Appeasing the Mighty Oz 

Was it really just a week ago that I was sitting up late with politics editor Jackson Baker and Flyer art director Carrie Beasley (in our own homes) waiting to decide what cover to run for our issue covering the 2020 election results? It seems a month ago now. At least.

We had three covers mocked up and ready to go to the printer, each with an appropriate photo. One was called "Biden FTW!" which we thought would have been a great reversal of our now-infamous (and eBay gold) "WTF?" Trump cover from 2016.

click to enlarge REUTERS | BRIAN SNYDER
  • REUTERS | Brian Snyder

And we had one we were hoping never to have to run called "Trump Again!" with a smiling, thumbs-up-waving Don the Con. The third possibility was the one we finally chose: "Too Close to Call!"

Jackson had three versions of the lead paragraphs to the cover story ready to go. And I'd written three versions of my column. My "too close to call" column was titled "The Waiting is the Hardest Part" because, well, I like Tom Petty and why not? It turned out to be one of the most prescient things I ever wrote. I shoulda bought a lottery ticket.

I said if the ballot counting went on for several days, President Trump would do his best to sow discord and divisiveness and doubt about the integrity of our electoral process. Right on all counts.

I added: "Trump will remain in office (win or lose) until January, so there will be at least a couple more months of chaos and drama, of tweeting and conspiracy theories, and who knows what other kinds of outrages." Bingo.

There were lots of things I couldn't have predicted, of course — like Rudy Giuliani and a "witness" who turned out to be a convicted sex offender holding a Philadelphia press conference on a parking lot at Four Seasons Total Landscaping — next to a dildo store. That was straight out of a jump-the-shark episode of Veep.

Another thing I didn't predict but should have been able to, in hindsight, is that the majority of the GOP leadership — national, statewide, and locally — would go along with Trump's antics, as would most of Trump's media allies. As a result, there has been a week-long drumbeat of lies, exaggerations, and false discrediting of the nation's election process.

We knew, at some level, this was part of the plan. All the pre-election polling had Trump losing, so blocking people from voting became Job 1. The U.S. Postal Service was enlisted to delay delivery of mail-in ballots. The number of voting sites and drop-off boxes were systematically cut in red states. Numerous last-minute lawsuits by GOP operatives were filed to try to disqualify various kinds of ballots not cast on Election Day.

Sowing doubt on the counting process was Job 2: GOP legislatures in key states (Michigan and Pennsylvania, to name two), passed laws requiring local election commissions to refrain from counting mail-in, drop-off, and absentee ballots until Election Day, thereby ensuring several days of drama as the mandated post-Election Day count played out around the country — days that could be used to spread conspiracy theories and further incite the most rabid of Trump's supporters.

Imagine how much angst the country would have been spared if other swing states used Florida's system, which allows counting of mail-in and absentee ballots as they arrive. Florida's results were basically in on election night. How great would it have been for the country to have been able to go to bed Tuesday night knowing the results of the presidential election, instead of having to wait four days? Really great, is how.

Except that would have spoiled the plan to delegitimize the electoral process, one Trump had been setting up for weeks by refusing to say that he'd accept the results of the election. And now, the game continues. No concession from the president, no work getting done. He's just firing people, tweeting, and playing golf.

Meanwhile, Biden is almost five million votes ahead in the popular vote and has an insurmountable lead in the Electoral College. If Trump had any integrity or respect for the election process — or a grown-up brain — he'd do the right thing and concede. We shouldn't hold our breath. My prediction is that when I'm writing my next column a week from now, he still won't have done it.

The only question is how long will other Republicans play along to appease the Mighty Butthurt Oz.

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