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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

The conservative movement has long fostered a paranoid strain that spreads conspiracies and rejects scientific expertise. The 1925 Scopes “monkey trial,” in which a Tennessee teacher was prosecuted for teaching evolution, is well known. So is the John Birch Society’s 1950s hysteria over the fluoridation of water, which its members insisted was a Communist plot to poison Americans. And George Wallace was renowned for, among other things, his denunciations of “pointy-headed” intellectuals.

Still, the Republican Party retained a deep reservoir of respect for science, for intellectual prowess, for simple facts. During the 1950s and ’60s, William Buckley, an Ivy-League-educated intellectual, was a leading light of the conservative movement. The Grand Old Party embraced the science necessary to beat the Soviet Union to the moon. It supported vaccinations and funded research institutions.

But somewhere along the way, that all changed. The GOP is now “the stupid party,” as Bobby Jindal, the Republican then-governor of Louisiana, put it. The nadir of its decades-long descent into know-nothing, flat-Earth denialism was its embrace of Donald J. Trump, the “very stable genius” who denied that the coronavirus pandemic was a crisis until a few days ago.

Just ask longtime Republican political consultant Stuart Stevens, who wrote an opinion essay decrying the GOP’s “toxic fantasies.” Stevens said, “Don’t just blame President Trump. Blame me — and all the other Republicans who aided and abetted and, yes, benefited from protecting a political party that has become dangerous to America. Some of us knew better.”

The Trump administration slashed funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dismantled the National Security Council’s global health security office and ignored warnings from infectious disease experts who said the coronavirus would have dire consequences. Then, Trump stood before the cameras for weeks and insisted “the risk to the American people remains very low.”

But, as Stevens noted, this didn’t start with Trump. The GOP’s distaste for science, distrust of experts, and dismissal of facts have taken a couple of generations to culminate in this man-made disaster. While nature created the novel coronavirus, the Republican Party created the conditions for the Trump administration’s wretchedly incompetent response.

Over the years, several unfortunate trends came together in the Republican Party, producing a deadly confluence that disrespects science and downplays expertise. One of those trends was the acceleration of efforts by large industries, especially those that produce environmental toxins and release greenhouse gases, to persuade congressional Republicans to doubt the science that held them responsible for causing widespread harm. Dependent on contributions from those industries, the GOP went along, some of them denouncing climate change as a “hoax.”

There is also a cultural component to the crazy. Modern science tends to dispute some long-held beliefs of religious conservatives, including the notion that homosexuality is a mental illness. Mainstream psychologists denounce so-called conversion therapy, which claims to “cure” gays and lesbians. But the Republican Party long ago arranged a marriage of convenience with socially conservative Christians; many of its current elected officials hail from fundamentalist religious backgrounds. Thus the anti-gay plank in the GOP platform was laid.

At the state level, reactionary politicians have gone so far as to starve the treasuries of their public colleges and universities, since those institutions, as one Tennessee lawmaker put it, constitute a “liberal breeding ground.”

Of course, as Stevens noted, some Republicans knew better. In a newly disclosed audio recording, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is overheard warning a group of wealthy members of a private club on Feb. 27 that the coronavirus could wreak havoc, “probably … akin to the 1918 pandemic” that killed millions. That was weeks before Trump acknowledged the coming crisis. But did Burr share that with Republican voters, who depend on Fox News for their information?

Of course not. His silence helps explain why, even now, so many elderly Trump-loving voters are ignoring warnings about avoiding crowds and cruises. They believe the propaganda that was spewed for so long, the insistence that the coronavirus warnings are a hoax. That makes them a danger not only to themselves but to the rest of us.

It took the Republican Party a while to put the entire nation at risk, but their self-serving idiocy has now brought us to the brink of disaster.

Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]