voice for democracy

McDermott: A year later, Trump's unprecedented attack on democracy is GOP policy – STLtoday.com

Former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump both speak to supporters early on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020.
This week marks the first anniversary of something that had never previously happened in America’s history: A sitting president, having clearly lost reelection, baselessly but defiantly claimed victory. A year later, Donald Trump still hasn’t conceded a contest that wasn’t even close.
This unprecedented affront to electoral democracy is still reverberating today in ominous ways, from new laws across red-state America making it easier to steal future elections, to the growing acceptance of violence at school board meetings and other public forums, to the seemingly calculated decision by one of our two major political parties to spurn the very concept of objective fact.
As the cancer Trump brought to America’s political system a year ago continues spreading, this dark anniversary is an apt time to review what happened — and what is still happening.
Never has a con artist announced his con in advance the way Trump did last year. In the months before Nov. 3, Trump alleged, again and again, without a molecule of evidence, that Democrats were scheming to steal the election. He effectively tried to rewrite Article Two of the Constitution by declaring that any votes not counted on Election Night should not count at all. When Trump tried to hobble funding to the U.S. Postal Service, he admitted publicly it was so mail-in voting would be stymied.
Trump couldn’t have been more obvious about gaslighting his supporters if he’d just announced to them: “The only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.”
Oh, wait — he said exactly that, and variations of that, multiple times.
When Trump did indeed lose the election, by a whopping 7 million votes, he claimed to have won and alleged fraud, just as everyone (including himself) predicted he would. “We did win this election,” he told supporters in the wee hours of Nov. 4, based on, literally, nothing. In the weeks and months after, his campaign lawyers were laughed out of one courtroom after another for trying to get judges to accept the unsupported lies that Trump’s base so willingly accepted.
Trump has long been remarkable in his willingness to act so much like a comic-book villain that, if you saw that behavior written into a Hollywood movie, you would laugh it off as unbelievable. Remember when he personally called Georgia’s secretary of state and harangued him to “find” enough votes to win the state for him?
Unfortunately, this wasn’t ham-handed fiction. This and the rest of it actually happened. And two months after the election, on Jan. 6, Trump, still luxuriating in his own lies, really, truly did urge his supporters to “fight” to prevent the peaceful transition of power — again, something no American president had ever done before. And they did.
But the scariest thing about Trump on this Halloween weekend is what has happened since then.
In Republican enclaves around the country, officials who in any rational party would have purged Trump for his assault on democracy are instead treating it as a blueprint. Georgia’s Republican Legislature passed a law that says, in effect, the next time a president wants to overturn an election there, the Legislature can help. Texas and other red states have passed laws making it harder for urban residents (read: Democrats) to vote. Arizona’s ridiculous election “audit” has softened the ground for future election challenges based, like this one, on nothing.
Trump showed his loyalists that it’s possible to say anything, no matter how demonstrably false, and get the base to accept it if it’s in their political interest to.
This Trumpian contempt for facts isn’t limited to election issues. Here in Missouri, a PAC supporting Republican Gov. Mike Parson is fundraising off Parson’s bizarre, press-bashing allegation that the Post-Dispatch engaged in hacking when it alerted the public to a security hole on a state website. Meanwhile, Republican state Attorney General Eric Schmitt has filed suit against school district mask mandates based in part on his claim that “the science shows that public mask use has little effect on … stopping infection surges.”
These are both plainly false assertions, but both have been met with basically zero skepticism from what has become a dangerously pliable Republican base.
A week after the Jan. 6 insurrection, Trump issued a video statement, obviously pressed upon him by others, condemning the violence that “struck at the very heart of our republic.” He delivered it like a petulant little boy being forced to apologize for breaking a window, but he at least felt compelled, for a few minutes, to act like a normal president.
Today, that nod toward normalcy is gone. In a statement earlier this month, Trump shrugged off Jan. 6 as a mere “protest.” The real problem, he now says, wasn’t a mob trying to disenfranchise tens of millions of voters — it’s that they voted in the first place: “The insurrection took place on November 3, Election Day.”
This is a sociopath testing boundaries. And, within his own party, he’s finding none. A year after Trump’s unprecedented attack on democracy, it has become Republican policy.
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Kevin McDermott is a member of the Post-Dispatch Editorial Board.
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Former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump both speak to supporters early on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020.
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