So, the media have called it for Joe. The US 2020 Election is all over, bar the shouting. Unfortunately, there may be considerable amounts of shouting. Although Trump is clearly trumped at the ballot box, decades of being able to bully his will onto those around him means that Donald J. will not “go gently into that good night”.
Despite accusations of unpredictability, it is not hard to anticipate Trump’s actions in a adversity. He is always right. If advisers dare to contradict him, they get the “my way or the highway” treatment. If his message is not adopted as if the word of God, it can only be because it has not been said loudly/often enough. Even though born into billions, he has known hardship and frustration—but only in business, that was always the other man’s fault and an army of lawyers could prove it. His first divorce was Ivanka’s fault; the billion-dollar bust of the Taj Mahal casino was the bankers’ fault.
Why circle the wagons when you can buy off the Indians?
Given the posse of ossified grandees and Beltway Bandits who have controlled Washington since Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex got their fingers in the federal till, it has not been hard to look like a political outsider. However, without support from the institutionalised two-party-plus-electoral-college, consigned even well known aspirants like Ralph Nader or Ross Perot to oblivion before a vote was cast. But none combined all three of the profile, the funds and planetary ego that Donald alone offered.
For once, Republicans, bruised by this week’s result, and finally embarrassed after a quarter-century obstructing anything Democrats proposed, have received an almighty shove to change their direction. Since Newt Gingrich started a pathological opposition to Clinton in the 1990’s, there has been little evidence of what the American political nerds call “bi-partisanship”. So venal and entrenched did this become that shibboleths like tax cuts took priority over balancing budgets, simply because the Democrats wanted to raise taxes to pay for social programs like ‘Obamacare’ (universal medical coverage).
Only when Trump barnstormed to the nomination, leaving political corpses of standard-issue ‘haircut-and-suit’ hopefuls like Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio in the dirt did the Grand Old Party ditch what principles it had left and hitch its future to Trump’s erratic star. And, for four years, they swallowed the consequences of his jumping jack policies, despite a drubbing in the 2018 mid-terms, because he brought in tax cuts for the rich, ditched business regulation, talked tough abroad and brought on board a swathe of blue-collar white folk, disillusioned with Democrat dithering.
Now that Trump today became yesterday’s man, what’s a good Republican to do? The gun-toters, the evangelists, the pinko-haters, the anti-abortionists, the right-wing conspiracy junkies that make up a good slice of Trump’s ‘base’ some may stay with him, swallow his story the election was ‘stolen’, and hope for his comeback in 2024. But listen to moderate Republicans like ex-Senator Jeff Flake or Georgia Governor Brian Kemp. You hear the sound of footsteps distancing themselves. Indeed, if the bulk of Republican politicians don’t want to find their jailit on a shoogly nail, they should follow their lead and disinter GOP integrity from where they buried it in 2016 and go public with their disquiet at the mess Trump has made of government credibility and eroding America’s status on the world stage. They will be joined by a ‘payroll’ who survive by understanding their bread and who is doing the buttering. This will include people like black TV evangelists like Pastor Mark Burns, Fox News and an army of shock jocks who were fed flammable material in many of Trump’s antics.
But Trump’s hard-core support will not desert him. This includes not just his family and blinkered hired-gun believers like Rudy Giuliani, but a number of now-docile White House staff, and most of the Trump Organisation management because they have had years of knowing what is good for their collective careers. This coterie will provide more than enough of a cushion against reality to support Trump’s on-going conviction that hi actions in office were genius, that he made America great, that the media is fake, that he really did win the election, etc.
And that’s where the trouble begins. Despite four days of delay after a super-intense campaign, street demonstrations have been lively but non-violent. Despite media love of unrest as a story line, Americans have again proved to be reasonable people, with a belief in the goodness of their country that would shame most Europeans. That does not include Tump, nor his coterie. They may not get violent, but they will fight.
This fight will involve his usual tactics of obstruction, disinformation and copious legal actions. The four actions already brought in the swing states this week are just the start. Though two were thrown out unceremoniously, others will follow—many others. There are recounts in Wisconsin and Georgia. Witnesses will be dragged out of obscurity to testify that Joe Frazier voted in Philadelphia, although he’s been dead five years. Every effort will be made to question the result in any state where Biden is barely ahead. They will attempt to draw the process out beyond the December date by which all 50 states must certify results for the Electoral College. He will make no concession speech, There will be an inertia about vacating the White House up to (but not including) forcible eviction.
Most Americans are simply relieved to hear a result. Any smooth transition of power, as conducted by all retiring presidents, is unlikely. Any gracious congratulatory speech to the winner by the losing candidate is a convention that will be absent. Trump never follows convention because the unexpected gives him the edge over hidebound opponents. He could teach Sun Tzu or Machiavelli a thing or two. He won’t meekly this most humiliating defeat that is font-page news around the world. Neither ‘big-hearted’, nor ‘forgiving’ are found in his vocabulary.
His tactics of revenge? Well, he has two more months of full presidential powers. He may not cancel Thanksgiving, nor re-introduce Prohibition, nor unleash the Sixth Fleet on some unsuspecting island (c.f. Grenada, 1983). It won’t be that scatter-gun. It will be targeted and venomous because Donald is a man who bears precise grudges. That means he will try to make someone pay.
But, once the two months are up and he has found some high-profile way to vacate te White House, what then? The smart money thinks he will negotiate a deal whereby he vacates the WHote House peaceably, on condition tat the immunity gainst prosecution for his questionable business practices will be extended indefinitely when he is a private citizen.
Significant numbers of the 70m who voted for him believe in Trumpism, which should not be confused with Republicanism. He is too smart to think he can form a third political party. But there is money to be made from his fans. A Trump TV channel that out-Foxed Fox would be a gold mine. And he would need the money to derail litigation against his murkier dealings, like not placing the Trump Organisation in any trust fund while he was in office.
Celebrate as people might at the end of hs presidency, Donald Trump is not disappearing from the public eye any time soon.