This morning, my Op Ed appeared in the Washington Post. If you have a subscription to the Washington Post, you can read it here. If not, click here for a PDF version.
Spoiler: if Trump wins this, it won’t be because he masterminds a way to get state legislatures and courts to keep him in the White House after he loses the election. It will be because he gets everyone to help him undermine democracy, truth, and logic.
Highlights from my Washington Post Op Ed followed by discussion:
If you are Donald Trump, and your image is based on the claim that you are a winner, what do you do when every recent national poll has you losing?
How do you stop people from talking about your failed pandemic policies, tapes showing that you lied to the American people, an economy in trouble, and polls showing the Republicans are likely to lose their Senate majority?
You create a fiction: You tell the world that you are not losing, the other side is cheating, and you will not allow it. When Trump says something like, “we can throw away the ballots and avoid having to transfer power,” he hijacks the national conversation: Everyone must now discuss whether Trump can get rid of ballots (he can’t) and whether the state governments and the courts will work in tandem to overturn an election and install Trump as a dictator (highly unlikely).
People become convinced that Trump absolutely can pull it off. Thus Trump creates a fantasy world in which he will retain power. His critics inadvertently lend credence to the fantasy by acting as if it is true.
See how Trump transforms himself from a guy who is losing into an unstoppable winner? I understand how it happens. Trump keeps everyone in such a heightened state of panic and outrage that it’s hard to think clearly.
We forget what happened yesterday and can’t think ahead to tomorrow.
A common logical error people make is confusing what might happen with what will happen. Person A demonstrates that something is possible. Then people say, “You can’t prove that it won’t happen, so it will.”
Another error goes something like this: “Trump defies subpoenas. He ignores the law. Therefore he can steal the election.” This is like saying, “I got away with speeding so I can certainly rob 10 banks.” Stealing a US election is not comparable to: “You can’t have my taxes and you can’t make me talk.”
Trump engages in wishful thinking, which everyone takes seriously, which then lends credence to the fantasy and helps Trump bring about the outcome he wants.
Precisely. We know Peale shaped his thinking. This is how Trump “governs”:
- The virus will magically disappear.
- If you stop testing, you won’t have bad test results.
- I’m losing because of massive voter fraud.
Precisely. We are in danger of becoming the puppets.
Lots of people think I’m totally wrong and in 6 weeks they’ll be saying “I told you so.”
The “we have to prepare” argument goes like this: “We must uncover all of these far-fetched unlikely scenarios so that we can guard against them.”
Ok. Let’s consider this. Let’s compare two elections, a normal election, and an election with an unhinged candidate threatening crazy stuff. In the normal election, you really want to win, so you try to mobilize your voters. You know there will probably be legal issues because there always are, so you put together a top-notch legal team. You put security in place in polling areas.
Now, add an unhinged candidate threatening to find ways to steal the election. What do you do? You do all all the same things. (Maybe add a few extra teams of lawyers, and more polling place security, which is what is happening.)
What other preparation is there? Discussing this 24-7 helps Trump because we’re not talking about his failures. We’re not talking about Covid. We’re not talking about the fact that he’s trying to eliminate the ACA.
Moreover, suppose we do persuade everyone that Trump has this election rigged. What will that do, other than depress turnout and demoralize everyone. Why vote if your vote won’t count?
So everyone running around with their hair on fire insisting that Trump has this rigged are helping Trump carry out a massive voter suppression campaign.
Consider this: The “evidence” we have that Trump will rig the election is Trump’s own comments, and the things Trump’s campaign manager told The Atlantic. Trump wants to persuade us that he can rig this election.
I suppose the people who think Trump will be harmed by talking about this believe that Trump supporters will turn away from Trump if they know he’s willing to rig an election. The opposite is true, actually. They will get energized and respect the Mighty Strongman.
A good question is whether the article serves any other purpose. If Trump had an actual way to rig the election, would he send someone to tell a reporter?
You don’t hear Obama, Biden, or Harris insisting that Trump can (and will) rig the election. Why would anyone bother voting if the fix is in?
They say Trump will refuse to concede, but they don’t say he will stay in the White House. It’s obvious he will refuse to concede. But an incumbent who refuses to concede does not get to remain in office.
This is from 538:
23% is not zero. I maintain that there is much less than a 23% chance that Trump can pull off a coup and overturn the results of the election.
So people melting down about Trump pulling off a coup are worrying about the wrong thing.
[View as a a Twitter thread]
The post We Are In Danger of Becoming the Puppets appeared first on Musing about law, books, and politics.