Trump’s Greatest Self-Own

Why Trump's refusal to concede might only hurt the GOP, and Trump himself.

Good evening! Today the Electoral College meets in every state to officially elect Joe Biden President. You can track the process live here. President-Elect Biden will give remarks tonight on "the electoral college vote certification and the strength and resilience of our democracy" at around 8 PM EST.

There are just 37 days left until Inauguration Day.

The Topline

Friday night, just as American Interregnum hit your inbox, The Supreme Court rejected Trump and the GOP’s latest effort to overturn the election. I spent a good deal of the weekend informally monitoring MAGA’s reaction to the news online and for a while, it seemed as though they’d finally moved from denial to anger in their grief. There were calls to violence and for another civil war, and calls for Trump to declare martial law. Most of their anger was directed towards the Republican party, notably Trump’s SCOTUS appointees, Mitch McConnell, the Federalist Society, and Republican state election officials. A few of them were even angry at Trump and the donations they’d made post-election, though they were in the minority. Overall their feeling was that democracy was dead and that their votes hadn’t mattered at all.

If you want to see some of this for yourself but don’t want to spend a lot of time in MAGA world, @ParlerTakes and @CopingMAGA are two great Twitter follows.

Watching the MAGA pity party unfold online, I couldn’t help but wonder if Trump’s refusal to concede has perhaps done more damage to his base and the GOP than it has with the general public. These folks have spent years cocooning themselves in the MAGA Cinematic Universe and since the election, their media diet, rejecting Fox News in favor of Newsmax and OANN, has only become more insulated. Now that they’re getting a hard dose of reality, their faith in just about everything -- in some cases including Trump -- is shattered.

What do these folks do next? Some of them will organize more protests, threats, and violence. We saw a frightening example of that this weekend when the Proud Boys and other groups rallied for a coup in DC, terrorized the local population, and burned Black Lives Matters flags displayed on some of DC’s historically Black churches. Others are using their platforms and social media to call for martial law and/or secession, as Media Matters reports today. These folks never actually cared about the election results. They’re anti-democracy and they want Trump to be a dictator almost as much as Trump himself would like to be one.

But most of Trump’s supporters and the GOP base are demoralized because they believe the election was stolen. They believe massive fraud took place and that their vote didn’t count. If I’m a Republican candidate or campaign staffer in 2022, I’m looking at these people and I’m terrified for my political future. Because demoralized voters tend not to turn out for what they believe is a lost cause anyway. This is potentially a big problem for the Republican party moving forward: next month’s Georgia Senate runoff should give us an indication of exactly how big of one. 

One more thought: Trump’s refusal to concede might go down as one of the greatest self-owns in the history of politics because refusing to concede the election has cost him the biggest opportunity he’ll ever have to burnish his legacy with the American people. Today, as the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available to Americans for the first time, should have been an opportunity for a massive victory lap for President Trump and his Administration. Trump should be messaging Operation Warp Speed as his crowning achievement. Instead, the focus is on the Electoral College, and Trump’s refusal to concede. Trump’s supporters aren’t even giving him credit for the vaccine. Most of MAGA still believes that the pandemic is a hoax, sees it through a political lens, and views the vaccine as a deep state plot rather than a triumph for the President.

Tonight, Joe Biden will officially become President-elect and will speak to the nation on the integrity of the process in an attempt to shore up our faith in American Democracy. Biden will address a nation where just about everyone’s faith in the democratic process has been shaken, including my own. Realistically he can’t promise that things are going to be OK, but he can commit to fixing what’s so badly broken. It won’t sway anyone in the MAGA Cinematic Universe, but the rest of America will likely be far more receptive to Biden’s message. Just as Trump’s chance to cement his legacy is dying, President-elect Biden’s is being born.

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Driving the Conversation 

State and local officials of both parties have warned that President Trump’s increasingly desperate tweets about election fraud are fueling the potential for violence as well as another ominous trend of 2020, in which public servants and others who disagree are targeted at their offices and homes with armed protests, harassing phone calls and stalkers.

Last week, an “enemies” list of state and federal officials who rejected Trump’s baseless election conspiracy theories floated up from the dark corners of the Web, with home addresses listed and red targets over their photos, the latest in a string of threats to public officials.

Videos posted on social media show a band of diminutive, pinch-faced, red-hatted white men chanting that they will “destroy the GOP” because the party has not ensured Trump stays in office—though he has absolutely no valid claim to do so because he undeniably lost the election.

By that evening, members of the white nationalist Proud Boys group began spreading out across the D.C. area, pulling Black Lives Matter signs off of historically Black churches and destroying them—including by setting the signs afire.

I see zero signs that Donald Trump and his people are ready to accept this. You’re familiar of course with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ famous five stages of grief. What we’re living through now is Donald Trump’s 10 stages of dealing with defeat, which go something like: denial, lies, more denial, more lies, blame, self-pity, rage, still more lies, pouting, and martial law. I’m not sure exactly where we are, because unlike Kubler-Ross’ orderly, staged process, Trump bounces from one stage to the next like a pinball, minute to minute, tweet to tweet.

At the same time, we’re witnessing the Republican Party’s five stages of dealing with Dear Leader’s defeat, which go: cowardice, more cowardice, still more cowardice, so much cowardice you wouldn’t believe it folks, and fascism.

But the series of personnel announcements have also hit turbulence. Some were rushed, some were delayed and some came as a surprise to those who expected to be consulted, critics say. Others say the transition team was caught off guard over how some of their picks would be received. Overall, it has been far from the quiet and carefully planned process many expected at the start.

Biden Hires and Appointments 

President-Elect Biden Announces Key Members of His Administration

  • Secretary Tom Vilsack, a two-term Governor of Iowa and the Secretary of Agriculture for all eight years of the Obama-Biden administration, is ready to get to work on day one. With an estimated one-in-six Americans and a quarter of U.S. children facing a hunger crisis, farmers reeling, and rural communities struggling to weather the pain and economic fallout of the pandemic, Vilsack will bring the experience and bold thinking needed to deliver immediate relief to farmers, ranchers, producers and families all across the country. Vilsack is committed to ensuring the USDA promotes true equity and inclusion in every mission it has. Confirmed by the unanimous consent of the Senate in 2009, Secretary Vilsack oversaw record-breaking investments in rural communities, secured vital improvements to the nation’s school meal system, and led a successful campaign to increase food safety standards.

  • Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, a leading voice for working families who has represented Ohio’s 11th Congressional District for the last twelve years, is nominated to serve as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. A former mayor of Warrensville Heights, Ohio, and past Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congresswoman Fudge is a longtime champion of affordable housing, urban revitalization, infrastructure investment, and other reforms to enhance the safety, prosperity, and sustainability of American communities. If confirmed, she will be the first woman to lead HUD in more than 40 years and the second Black woman in history to lead the Department.

  • Denis McDonough, a lifelong public servant who has been engaged at the highest level in shaping domestic and foreign policy, is nominated to serve as Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Through his service as White House Chief of Staff, Deputy National Security Advisor, and Chief of Staff of the National Security Council, McDonough helped lead the Obama-Biden administration’s work on behalf of military families and veterans, and earned the trust of the President-elect as a first-class manager with the knowledge and vision to deliver results. McDonough knows the ins and outs of government, and if confirmed, he will pull every lever to deliver results for veterans and their families.

  • Katherine Tai, a dedicated, deeply respected public servant and veteran international trade expert who has spent her career working to level the playing field for American workers and families, is nominated to serve as United States Trade Representative. If confirmed, she would be the first Asian American and first woman of color to serve in this position. Tai serves as the chief lawyer on trade for the House Ways and Means Committee and previously served in the Office of the United States Trade Representative as Chief Counsel for China Trade Enforcement. Her deep experience will allow the Biden-Harris administration to hit the ground running on trade, and harness the power of our trading relationships to help the U.S. dig out of the COVID-induced economic crisis and pursue the President-elect’s vision of a pro-American worker trade strategy.

  • Ambassador Susan Rice will serve as Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. With years of experience working at senior levels in the executive branch, Rice knows government inside and out and will carry through the President-elect’s vision of a newly empowered Domestic Policy Council and turbocharge the effort to build back better. Rice is among our nation’s most senior and experienced government leaders with the skills to harness the power of the federal government to serve the American people. As a former member of the Cabinet, she also understands the challenges and opportunities of running an agency and has extensive experience working with other key members of the Biden-Harris White House team, including the heads of NSC and NEC.

Your Moment of Hope

Watch the first healthcare workers receive the COVID-19 vaccine in New York earlier today.

Take care of yourselves and one another. We’ll see you again on Wednesday.

American Interregnum is a pop-up newsletter covering the Presidential transition period from November 3rd, 2020 to January 21st, 2021. It is written and edited by Justin Hendrix, Greg Greene, and Melissa Ryan. Got questions or comments? We love your feedback. Reply directly to this email. We read all responses and respond to most.