companion, backed off his earlier support for Trump’s post-election shenanigans and stated flatly that Biden won, and it’s time to move on.
It has been widely suggested that the Republicans who are allowing this farce to continue are not cowards, but conniving: They need to appease Trump’s base if they want to win the two upcoming Georgia runoff elections and maintain majority control of the Senate.
Here’s the funny part, though: More than 100 corporate chief executives have demanded that Trump acknowledge his loss and let the transition begin… and if he does not, there may very well be no money for the GOP in those Georgia races.
That is known as “getting your leash yanked.” One wonders if Trump will heed the “money talks” imperative of that ultimatum, if he cares a fig for the fate of his Senate colleagues, who have carried an ocean of water for him and now face a political apocalypse in payment for their fealty. The Republican Party in Georgia is in open civil war with itself today over Trump, and depressed GOP voter turnout for the runoffs could be the inevitable result.
So for the luvva crumbcake, if there is no chance of any of this working straightforwardly in his electoral favor, why is Trump doing this? He seeks to smash the election system that dared to deny him victory. He is sabotaging as much government as he can reach — which, morosely, is quite a damn bit — to subsume Biden’s presidency before it begins. This is the Brobdingnagian petulance we all feared would rear its shaggy head, and it did not disappoint.
Oh, and there’s the cash, of course: The longer Trump holds out and refuses to concede, the longer he can keep fleecing his followers for donations he can use to pay down his campaign debt. Campaign finance law says a defeated candidate can keep the money they raised during a failed campaign, so long as that money is used in another campaign.
To that end, expect that “Trump 2024” announcement any day now. Grifter’s gonna grift, all the way out the door.
Watch this space. The Michigan board is expected to convene for a vote at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time. I will update on this and the other states in play as the information comes in.