The dumbest of coups is almost over, no thanks to Republicans who stood idly by while President Donald Trump assaulted the democratic process and left the US's coronavirus response rudderless.
Now that it's all over but the shouting, Republicans are slowly trickling out and conceding Biden was elected president. But it's too little too late — the damage is done.
We wouldn't have been asking a lot to expect the leadership of one of the country's only two viable political parties to denounce the Trump legal team's incoherent fever dreams of voter fraud.
Republicans had all the time in the world to stand up and be counted as, at the very least, not a party to an attempted coup (pathetic though it was). And they mostly failed.
This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
The dumbest of coups is almost over, no thanks to Republicans.
When Emily Murphy released a statement that the General Services Administration would begin the formal transfer-of-power process with President-elect Joe Biden, it put an official end to Trump's fact-free challenge to his election defeat.
That challenge, led by a melting Rudy Giuliani and featuring the QAnon-supporting Sidney Powell who embarrassed Trump (I repeat, Trump!) for being too susceptible to ridiculous conspiracy theories, failed spectacularly once "engaging with reality" became a requirement of the proceedings.
While there are a few formalities left to handle — official certification of election results, the meeting of the Electoral College — Biden will now get presidential-level security briefings and his transition team can work with the machinery of government. And that's good, because a pandemic is still going on that's killed over a quarter million Americans before winter has even hit. It's the same pandemic Trump insisted was just the flu and would magically go away over the summer.
And with Trump effectively AWOL for the three weeks since Election Day, the country's COVID-19 response could stand for some stewardship.
But it also means the Trump anti-democracy special — the wild press conferences, the "micropenis" tweets from advisors, the vicious innuendos that put innocent poll workers' safety at risk — all of it vaporized once the president's lawyers had to back up their words in court. Trump's legal team, in the words of the loyal Trumpist Chris Christie, became a "national embarrassment."
And while it's all over but the shouting (and because it's Trump, there still will be shouting), Republicans are slowly trickling out and conceding Biden was elected president.
But it's too little too late — the damage is done.
Republicans could have stood up for democracy when it mattered, but they didn't
After weeks of playing footsie with Trump's authoritarian teeth gnashing, the GOP's rush to recognize the legitimacy of Biden's win came swiftly following the GSA's announcement that it would begin working with Biden.
Within minutes, Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana tweeted: "President Trump's legal team has not presented evidence of the massive fraud which would have had to be present to overturn the election, adding, "The transition should begin for the sake of the country."
Cassidy joined the measly eight GOP Senators who publicly acknowledged Biden as the rightful victor of the 2020 presidential election prior to the GSA announcement.
Cassidy's turnaround deserves an emphatic eye roll, coming less than a week since he absurdly compared Trump contesting the election to Al Gore's challenge of the 2000 election. Needless to say, the situation in 2000 was vastly different and a significantly more legitimate legal challenge.
Much like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's milquetoast statement of fact that Trump is "100%within his right" to exhaust every legal challenge of his election defeat, Cassidy made placating Trump a greater priority than the health and stability of the country.
Of course Trump had every right to challenge the election in court. But he didn't have any legitimate reason to, and these Republicans knew it.
Rather than stand up and be counted in a very basic (and not particularly brave) demonstration of "country over party," most Republican lawmakers failed. But now that the GSA has determined that it's over and Trump will soon be an ex-president, they'll join Cassidy as latecomers saying it's time to move on to the next administration. Their words are meaningless now.
Republicans had all the time in the world to stand up and be counted as, at the very least, not a party to an attempted coup. And they mostly failed.
And make no mistake, this was an attempted coup.
Just because tanks weren't climbing the steps of the Capitol doesn't mean it wasn't an affront to American democracy. Trump tried to thwart the will of the people, indulging in grotesque, nonsensical conspiracy theories about a long-dead Hugo Chavez collaborating with the Clintons and China to rig voting machines. Seriously.
Despite presenting no evidence — not even in court — to back up his claims, Trump has convinced millions of his followers that the election was stolen. He has salted the earth for faith in the legitimacy of the vote. And he's obliterated a "norm" that's of particular importance for a functioning democratic country — which is that legitimate election results should be respected and the transfer of power should be routine.
Because Trump can't accept that he is, in his own parlance, a "total loser," he's unconscionably assaulted democracy. This isn't the kind of damage that gets undone in four years.
Trump's most lasting legacy could end up being the mainstreaming of the internet troll as a political force. We'll be forced to parse 4Chan conspiracy theories that filter their way through various YouTube channels and Fox News before ending up in Trumpworld's social media feeds for a long time.
We wouldn't have been asking a lot to expect the leadership of one of the country's only two viable political parties to denounce the president's legal team's incoherent fever dreams of voter fraud.
This is when the ostensibly principled GOP that exists independent of Trump needed to stand up and be counted. That wing of the Republican Party, to the extent it exists at all, was pathetically small.
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