Tomorrow is January 6th, the day when a joint session of Congress comes together and performs what is largely a perfunctory, ceremonial formality of officially counting the electoral votes that were cast back in December, which in turn reflect the outcome of popular elections that happened back on November 3rd.
Most years, the election would already be old news. Twenty years ago, when Bush and Gore were running a narrow race against each other, drama and uncertainty surrounding one state dragged it out into December.
This year, the counting in Congress is less of a formality as a desperate despot who fears the loss of presidential powers and protections is entertaining legal conspiracy theories of dubious provenance as to ways he can turn it into a do-over on the actual election.
While the odds are slim to the point of negligibility that any of the gambits being bruited about by the enablers of The Tan Who Would Be King will result in a change to the outcome, it’s less certain than ever that the count will be finished Wednesday and vanishingly unlikely that we’ll be able to leave November behind us any time before, at the earliest, noon on January 20th, when we inaugurate Joe Biden as the 46th president of these benighted states.
I look at the sheer density of political news and news-like substances surrounding the electoral college and its votes and I feel like, as a self-trained and self-employed pundit, I don’t even know where to begin. The lawyers I follow on Twitter do a good of breaking down the many and myriad problems with the lawsuits and legal theorycrafting on the right that propose paths by which Trump could “still win” the election he soundly lost, and I feel like I could do little more than just repackage their insights, adding little of value.
Still, I have to say something. Many of you are in fact paying me to say something. And I know intellectually it’s not for my credentials (I have none of those) nor my legal expertise (same) nor my experience in politics (I’m an interested outsider), but for my ability to simultaneously analyze and inspire.
I don’t feel particularly inspiring right now, so instead I will try to spread calm.
Donald Trump does not have a path to victory. He’s already lost, and the party he relies on to prop him up anyway is doing risk/benefit analysis and enough of them are seeing the cost of propping him up as too high to be worth keeping the White House. I think they see their best bet lies in trying to sandbag the Biden presidency badly enough that they can make gains in 2022 and re-take the White House in 2024, ideally with Trump fast fading into the distance.
I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. I think the maxim of “Elect clowns, expect a circus” probably sums it up. There will be theatrics. There will be dramatics. We may see things that no one alive has ever seen happen in the halls of Congress. But when the dust settles and the smoke clears, Joe Biden will — again — be proclaimed the winner and the president-elect, with Senator Kamala Harris alongside him as the vice president-elect.
A lot can happen in the two weeks between Wednesday and the 20th, when their terms of office begin. Trump may lash out in unprecedented ways or he may spiral into self-doubt and seclusion. Very likely he’ll ping-pong back and forth between those.
But in just a little bit over two weeks from today, he will be out of office, out of the White House, out of options, and on his way out of our lives. If he continues to command headlines, it will have to do with the massive amounts of civil and criminal exposure that he no longer has the power to hold off.
This is the wisdom I have to share at this moment in our weird and wild history: the dust will settle and the smoke will clear. The endless election day will end. The last full day of November 2020 will come on January 19th, and at noon of the following day a new chapter will begin.
The showtunes got one thing right: the sun will come out, even if this particular tomorrow is more than a day away. Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise, even if we must wait through several days more.
Until then, there’s little that we can do beyond what our next president has already asked of us:
Keep the faith.