The down­fall of democ­racy? Trump won’t dif­fuse that fear

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - FRONT PAGE - Jeff Edel­stein Jeff Edel­stein is a colum­nist for The Tren­to­nian. He can be reached at jedel­stein@ tren­to­, face­book. com/jef­freyedel­stein and @ jeffedel­stein on Twit­ter.

“Many lives change like that. All of a sud­den, and for­ever.” The above is a line from one of my all-time fa­vorite nov­els, “The Years of Rice and Salt” by Kim Stan­ley Robin­son. It’s one of those love it or hate it books. (Why? It’s like 900 pages of al­ter­nate his­tory imag­in­ing a world where the Black Death wiped out 99% of Europe, mean­ing Chi­nese and Mus­lim fac­tions came to rule the world, and you fol­low three main char­ac­ters through 700 years of his­tory, as they get rein­car­nated with­out their knowl­edge. Again: Love it or hate it. Any­way ...)

Any­way, that line al­ways stuck with me, mostly be­cause it’s true. Has it hap­pened to you? To some­one you know? Ei­ther for good or ill, many lives do change on a dime, and the re­sults last for­ever.

Well, I feel like that line can ap­ply to our lit­tle Amer­i­can demo­cratic ex­per­i­ment as well. *****

The fol­low­ing hap­pened Wed­nes­day at a White House press con­fer­ence:

RE­PORTER: Mr. Pres­i­dent, real quickly, win, lose, or draw in this elec­tion, will you com­mit here, to­day, for a peace­ful trans­fer­ral of power af­ter the elec­tion? There has been ri­ot­ing in Louisville, ri­ot­ing in many cities across this coun­try. Red, and your so-called red and blue states. Will you com­mit to a peace­ful trans­fer­ral of power af­ter the elec­tion?

TRUMP: Well we’re go­ing to have to see what hap­pens. As you know that I’ve been com­plain­ing very strongly about the bal­lots, and the bal­lots are a dis­as­ter and

RE­PORTER: I un­der­stand that but peo­ple are ri­ot­ing. Do you com­mit to mak­ing sure

TRUMP: I know, I know

RE­PORTER: -there is a peace­ful trans­fer­ral of power?

TRUMP: Get rid of the bal­lots and you’ll have a very trans­fer, we’ll have a very peace­ful, there won’t be a trans­fer frankly. There will be a con­tin­u­a­tion. The bal­lots are out of con­trol, you know it, and you know who knows it bet­ter than any­one else? The Democrats know it bet­ter than any­one else. *****

Of course, ev­ery­one jumped on this. The At­lantic, as it turns out, had a story al­ready writ­ten about how Team Trump is schem­ing be­hind the scenes to throw this elec­tion into chaos in an ef­fort to po­ten­tially steal the of­fice of the pres­i­dency. A Slate. com ar­ti­cle about all this is ti­tled “I’ve Never Been More Wor­ried About Amer­i­can Democ­racy Than I Am Right Now” writ­ten by a pro­fes­sor of law and po­lit­i­cal science at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia–Irvine School of Law.

Make no mis­take: Love him or hate him, Trump will seek ways to hold on to the pres­i­dency, and he will use ev­ery tool at his dis­posal to do so.

In no sce­nario can I see Trump say­ing, “Well, we gave it our best. Here’s the keys, Joe.” *****

It’s all too easy to throw around the “facist” moniker when talk­ing about Trump. Of course, it’s non­sense. Maybe he’s got some ten­den­cies about him that dove­tail a bit with the facist def­i­ni­tion, but this is Amer­ica, this is a democ­racy, we don’t need to worry about facism.

By the way, cour­tesy of Mer­riam-Web­ster, here’s the def­i­ni­tion of fac­sim: a po­lit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy, move­ment, or regime that ex­alts na­tion and of­ten race above the in­di­vid­ual and that stands for a cen­tral­ized au­to­cratic govern­ment headed by a dic­ta­to­rial leader, se­vere eco­nomic and so­cial reg­i­men­ta­tion, and forcible sup­pres­sion of op­po­si­tion.

I mean, if it walks like a duck This elec­tion is the most im­por­tant pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in Amer­i­can his­tory. Of course, we were also told that in 2016, and 2012, and 2008, and 2004, and 2000 …

So no. I’m not go­ing to say this elec­tion is the most im­por­tant elec­tion in Amer­i­can his­tory.

But I will say this: This elec­tion may very well turn out to be the most im­por­tant test of our democ­racy and our laws in Amer­i­can his­tory. Hang­ing chads were tid­dly­winks com­pared to what we’re look­ing at right now.

Maybe you think I’m over­selling this, maybe you think this is a bunch of non­sense. Or maybe you don’t.

Ei­ther way, it’s worth re­mem­ber­ing that some­times, when you’re not even pay­ing at­ten­tion, things change. All of a sud­den and for­ever.


Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks dur­ing a news con­fer­ence in the James Brady Press Brief­ing Room of the White House Wed­nes­day, Sept. 23, 2020, in Wash­ing­ton.

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