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Endgame

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It’s been two weeks since Election Day, and Donald Trump doesn’t show the slightest sign that he plans on conceding an election that he unambiguously lost. Furthermore, contrary to the impression a few of them started to give a few days ago, it turns out establishment Republicans aren’t really pushing back on this attempted total destruction of the most basic of democratic norms (if you lose, you have to leave). For example:

The Senate Republican who said last week that he would get involved if President-elect Joe Biden was not given access to intelligence briefings by last Friday says his comments were misinterpreted.

In an interview with Newsmax over the weekend, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) told the conservative news site that he had been referring to his oversight of the General Services Administration (GSA) and questions he would raise regarding the transition process, and said he was in no “hurry” to get Biden access to the briefings.

Also too, the indescribably degraded and loathsome Lindsey Graham:

If only there was some way to test this hypothesis, by for example having Donald Trump win a presidential election by taking three decisive swing states by a combined total of around 80,000 votes. If something like that had ever happened, how would the Democratic candidate and the Democratic party establishment have reacted? Would they have taken the advice that I’m 100% sure totally not a right wing hack pretending to be something else Jonathan Turley would have given them to file a bunch of frivolous lawsuits, so we could then have an “investigation” via the courts? Or would they have just acknowledged the result of the election? It’s a mystery that will never be solved, like the square root of a million.

It appears that the Republicans other than Trump are just going to go with the “let the process play out” gambit all the way until one of various deadlines:

December 8th, the last day on which states can certify their results.

December 14th: The Electoral College votes.

January 6th: Congress meets in joint session to certify the vote. (You can be sure that a whole bunch of GOP nut cases will object to the certification. I confess I’m not 100% sure how these objections are supposed to be resolved procedurally by the joint session; each House is supposed to deal with them separately.)

January 20th: Inauguration Day.

My guess is that the Republican establishment will remain fairly passive throughout this process, neither actively supporting Trump’s attempts to overthrow the election’s outcome, nor actually opposing them, unless you count mealy-mouthed statements along the lines of “the process is coming to a conclusion now” and that kind of thing. (Of course some of the wackier congresscritters will in fact continue to claim that Trump is right and the election was stolen and we should have a Herschel Walker do-over or the SCOTUS should simply declare Trump president on the back of a cocktail napkin, but the Very Serious People like McConnell et. al. won’t go that far).

Commenter rewenzo offers this speculation regarding to how things will play out eventually:

1) Maintain as an article of faith for all Republicans of ambition that the Democrats stole the election from Donald Trump, who is a martyr. This will be the next Robert Bork – i.e. a grievance myth that will be inexplicable to Democrats but will serve to explain for respectful conservatives why every norm the Republicans break in the future is really the Democrats’ fault.

(2) Acknowledge that Joe Biden is, legally, President of the United States because the EC voted him in and that’s how the system works. This has the added benefit of making it seem like they’re committed to the EC out of principal because, look, the EC “screwed the Republicans this time!” by awarding the presidency to a guy who won the popular vote by 7-8 million votes and also the states adding up to 306 but Dominion fraud observer Venezuela purple monkey dishwasher. So the Democrats are totally wrong to think the GOP is only staunch for the EC because it serves the GOP’s interests. The Democrats are, once again, the real hypocrites.

(3) Donald Trump remains leader of the party in absentia. You can see he is making this play already by endorsing Republicans who support his fraud claims (Perdue and Loeffler) and weirdly threatening primaries of incumbent governors who are not up for reelection for two years. ([Mike] DeWine).

I agree with GeorgeBurnsWasRight’s response that (1) and (3) will definitely happen, and that (2) is likely to get walked back after the base rejects it totally. In particular, the grievance myth of how the Democrats stole the presidency is 100% certain to become one of those things tens of millions of people “know,” without any factual basis ever being provided for that pseudo-knowledge. Meanwhile Republican elites will play along, cooing when pressed on the matter that every fair-minded observer has to admit that “serious questions” were raised about the validity of the vote that were never “fully resolved,” because you have to admit that it’s “troubling” that Dominion fraud observer Venezuela purple monkey dishwasher.

Still, I have to admit I’ve been impressed to this point how our court systems have refused to play along at all with any of this nonsense (knock on General Sherman). Apparently there actually is something to legal formalism after all, even in this incredibly degraded political and cultural context: the pre-existing legal rules actually do count for something. Balls and strikes baby!

So assuming the center continues to hold despite everything, what happens between January 6th and January 20th? Here’s my prediction, which along with $3.25 will get you some sort of Eurosocialist drink at a hipster coffee shop: Trump is going to resign, probably on January 19th, or if he’s feeling especially stroppy on the actual morning of the inauguration, so that Pence can pardon him. This is absolutely the advice that any competent criminal lawyer, and especially any criminal lawyer (h/t Jesse Pinkman) would give him.

Trump has massive potential criminal liability under federal law just on the basis of what we now know — and just imagine what we don’t know! It’s far from clear that a self-pardon would be upheld even by this SCOTUS (John Roberts: “To keep it respectable. I don’t want it near schools or kids. That’s an infamia.”). Plus obviously he has to get a pardon from Mother’s Little Helper because the Corrupt Democrats are already saying they’re going to use the legal system to persecute him, the very greatest president and a lot of people are saying American who ever lived.

In sum, it turns out that living in a Borat movie isn’t nearly as fun as watching one.

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