The democratic institutions prevailed. The courts threw out Trump’s electoral fabrications in 62 cases. The judges that he appointed refused to do his bidding anywhere, on any case. The Supreme Court never buckled. The Biden presidency has in the end been certified by Congress.
Georgia’s Republican secretary of state refused to falsify the state count or conjure an extra 11,000 votes to steal the election. He resisted weeks of intimidation, culminating in Trump’s Mafia threat from the Oval Office to charge him with criminal obstruction, all mercifully caught on tape.
One of the two Republicans on the Pennsylvania certification board withstood the pressure and voted with the Democrats to uphold the state result, though his pusillanimous colleague did not. The veteran Republican senator Pat Toomey held firm, swearing that he would allow the voters of his Quaker state to be disenfranchised by a mobster.
Trump has been pursuing a scorched-earth strategy to discredit the American voting system for the last five months, ever since it became clear that he was likely to lose. It has not been haphazard. It has been planned and systematic, targeting every choke point in the ratification sequence that we normally take for granted. It relies on the manufacture of a Dolchstoss myth, a giant conspiracy and a “fraud on the American people”.
He tried to manipulate forgotten details of the Constitution and obscure, ambiguous, clauses of the 19th century Electoral Act – all to no avail. The transfer of power will go ahead, without the consecrating ritual of concession, but as prescribed and exactly on time. The dictators of the world cannot take much comfort from this.
Anybody who is surprised by the scenes in Congress has not been paying attention for the last four years. Even so, much in this long process of subversions is extremely disturbing. We knew that Trump was a conman and a proto-fascist. What we did not know is how much of America’s political and media class would along with him, and how far some of them would go. It is the collaborators who shock me.
The mystery of the 1930s is how societies fell under the facist spell, and how a highly educated country such as Germany – but not only Germany – could be captured by charlatans.
Now we have seen it real time, week by week, in the actions of so many people who acquiesce, some of whom happen to be people I knew in Washington long ago, and once regarded as friends. We have seen the posturing of commentators (I spare names) who knew it was all a lie but threw petrol on the flames nevertheless, either to take the King’s shilling or out of ideological derangement. In the 1930s fear and hatred of Bolshevism led to acquiescence: today it seems to be fear and hatred of Leftist identity politics – hardly an equivalent foe.