Alan Zendell, November 17, 2020
As if our nation hasn’t been through enough this year, we now find ourselves counting down for another sixty-four days, crossing our fingers that the transition to a Biden presidency takes place without calamity. With a spiteful, infantile president still riling up the most radical, ignorant segments of his base, nothing is certain. As we have done many times in the past four years, we hope Donald Trump will change. We hope, because there’s nothing else we can do, that just once in his presidency he acts the part.
His behavior since the election two weeks ago suggests otherwise. That means we will get to watch the predictions of public health experts like Anthony Fauci and Michael Osterholm, and the forecasts of math models like Chris Murray’s at the University of Washington become self-fulfilling prophesies. Between now and Biden’s inauguration, we will likely see a million more COVID cases and 10,000 new deaths every week.
Before the election, Trump used the pandemic as a political weapon, peddling the false narrative that wearing masks, maintaining safe distances from each other, and curtailing normal activities as necessary would crash our economy. Those same public health experts argued that the surest way to crash the economy was to allow the pandemic to spread out of control and overwhelm our health care systems. But that was then. As hateful as holding American lives hostage to win an election was, there is even less justification for it now.
Donald Trump’s refusal to fall in line with CDC recommendations to slow the spread of the virus and reduce deaths, now that there is nothing to be gained politically by refusing to do so, is pure spite. Like a child who smashes his toys rather than share them with anyone, he would rather burn the country down than admit he has been rejected by the voters. Refusing to allow the Biden transition to begin planning its fight against the pandemic, if he won’t do it himself, is the most cynical, sociopathic decision of Trump’s presidency.
Mitch McConnell could reverse this course in a second. All he has to do is free his caucus to act on their consciences. Half its members have already said privately that they despise what Trump is doing, but they need his base to win the two Senate runoffs in Georgia. If their only priority is maintaining a majority in the Senate, they will continue to enable Trump’s ability to hold them hostage. Where does it stop? When will saving American lives take precedence over political expediency and personal power? If we can’t answer that question satisfactorily, our future as a nation will be in serious jeopardy.
And that may not be the worst thing we face. Nine weeks is more than enough time for Trump to cause all kinds of mayhem. Talking heads endlessly debate why he refuses to concede, instead embarrassing himself, his party, and the nation with ridiculous charges of election fraud that are denied by state election officials of both parties and consistently rejected by conservative judges. Do they really not understand? All they had to do was ask me.
Donald Trump is incapable of behaving like an adult much less acting presidential. His oft-demonstrated lack of empathy, his narcissistic personality disorder, and his need to win no matter how much collateral damage he causes are all playing out now before the entire world.
The explanation for Trump’s behavior is simple. If he can’t be in charge, he will do everything he can to sabotage the next administration. He is refusing to cooperate with the Biden transition team, so the first couple of months of the new administration will be chaotic and confused. Rather than enable the smooth, peaceful transition of power we need, he will create an obstacle course. He needs Biden to fail, because he thinks it will benefit him in the future, and if another half-million Americans die, what of it? After January 20th, he will continue to stoke emotions in his base, attacking everything Biden does. Putin and Xi are ecstatic.
All we can really do now is hope. Hope that Trump can be prevented from activating his heavily armed vigilante militias. Hope that our military, which is on record as opposed to a rapid drawdown of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, are able to restrain him from creating a bloodbath. Hope that if as he has been reported to be considering, Trump orders military strikes at Iran because his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal enabled that country to increase its uranium stockpiles, his generals will refuse. Hope that if it becomes necessary, Vice President Pence and the Cabinet have the moral courage to use the 25th amendment to shut him down before he does irreparable damage.
The Republican Party, led by Mike Pence, could do the nation and themselves a huge favor by invoking the 25th Amendment and removing the totally unfit Trump. Mike Pence would position himself as a responsible patriot for 2024. Pence could cooperate with Biden on fighting the pandemic and lay the groundwork for a run in 2024 as a responsible, patriotic man.