Time to move on from the Trump re­al­ity elec­tion show

The Star Democrat - - OPINION - GENE LYONS Ar­kan­sas Times colum­nist Gene Lyons is a Na­tional Mag­a­zine Award win­ner and co- au­thor of “The Hunt­ing of the Pres­i­dent” ( St. Martin’s Press, 2000). You can email Lyons at eu­gene­lyons2@ ya­hoo. com.

Prac­ti­cally speak­ing, it doesn’t re­ally mat­ter if Don­ald Trump ac­cepts the re­sults of the Novem­ber elec­tion. No con­ces­sion speech — can any­body imag­ine the big blowhard de­liv­er­ing one? — is legally re­quired. The Elec­toral Col­lege will cer­tify the vote in De­cem­ber and the new pres­i­dent will be sworn in on Jan. 20, 2017, whether Trump likes it or not.

That goes for his more fer­vid sup­port­ers, too.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent CBS News poll, up­wards of 80 per­cent of Texas Repub­li­cans claim to be­lieve that only voter fraud can pre­vent Trump from win­ning. Florida Repub­li­cans, too. Num­bers like those prompted the Wash­ing­ton Post’s con­ser­va­tive colum­nist Jen­nifer Rubin to urge anti- Trump Repub­li­cans not to make the mis­take of stay­ing home on Nov. 8.

“The big­ger the mar­gin by which he loses,” she writes, “the more pre­pos­ter­ous Trump’s claim that the elec­tion is fixed. In­deed, it’s more im­por­tant for Repub­li­cans — if they want to get back their party — to vote against Trump than it is for Democrats.”

Rubin’s surely cor­rect about the ab­sur­dity of the GOP can­di­date’s pos­tur­ing. How­ever, I think it’s a mis­take to take rank- and- file grum­bling about voter fraud too se­ri­ously. Large per­cent­ages of Texas Repub­li­cans also claim to be­lieve that Pres­i­dent Obama is a Kenyan- born Mus­lim, cli­mate change a Chi­nese- spon­sored hoax, and a thou­sand sim­i­lar ab­sur­di­ties. They’ve re­garded ev­ery Demo­cratic pres­i­dent since 1992 as il­le­git­i­mate.

Did you know that the 2016 Texas GOP plat­form calls for quit­ting the United Na­tions, ex­pelling its head­quar­ters from the United States and abol­ish­ing the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency?

But they haven’t got­ten up off their Barcaloungers to do any­thing about it, and they’re not go­ing to do any­thing but grum­ble this time ei­ther. Th­ese are es­sen­tially meta­phys­i­cal com­plaints — po­lit­i­cal non- starters.

See, be­fore it’s any­thing else, a U. S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion — par­tic­u­larly this pres­i­den­tial elec­tion — is es­sen­tially the world’s long­est- run­ning “re­al­ity TV” show. It’s “Amer­i­can Idol” with poll­sters; or “Celebrity Ap­pren­tice” with sta­dium ral­lies, and so forth.

The cable news net­works helped make it so back in the sum­mer of 2015, when they be­gan to cover Trump, a public­ity- hun­gry play­boy who im­per­son­ated a ty­coon on TV, like a fig­ure of real sig­nif­i­cance. CNN, MSNBC and the rest cov­ered his ar­rival at air­ports as if he were the Pope — break­ing into reg­u­larly sched­uled pro­gram­ming to broad­cast his speeches live.

Suf­fice it to say they didn’t cover “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz, “Lit­tle Marco” Ru­bio, Carly “Would any­body vote for that face?” Fio­r­ina, or even “Crooked Hil­lary” Clin­ton like that. They gave Trump im­mense free public­ity. It was only ever about one thing: rat­ings.

No, two things: rat­ings and money. Trump could be provoca­tive and amus­ing in a coarse way. He gave good TV. So they made him a star.

Ex­cept now the show is about over. So long as he was only seek­ing the ap­plause of a cer­tain kind of Repub­li­can, Trump looked in­vin­ci­ble. But he never made the tran­si­tion to the broader elec­torate. The nov­elty wore off. His in­sults and gibes grew steadily less amus­ing. Like many of his sup­port­ers, he ap­peared never to have grasped that it’s no longer pos­si­ble to win na­tional elec­tions with­out black and brown vot­ers.

Not to men­tion women. Af­ter he de­rided Hil­lary Clin­ton as a fee­ble lit­tle old lady, she made him look fool­ish in three de­bates run­ning. By the end, she was the one do­ing the taunt­ing, while Trump pouted and seethed. His reper­toire of mid­dle school put­downs was no longer ad­e­quate to the task.

Trump would be los­ing even with­out his video­taped boasts about grop­ing women, which merely con­firmed what many in­stinc­tively sus­pected. He’s the kind of bully a woman can’t risk get­ting stuck in an el­e­va­tor with.

So now “Celebrity Can­di­date 2016” is about to be can­celed. What’s more, there’s no au­di­ence for re­peat broad­casts af­ter ev­ery­body knows who won.

Or, to put it an­other way, sorry Coach Trump, but the clock ran out with your team trail­ing by three touch­downs. Yelling at the refs only makes you look like a cry­baby.

It fol­lows that strik­ing a de­fi­ant pose wouldn’t con­firm Trump as the leader of the GOP re­sis­tance at all. Within a week, he’d be­come a laugh­ing­stock, a fig­ure of fun, and the punch­line of the na­tional joke. Many of those he’s hu­mil­i­ated along the way would en­joy mock­ing him. You think “Lit­tle Marco,” “L yin’ Ted,” Paul Ryan or any of the rest will de­mand a re­count? Not a chance. Talk­ing Points Memo’s Josh Mar­shall has cor­rectly di­ag­nosed Trump’s mo­tives. “For all the dam­age and de­struc­tion of Trump’s ef­fort to un­der­mine the le­git­i­macy of the elec­tion,” he writes, “I be­lieve it’s mainly been about pre­emp­tively man­ag­ing the shame of de­feat. If Trump just loses, it kills his brand and I would sus­pect be in­sup­port­ably crush­ing in per­sonal terms.

“But if he’s cheated, he be­comes a mar­tyr, a po­lit­i­cal mar­tyr.” Ex­cept that Amer­i­cans just don’t do mar­tyrs. Time to grow up.

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