The endgame being played out by Donald Trump, already ludicrous, has begun to verge on the damned dangerous.
The president of the United States, recently defeated in a clear-cut national election, has spent his guttering days attempting to overthrow the very government he has run so spectacularly into the ground. Specifically, and among other things, he has inquired about invoking martial law by way of the Insurrection Act.
To wit: Based upon the vapor of debunked conspiracy and the gas emanating from disgraced former General Michael Flynn, Trump should unleash the military and “rerun” the election in the battleground states he lost. According to reports, he was keenly interested in the idea.
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To call this disquieting is a triumph of understatement. Trump has spent his waning days in office plowing through his toy box of legal options for upending the people’s decision. His myriad lawsuits have gone nowhere — though he doggedly persists — and his attempts to muscle lower-ranking Republicans in various states have come to naught.
One could find solace in the notion that Trump is apparently running out of viable moves in this little passion play. Further comfort is obtained in the belief that this whole thing is an elaborate charade, a final grift to pad his bank account with gullible dollars until the inevitable descends on January 20.
For all we know, this is exactly the case… but for the knowledge that Trump’s biggest, meanest toys are at the bottom of that toy box, and the bottom of the box is exactly where he finds himself with less than a month to go. His niece, Mary Trump, has stated publicly that her uncle is a grand master when it comes to gaslighting himself, i.e., talking himself into believing in the preposterous if it suits his internal narrative of the heroic victim. What was once a grift, in his mind, may well have become holy writ.
Attempting to disrupt the January 6 Electoral College certification is one of the last toys in Trump’s box. The Insurrection Act, martial law, is the one below that… down at the very bottom, the last available trick after his 1-6 follies fail in Congress, which they almost surely will under direct orders from Mitch McConnell, who is by all indications so totally over this president you guys.
Trump’s wrath at being thwarted by His Man In The Senate may be just enough to compel him to reach for that final toy, and if he does, there will be hell to pay.
Is it plausible, though, that Trump would dare to undertake this doomsday martial law scenario? To answer that, ask yourself how many times you’ve said, “He wouldn’t do that, he can’t!” only to see him do just that with extra “that” on the side.
Big-name national journalists certainly picked up on a deeply spooked vibe coming from a number of erstwhile Trump loyalists who were in the room when this incendiary option hit the table.
“Sources who have gotten used to Trump’s eruptions over four years sound scared by what’s transpired in the past week when I’ve talked to them,” Maggie Haberman of The New York Times tweeted on Saturday. “I’ve been covering Donald Trump for a while,” tweeted Jonathan Swan of Axios on the same day. “I can’t recall hearing more intense concern from senior officials who are actually Trump people. The Sidney Powell / Michael Flynn ideas are finding an enthusiastic audience at the top.”
They aren’t the only ones apparently getting nervous as the pretender-king rages on his crumbling throne. So far as history can report, no outgoing president has ever openly discussed mutiny as a means of staying in office. “On Friday,” reports The Washington Post, “Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Gen. James C. McConville, the Army’s top officer, released a joint statement that said: ‘There is no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of an American election.’” The fact that the Army’s top brass felt compelled to release such an astonishing statement is chilling to the bone.
In the face of this, soothing voices preach the gospel of calm. The military is not with him, rank and file government officials will never let it happen, he will fail if he tries.
Well and good, let us take those statements as fact. What Trump has already done to this point has radicalized the well-armed fringe of his party to the brink of violent explosion, and motivated Republican officials in various states to redouble their voter suppression efforts. He inspired 126 House Republicans to try and overthrow their own government. What he may do in the last of his waning days is only unthinkable if you have not been paying attention.
That, right there, is all by itself a deep injury to the long-term survival of the republic, and perhaps a fatal one at that. At this juncture, only time can tell the tale.