I had in mind to start the year with a light column about one of my favorite thought experiments, the paradox of thrift. I had been thinking about it quite a lot during the holidays, when Christmas consumerism inevitably crashes against resolutions like smarter budgeting.
I wasn’t planning to write about the runoff elections in Georgia because I fully expected the Republican incumbents to retain their seats and for their party to continue to control the Senate, and the status quo is hardly newsworthy six days later.
This is an Opinion
See, I had assumed that Republican-leaning voters, having been surprised by President Trump’s narrow defeat there in November, would turn out in a big way to make sure their party didn’t lose control of the Senate as well as the White House. A make-or-break election in a single state doesn’t come along every day — or ever, that I can recall.
But that’s just more proof that I am possibly the world’s worst political prognosticator, which is why I try to avoid making public predictions. Instead of an upset loss energizing Republicans, a narrow victory energized Georgia’s Democrats, who — unlike Republicans — seemed more eager to vote on a ballot that didn’t have Trump’s name on it.
There is a distinct downside to having one marquee name that drives partisan turnout, as the Democrats learned in the 2010 and 2014 midterms, when Barack Obama was not on the ballot.
I definitely wasn’t planning to write about congressional housekeeping duties, the little ceremonial tallying of the Electoral College results that have been counted and recounted, challenged, litigated and upheld in court after court. Even knowing that some congressional Republicans planned some grandstanding to burnish their bona fides as successors to Trump’s voters didn’t make me want to write about it. I shall never understand why a TV huckster who ran a scam university and belittled POWs is a better representative of Republican values than any other pro-life conservative in the land, but I’ll also never understand football. And Trump’s winning streak ended and his season is obviously dunzo.
Then Wednesday turned into a day of utter chaos. I was tired from having stayed up too late marveling at the surprise results in Georgia, and the assault by Americans against their own constitutional government was simply soul-crushing. I had that shaky feeling that I remember from 9/11, when I wasn’t sure what was going on but I knew it was very bad and that I needed to keep my wits about me. Some random Twitter person said it felt like 9/11 but with Americans flying the planes, which felt too true for comfort.
It’s no secret that I have never believed Donald Trump to be even minimally fit for the presidency — not by intellect, experience, character or temperament. This makes me part of the majority of Pulaski County voters and Americans in general, but a minority among Arkansans.
Still, I accepted that he was president and that he had all the rightful powers of the office, even as I abhor his use of pardons to reward criminals who committed crimes for his benefit and his directing of public funds to his for-profit businesses. I accepted long ago that there really is no bottom to what he will do or say for his own gratification, and I accepted that Republicans were willing to keep sinking with him. (Whether because they agree with him or are cowards scared of a mean tweet is unclear — but we saw what happened to unfailingly loyal Vice President Pence when it turned out he didn’t have the authority to overturn the election.)
I accepted that Trump would continue his verbal assault on democracy — and his emails asking true believers to send money to a self-declared billionaire — for as long as it was lucrative. But I was not prepared for a physical assault on the center of our democracy by people the president described as “very special” with a declaration of his love. If this is the very best the Republican Party has to offer, it’s time for a new conservative party.
I figure she’ll stay in government and politics, but Stacey Abrams could earn millions doing for a corporation what she did for Democrats in Georgia. Mission, vision, organization and management equal market share, right? And, as a friend reminded me, Abrams was motivated primarily by her conviction that voter suppression kept her from winning Georgia’s governorship in 2018. Had she won that, she would have been preoccupied with governing, including managing a pandemic that has killed 11,000 Georgians in less than a year, and she would not have been able to dedicate two years to voter registration.
Winning Georgia would not have made the difference for President Trump, but it would have made the difference for control of the Senate.