Bruce Lear considers what Republicans and Democrats need to reflect on as the Donald Trump presidency draws to a close. -promoted by Laura Belin
The plus-sized person began tapping on the mike in the wee hours of November 3. She broke into full-throated song on Saturday, November 7, when enough of the swing states had been called for Joe Biden.
But even after state and federal courts rejected more than 50 lawsuits, and recounts, audits, and more recounts confirmed Biden carried enough states to win the electoral college, about 30 percent of Americans still can’t wrap their mind around the fact that Donald Trump lost.
But it’s over.
Time for both the elephant and donkey to do some real soul searching.
Instead of summarizing and celebrating GOP victories in the down-ballot races and the accomplishments during the last four years, Republicans led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton chose a last-ditch appeal to the Supreme Court, trying to reverse the voting in four states (none of which was Texas).
The absurdity of this wouldn’t be lost on a 6th grader who has taken civics, yet the irony seemed to escape 126 elected to Congress and nearly 20 state attorneys general who co-signed the suit.
With one terse, unsigned denial, the conservative-dominated U.S. Supreme Court saved the Republic from these Republicans.
I applaud candidates pursuing all legitimate avenues after an election. That’s what America is about. But these legal maneuvers were simply the machinations of a president who wouldn’t believe he lost and a group of sycophants appeasing his delusion.
Not once have any of this bunch offered a shred of hard evidence of fraud. Even Trump’s loyal Attorney General William Barr said there was absolutely no evidence of fraud that would change the outcome of the election. The public utterances from the melting mayor Rudy Giuliani never matched any of the court filings, probably for fear he could be disbarred for presenting such falsehoods in cour.
The really sad part is the politicians who played this game by co-signing and remaining silent were willing to pimp out their integrity to protect themselves from Trump tweets or primary challengers from the right.
In addition, none of these profiles in courage ever explain how Trump lost because of massive voter fraud, yet down0ballot Republicans won big. Maybe the liberal conspiracy machine suddenly forgot about control of the U.S. Senate and House and neglected to commit fraud in those races.
Trump isn’t going away. He has proven that by grifting another $200 million in campaign contributions from his cult-like supporters after the votes had been counted, recounted and counted again.
Imagine if you are a wannabe president like Mike Pence, Marco Rubio, or Chris Christie. On the one hand, you want the GOP base to show you some of that Trump love in 2024. On the other hand you’d like a quickie divorce from a guy who has shown no loyalty to anyone.
That will be especially true if Trump seeks to pardon himself and his progeny on the way out the door. The last thing you want as a candidate is to start by explaining why you supported a pardon for crimes, which (naturally) Trump claims he and his family never committed.
Remember when the GOP preached that the Soviet Union was the evil empire, and character counted above all else in elections? Trump continues to embrace Russia, and no one from the right seems to remember anything about character.
I’m betting post Trump, you’ll start to hear Russian saber rattling from the typical Republican chicken-hawks. We’ll continue to hear about how shocked they are Hunter Biden might have profited from his last name, something the Trump children would never consider. But I’m also betting that serious Republicans will want to return to a semblance of normal. That will require soul searching.
At the same time, Republicans aren’t the only ones who should worry about the next time they face the voters. Democratic leaders need to scratch their heads and explain how their party failed to win the majority in the U.S. Senate, lost seats in the House, and didn’t gain majorities in many state legislatures, all while a pandemic was mismanaged and an economy is a burning dumpster fire.
Where was the blue wave?
First, I think Democrats had envisioned 2020 as another 2008, when a tsunami bathed the country in blue. This year a pandemic stopped the Democratic ground advantage, and the party’s messaging wasn’t as clean as “Yes, we can.”
I know these sound like excuses, and it may be an over simplification, but those factors were at least two of the primary causes for the down ballot map bleeding red.
There were good health reasons not to knock doors. First, the party message was basically stay home. Having Democratic politicians roaming their districts would have undermined that message. Republicans who downplayed the virus from the start were free to knock as many doors as they liked, masked or unmasked.
Secondly, there were real health risks that Democratic politicians and constituents respected. The idea was to try and zoom their way to victory, but the technology and the implementation were not quite ready.
In hindsight it might have been better to try a hybrid approach to campaigning, much like schools have done. A little online and a little distant, masked, face to face.
But the ground game wasn’t the only problem. The Democratic messaging was trampled by other groups and then distorted by Republican demagoguery. For example, “Defund the Police” might be a simple way to incite protest groups, but it doesn’t work for a political party trying to appeal to crossover voters and independents. It plays into the hands of Republicans who have long tried to depict Democrats as soft on crime.
During the Democratic National Convention, all of the speakers were silent about the violence that was taking place in major cities. During that time, Democrats had a huge stage to make a clear distinction between peaceful, legal, protest and unlawful violence.
If you have to explain what you mean by “Defund the Police,” you’ve lost. No one asks protesters questions about their signs, but Democratic politicians were asked to explain all the nuances of a message they hadn’t even developed in 30 seconds.
At the same time, their Republican opponents were using phrases like “Candidate of the angry mob,” and asking questions like, “If your house is robbed, do you want to call a social worker?”
For most, it’s over the top nonsense, but for just enough voters it swayed an election.
Another messaging problem was the term “Socialist.” Instead of asking a Republican challenger to clearly define what socialist meant, Democrats tried to laugh off the absurd label. But for baby boomers, this label means something. In fact, this label even stuck enough on Biden to prevent a quick win in Florida, thanks to Cuban Americans living in Miami Dade County who believed it.
Yes, post Trump, both parties and all of America need to do more than hope for a return to normal. Everyone has to figure out who we really want to be and if we can keep our Republic. There needs to be serious soul searching on both sides of the aisle.
Bruce Lear lives in Sioux City and recently retired after 38 years of being connected to public schools. He was a teacher for eleven years and a regional director for Iowa State Education Association for 27 years until retirement.