Donald Trump’s magical thinking last night, as the black Baptist preacher and the 33-year-old Jew improbably pulled ahead of the self-dealing Republican billionaire and ex-Dollar General CEO: “If Vice President @Mike_Pence comes through for us, we will win the Presidency. Many States want to decertify the mistake they made in certifying incorrect & even fraudulent numbers in a process NOT approved by their State Legislatures (which it must be). Mike can send it back!”
Donald Trump’s magical thinking this morning, as Republicans face the loss of the Senate, thanks in no small part to his campaign against Georgia’s Republicans: “States want to correct their votes, which they now know were based on irregularities and fraud, plus corrupt process never received legislative approval. All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!”
We. As if he’s ever thought about anyone but himself.
In Trump’s mind, it all falls on Mike Pence’s broad, bland shoulders–the awesome discretionary power of choosing the country’s next president. True, no vice president before has ever exercised this supremely important constitutional duty, because they hadn’t known that it exists. But someone told Trump that it does, and he believes it because it’s his last chance to hold onto the presidency.
As a person who dined off the absurdity and ubiquity of right-wing conspiracy thinking for a time, I’ve constantly found myself at a loss for words these last four years. I’m like the doctor who wrote a book predicting the spread of a SARS-like disease two publishing seasons too early. How many times can I say the words “as I wrote”? How many times can I say, “it’s so much worse than I thought it would be?” It is, it is, it is. I’ve hated every minute of it, and I don’t for a second believe it’s over. We’ve been here before as a country. The fever breaks for a while, and then it comes back again. The irrationality, the bigotry, the hypocrisy, the self-delusion is never far beneath the surface.
In the event that Mike Pence chokes this afternoon, allow me to quote Dahlia Lithwick’s summation of Trump’s legacy:
Building a culture in which everything is probably illegal and every effort to stop it is probably futile is Trump’s legacy to the country.
The consequence of four years without consequences isn’t going to be a reversion to all the norms and values that came before. It will be a spreading of anti-democratic, illiberal, and purposively small, petty, performative shabbiness that will always seem, in the moment, too silly to matter, and that will continue to be, going forward, too important to ignore. Trump was always the symptom, not the disease, and our distaste for curing it will mean that we spend the coming years coughing, choking, and gasping for air, from something at once too trivial to hurt us and too contagious to be stopped.