When Rudy Giuliani stood in front of a microphone this week at what was billed as a "press conference" meant to uncover so-called "voter fraud" in the 2020 election, he was met with a wave of laughter and ridicule.
It’s easy to see why. That the outgoing president selected the guy who got swindled by Borat to lead his campaign’s legal team is objectively hilarious. Watching Giuliani’s hair dye literally streak down his face as he quotes the 1992 film My Cousin Vinny as proof there was election fraud is so goddamn funny there’s no way Mike Judge isn’t kicking himself for failing to write a similar scene in Idiocracy. In the dumpster-fire year that is 2020, no one should be denied a solid belly laugh or a welcome cackle.
But simply shrugging off Donald Trump’s shameless attempts to subvert the will of the people and undermine democracy by eliciting the sycophantic support of QAnon-loving dweebs is dangerous. When Trump announced his candidacy for president by calling Mexicans rapists and criminals he, too, was met with laughter and ridicule. His campaign was treated the same way many of us are treating this attempted coup — like one gigantic grift. And while it arguably is — you only have to look at the fine print of Trump’s donation fund to "fight voter fraud" to see how he's planning to monetize his presidential campaign’s obvious loss — treating it as a joke makes it more likely for this group of buffoons' fallible efforts to prove successful.
What is happening to our democracy in front of our very eyes is serious. We must treat it seriously. Otherwise, we run the risk of having Giuliani eulogize democracy and President Donald Trump speak “bigly” at the wake of our American ideals.
Yes, the Trump campaign legal team — consisting of an alleged QAnon supporter, an adviser who in 2016 called Trump an “idiot” who didn’t care about facts and logic, and a disgraced governor who seems to be melting in real time — has lost 28 court cases (so far). Yes, they’re so bad at this that they’re being laughed out of court, forced to admit to judges that they have no evidence of voter fraud and their claims are not only illegitimate but devoid of reality.
But the lame duck president is also courting Republican legislative leaders in swing states in an attempt to convince them to throw out the 2020 presidential election results. A sitting president is actively calling for electors to ignore voters and gift him another four years in office. These are the actions of a dictator, not a president of the United States committed to upholding and defending the United States’ constitution.
And yes, a lawyer claiming that the election was “rigged” by “communist money” in a scheme devised by Hugo Chavez, who has been dead for seven years, is so mind-numbingly stupid you can’t help but laugh until you cry. That this gaggle of ignoramuses announced a “bombshell press conference” at the Four Seasons in Philadelphia and accidentally booked Four Seasons Total Landscaping, a gardening company next to a porn shop and across the street from a crematorium, is truly a gift that will keep on giving.
But that an entire political party is tip-toeing around the hurt feelings of a megalomaniac and undermining the public’s trust in the democratic process is treacherous. In a recent poll, nearly half of all Republicans believe Donald Trump won the 2020 election, and that President-elect Joe Biden “stole” the election via widespread voter fraud. Two armed men were arrested outside a Philadelphia convention center where an ongoing vote count was taking place. Earlier this month, 14 men were arrested for planning to kidnap the Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Those men were also planning to take over the Michigan capitol building with 200 armed domestic terrorists and, if necessary, burn down the state building, leaving no survivors. Armed white supremacists are marching on the streets of Washington, DC screaming for “four more years” of Trump.
Trump and the Republican Party have fueled these extremist sentiments with their rhetoric, their asinine legal efforts, and their silent complacency. To fear there will be violent backlash on January 20, when Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are sworn into office, is not paranoia; it’s common sense. To discuss the possibility of a civil war isn’t hyperbolic; it’s taking the temperature of a public very much divided.
The canary in the coal mine of American democracy died a long time ago. It died in 2015, when Trump announced his candidacy for president and the media twisted itself in a pretzel to treat his campaign as normal. And when that damn bird rose from the ashes like a phoenix, it died again when Trump called for his political rivals to be imprisoned and labeled the press the “enemy of the people” and fired members of his administration via Twitter and called Nazis “fine people” and endorsed an accused pedophile and defended a man who beats his wives and spent his time as president live-tweeting Fox News.
But this moment in our nation’s history is so much more than a gift from the meme-gods. It’s the very destruction of the one thing that separates the United States from dictatorship and authoritarian countries. We allow our government to execute people, like in Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. We meddle in other countries’ elections, like Russia and China. We’re perfectly OK with the destruction of the planet, like Iran and Turkey.
But we have free and fair elections. We hire and fire our elected officials with our votes. And that will change unless we treat this president’s fallible attempt to change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election for what it is — a coup. Democracy will die, not in darkness but in the light of day, as we retweet viral memes mocking a naked emperor, unless we act accordingly.