When we recorded this Gillmor Gang, it was Day Four post-election, or midweek in counting the late incoming mail and other provisional ballots. We were largely convinced of the Biden victory, but that nagging doubt instilled in us by 2016 still pervaded the Zoom session. Saturday’s street party felt more like it, and the sheer joy of Kamala Harris’s historic ascendancy was palpable.
As we sit yet another day later, the perception that Trump will never concede is matched by the equal feeling that we could care less. The air slowly leaking out of the tire doesn’t seem particularly impactful, but the moment when the metal rim connects with the concrete will bring things quickly to the reality. What’s really stark is the network chatter about Trump’s silence, that he has no plan. Is this new? He’s never conceded anything, and his plan is to disrupt any plan.
Still, we are so used to wallowing in this mess that we feel lost in our fatigue and good luck. Even as we recorded, processing the size of the vote on both sides took some effort. We understand the pandemic-mandated mail-in surge, but why the closeness of the numbers? Part of the surprise is how engaged the opposition is given the horror of the death toll, the clarity of the lies and evasions, the totalitarian suppression of information.
The presidency is at its heart an emotional transmitter: here’s what the deal is, here’s what we need to do, here’s what we’re going to do. However chaotic Trump’s message is, he is easy to understand. Biden was successful enough in his pitch to suggest he saw the world in similar ways, replacing fear with collective hope. Two distinct messages, one basic approach: fix the other guy’s mistakes. It’s not a beauty contest, but an ugly contest.
On Saturday Night Live, Dave Chappelle explored this odd coalition. He had a quizzical look that raised and answered the musical question: Can I get away with this? Only occasionally funny in words, he was deep in courage and rigorous in opposition to conventional partisan wisdom. Are we ready to see it both ways, not just one way, our way? Smoking, swearing ugly, he peered out into the moment with that questioning expression: Am I getting away with this? Should I?
As counting continues, we take a break to watch a Netflix series, "The Queen’s Gambit." Binge chess, with a mesmerizing mix of mid-60s sets and soundtrack, and the hypnotic rhythm of timer competitive chess and the coming of age of a teenaged future Grand Master girl. The counterpoint of Trump’s silence and time travel tracking shots in and through a Vegas hotel chess convention produces a comforting feeling that this transition has room to breathe. Waiting for the consensus to develop in an intricate chess match soothes us as we wait today for political reality to firm up.
The stakes are high, and the outcomes unknown. We may not know how the war with the virus will go, but at least we’ve somehow given ourselves a reasonable chance of resetting the clock. As we recorded the show, we had enough data to guess the result, even if we still don’t know the precise steps to January 20th.
The election data suggests Trump will have leverage to primary Republicans who openly challenge him. How he parlays that to his personal advantage will likely include a run at some version of TrumpTV, though his usual play is to license the brand. He may find that difficult with the prospect of going head to head with Murdoch, Fox News and The Wall Street Journal. That group may require Trump to concede in order to make a deal.
But enough, already. Lame duck is a great place for the Donald to try and blast his way out of the sand trap. Democrats have earned a well-deserved respite for the holidays, thanks to the Biden team’s relentless focus on winning the Electoral College for once. Who knew? They did. And the moment in chess when the loser offers resignation comes not at the bitter end but three or four moves before.
Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor
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