Doomed Republicans Begin Scurrying Off the Sinking Trump Ship
But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before—
On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.”
Then the bird said “Nevermore.”
– Edgar Allen Poe, The Raven, 1845
You can hear them now if you listen with the kind of ears I have developed over forty years of following politics and thirty-some in covering it. It is the sound of the pivot. I heard it in late 1980 when Jimmy Carter was slipping in the polls late – although in the end it was closer than anyone expected. The Democrats running for office and supporting him changed their tune from righteousness to resignation. I absolutely remember the chatter and had direct conversations with Republican operatives when things started going sideways for George H. W. Bush in the fall of 1992. A one-term president and his staunch support erodes fast when the going gets tough. And that is what is happening to Donald J. Trump. In the past week a bevy of polls have gone up three percentage points for former Vice President and Democratic nominee Joe Biden, after months of toggling between six and seven points nationally. More importantly, his battleground state leads have ballooned to their highest numbers yet. Thus… the pivot.
People around Trump are scrambling for a life raft, and let’s face it, almost none of this good news for Biden has anything to do with Biden, just like Trump’s fortunes in 2016 had little to nothing to do with Trump. That was about Hillary Clinton, and for Trump, whose abysmal record speaks for itself, this latest and last plummet has been part shitty debate, part president who disregards virus gets virus, part trying to jam Supreme Court nominee a month out from a national election, and part seeing the forest for the trees for people in the know. Trump is finished. And the rats are abandoning ship. Fast.
Personal anecdotal evidence of the pivot began for me this week when I started getting emails about things duly ignored by Republicans for four years – decorum, good taste, rationality. My rightly pointing out last week the delicious irony that a man who ignored the seriousness of this pandemic and whose bungling of it at the national level that has now caused 213,000 deaths, contracted the disease and then continuously lied and diverted information about his health has caused a stir. Republicans who willfully abandoned the moral high ground want it back. Well, fuck them.
Suddenly Donald Trump, who has openly mocked paraplegics, women, military veterans, and protestors and every single person smart and brave enough to call him what he is – a racist, lunatic fascist – is worried that now that he is sick and possibly dying, jacked on a cocktail of weird drugs, his face painted in an orange cake, his normal erratic behavior taken to new lows, is supposed to garner sympathy and respect. Fuck him.
Then there are the pundits. In this past week, after the vice-presidential debate the cry was “Hurrah for Mike Pence!”, they cheered the VP’s return to a calm, calculated vision of conservatism; lower taxes, anti-government, the usual crap about religion. They would like to forget and move on from this gory pestilence of democracy they’ve enabled and defended for four years. Yeah, fuck them.
Even Pence’s performance – a Pavarotti-esque aria of obfuscation – was amazingly heroic considering he’s holding two sixes against an opponent sitting on a royal flush. All California Senator Kamal Harris had to do is tell the audience that the head of the Coronavirus Task Force is sitting behind plexiglass because everyone in the White House is infected by coronavirus, drop the mic, blow a double-kiss and sashay out. Yet, Pence did a masterful job trying to defend his shit-sandwich administration a week after his boss acted like a boorish lout, which began an alarming precipitous nosedive in the polls that were already deep under water long before he took the stage in Cleveland.
It did little to change the narrative – more people were interested in the fly that camped out on Pence’s head for two agonizing minutes – since he was doing less to get Trump re-elected than trying desperately to cover his party’s ass. It was a smart political move, but he has the stench of failure and defeat about him, as Trump killed any momentum he may have snatched when the president called Harris a “monster” in an incoherent monologue on Fox Business News the next morning. The pivot will toss Pence aside like refuse. His career is over. It will be the God-lecture circuit for him now. And fuck him.
Pence’s showcase and the commentary from the right immediately afterwards is all you need to know about where this election is going and has been going and covered as such here for months. Trump is toast. And now, within the past six weeks, so may be the senate. And there is palpable GOP panic about that. Take Lindsay Graham, who will probably survive in South Carolina, but in no possible way is that a sure thing. South Carolina? Lindsay Graham? He was reduced to go on Fox News begging for money and has been conspicuously silent about a president he has shamelessly boot-licked for four years after calling him a “race-baiting, xenophobic bigot” in 2015. This is what they call in D.C.’s legendary Shelly’s Backroom “a canary-in-the-coal mine maneuver”. Graham is telling you there is danger ahead. But you don’t need his prognostications. And, in fact, for the record, fuck him too.
Make no mistake; the grand pivot has begun. The reckoning is among us and now there is a clamber to make this hurt much less, to make sure the Democrats don’t “pack the court” or start making states out of Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, nix the filibuster and start going as nuts as the Republicans have been. And as far as I can see, all of that and more is on the table and there will be great ripping of garments and gnashing of teeth, but it will be too late. Because the emperor is sick and twisted and condemned and is stark naked. He sold his togs for TV ratings and pussy-grabbing and a gutting of the state department, acting as a Russian operative, and a whole lot of obstruction of justice from the FBI to the EPA.
Many people believe Edgar Allen Poe wrote his masterpiece, The Raven for his fallen wife, but those with the right ears hear it as a tolling bell for our eleventh president, James K. Polk, oft-considered one of the worst to hold the office. Polk was elected in 1844, one year before The Raven was published in the New York Evening Mirror – portending dire consequences to come; an inescapable sense of doom. Doom was Poe’s sweet spot. Now, 175 years later his dark premonitions on the evils of a damaged leader evoke the same echoes of disaster. There is a reason I think there is more to learn about politics in Poe’s cocaine-addled missives. I have quoted it before and likely will do so again. It is perhaps the most brilliant insight into the dark, American spirit of our most heinous choices. Now, after straddling the nation with a game show host, we can listen to the voices pivot and beseech the inevitable. They’ll tell you: Nevermore.