Saturday, October 10, 2020

Heather Cox Richardson on the Unravelling of President Trump

Heather Cox Richardson is a political historian and the author of the book, How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America. She also regularly publishes a dispatch via Facebook in which she “uses facts and history to make observations about contemporary American politics.”

In her most recent dispatch, Heather examines President Donald Trump’s ongoing erratic behavior, especially as it relates to the coronavirus pandemic and the rapidly approaching presidential election. She also draws a comparison between Trump and President Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Abraham Lincoln. Following (with added links) is an excerpt.

The major, obvious, in-your-face story of the day is that the president is melting down. He has spent much of the last two days calling in to the Fox News Channel and Rush Limbaugh’s radio show and ranting in a manic way that suggests he is having trouble with the steroids he is taking for his [COVID-19] illness.

. . . Congressional Republicans are wildly silent about the president's behavior, except for inklings they are distancing themselves from him and focusing on the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Even this, though, does not suggest great support for Trump. To the contrary, Republicans appear to be determined to jam her through because they expect Trump to lose the election. Although 59% of Americans think the next president should fill the seat, and although the Senate is ignoring a desperately needed coronavirus relief bill, they are planning to shepherd her through to a seat on the court before November 3.

Today, the second debate between Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was cancelled when Graham refused to take a coronavirus test despite the fact he was exposed to the virus on October 1 at a meeting that included Mike Lee (R-UT) who has since tested positive. Graham is the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and a positive test would delay the start of the Barrett hearings, slated for Monday.

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have asked Graham to postpone the hearing in light of the positive tests of two Republican committee members, Mike Lee (R-UT) and Thom Tillis (R-NC). Concerns about the spread of the disease have made Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recess the Senate until October 19, and the Democrats have noted that “no plausible public health or scientific rationale justifies proceeding with Senate Judiciary Committee hearings next week.”

Americans were already upset over the administration’s handling of the coronavirus and the resulting recession, but the [White House] superspreader event and Trump’s manic behavior since have made his polls crumble further. Republican strategist Ken Spain told Sahil Kapur of NBC News, “The president has had possibly the worst two-week stretch that a candidate could have going in to the final month of an election.”

He appears to be planning to combat his low numbers by spurring his supporters to violence and by rigging the system. Yesterday, he told Fox News Channel personality Sean Hannity that Pence’s “best answer” at the vice presidential debate was when he refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power in January. He is now saying that Biden committed “treason” and “shouldn’t be allowed to run.” His rhetoric is stoking radical fires, as extremists hear his advice to “Stand back and stand by” as a rallying cry.

The president is pushing the idea that, unless he is reelected, the election will be fraudulent, and that he will not accept the results. His campaign says it has recruited 50,000 volunteer poll watchers – polls already have certified watchers from both parties – who seem likely to try to disrupt the election in swing states. Republican leaders have tried to limit voting, with varied success: Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered all Texas counties to have a single ballot drop box (Democratic-leaning Harris County is bigger than the state of Rhode Island), but today, a federal judge ruled against him.

The Trump campaign is also looking the other way as Russia again interferes on his behalf.

In all of this – except the Russia part – Trump looks oddly like President Andrew Johnson, who took over the White House after Abraham Lincoln’s death at the hands of an assassin. Johnson was a former Democrat, and could not stand the idea of the Republican government ending systemic Black enslavement and leveling the playing field among races. He wanted to reclaim the nation for white men. Convinced he was defending America from a mob and that his supporters must retake control of the government in the midterm election of 1866 or the nation was finished, Johnson became increasingly unhinged until he began to compare himself to both the martyred Lincoln and Jesus Christ. He called his congressional opponents traitors who should be executed.

Egged on by the president, white supremacist gangs attacked Black Americans and their white allies, convincing Johnson that his party would sweep the midterms and he would gain control of the government to end Black rights.

Voters heard Johnson, all right. They were horrified by his attacks on the government and the violence he urged. It was an era in which only white men could vote, but even so, they elected to office not Johnson’s white supremacists, but Johnson’s opponents. And they didn’t just elect enough of those reasonable men to control Congress . . . voters gave them a supermajority.

Heather Cox Richardson
via Facebook
October 9, 2020

NEXT: Election Eve Thoughts

Related Off-site Links
Trump’s Erratic Behavior Sparks Fears Over His Physical and Mental HealthDemocracy Now! (October 9, 2020).
Will Amy Coney Barrett Stand by Her Man? He's Betting a Second Term On It – Bill Moyers and Lisa Graves (Common Dreams, October 9, 2020).
Donald Trump’s Loopy Self-Pity Tour of Conservative Media Outlets – John Cassidy (The New Yorker, October 10, 2020).
Taking Page From Authoritarians, Trump Turns Power of State Against Political Rivals – David E. Sanger (The New York Times, October 10, 2020).
How You Can Stop America’s Slide Toward Tyranny – Robert Reich (Common Dreams, October 8, 2020).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
David Sirota: Quote of the Day – October 2, 2020
The Lancet Weighs-in on the Trump Administration's “Incoherent” Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic
“We Have an Emergency On Our Hands”: Marianne Williamson On the “Freefall” of American Democracy
The “Freefall” Continues
“Fascism Is Upon Us”
A Means to the End (of the Trump Presidency)
Eight Leading Progressive Voices on Why They’re Voting for Biden
Rep. Ilhan Omar Responds to President Trump’s Authoritarian Threats
“The Republican Party Has Now Made It Official: They Are a Cult”
Trump’s Playbook
Progressive Perspectives on the Rise of Donald Trump
Progressive Perspectives on the Election of Donald Trump
On International Human Rights Day, Saying “No” to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
Trump’s America: Normalized White Supremacy and a Rising Tide of Racist Violence

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