Things are not looking good for Donald J Trump right now; even his beloved Fox News pundits are gritting their teeth, looking at each other a little nervously, and talking about “narrow paths to victory”. What does a prospective leader of the free world do when he’s on the ropes? Well, sometimes he concedes gracefully. Sometimes he comes out — as Joe Biden did during the night — to tell his supporters to keep their chins up and stay optimistic. And sometimes he gets his son and Rudy Giuliani to rant about conspiracy theories outside an airport in Philadelphia.
So it was that Eric Trump, Lara Trump, Rudy Giuliani and Corey Lewandowski stepped in front of cameras just now, sans president. It was a press conference that was originally planned for 3.30pm ET, cancelled, and then un-cancelled and rescheduled for an hour later. At 4.35pm, Team Trump wandered out in front of a gathering of people in Stars and Stripes masks holding “Make America Great Again” signs. And what a motley crew it was.
First up was Eric, a man no one has ever accused of possessing a statesmanlike quality. Continuing his performance piece from the Republican convention, he flailed his arms and declared victory for Dad in Pennsylvania, screaming that “ballots have been found in drainage ditches”, there was “rampant corruption”, and “this isn’t democracy”. Giuliani crouched behind him, holding on to a comically oversized book which was presumedly supposed to make him look legally intimidating. The former mayor of New York would be “basically leading” the legal efforts for team Trump, Eric said, before handing over.
“This is among the most anti-democratic things I’ve ever seen or encountered,” Giuliani started out with, regarding the free and fair presidential election with a record turnout and an ongoing count. And “it’s not just Philly,” he added: “It’s going on all round the country.” Not Arizona or Nevada, of course, where it looks like Trump might be gaining a lead, and where they should definitely keep counting the leftover votes. But in Pennsylvania and Michigan, where Trump performed well but then appeared to lose a comfortable lead? Totally undemocratic. Better stop counting the ballots now.
“Joe Biden could have voted 5,000 times,” Giuliani told us, which is a sprightly turnaround for Sleepy Joe if ever there was one (perhaps it’s all that debate performance-enhancing Adderall.) “We’re going to have a look at how many dead people have voted here, too.” Much as a zombie army of the undead turning out to vote for Biden and Kamala Harris in droves would be very on-brand for 2020, it seems a bit of a stretch. “In Wisconsin, mysteriously at two o’clock in the morning, 100,000 ballots appeared,” Giuliani continued. It’s not clear if “these are really ballots” or “if it isn’t the same person who did 100,000 ballots.”
How “mysteriously” 100,000 pieces of paper can actually “appear” inside a polling station during an election is in dispute. Though Giuliani perhaps envisions a nefarious person who “controls the media” dumping a wheelbarrow on a table in Detroit, we know that Giuliani is also the kind of person who believes that Borat is real.
“These people, the elite, they don’t care about the people,” Giuliani, the former NYC mayor and Time person of the year, said of the party opposing his billionaire real-estate heir friend. Eric Trump, who makes lots of money working for his dad the president, sagely nodded. “They have so much power,” Giuliani added plaintively. Will somebody just help out these plucky underdogs already?
And now the plucky underdogs are taking it to the Supreme Court, so a case about the election can sit in front of the new conservative Justice the sitting President appointed just a week before the election. It’s all so utterly, wearily predictable, isn’t it? We sort of suspected it would happen. But still, like everything else this year, we believed in our heart of hearts that it wouldn’t. No, the outbreak in Wuhan won’t turn into a global pandemic that kills hundreds of thousands. No, the murder hornets won’t build a nest in an old lady’s garden in Washington. No, President Trump won’t actually file a lawsuit to try and stop votes from American citizens being counted in Pennsylvania because the election doesn’t look like it’s going his way.
During this underwhelming press conference, one person was glaringly absent: President Donald Trump, the person we’re all supposed to be rooting for. We haven’t seen him since the early hours of the morning, when he leaned into the mic and muttered creepily about how “we always knew they were going to do this”.
This is starting to look a bit Bay of Pigs. Trump had the ability to come out of this election — whether victorious or not — with a semblance of dignity. A careful PR campaign over the past 48 hours could have manufactured it that way. Instead, he’s chosen the path of the sore loser. A Fox News commentator minutes before his team spoke said that “victory looks almost impossible, unless something is overturned. And that’s why we have so many lawsuits.” Call me crazy, but I’m not finding the “beating the looming evil of democracy” narrative especially relatable.
Remember how the Republicans told Latinx people to vote for them in Florida because otherwise their election would resemble a banana republic? If we’re going to have to watch this entire country descend into farce, it would be nice if it wasn’t actively painful to watch.
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