There are things that I don’t want to learn
And the last one I had
Made me cry.” — George Michael
I have to give Donald Trump one thing. He has forced millions of Americans to learn the intricacies of our government in ways we never thought possible. I taught U.S. Government for several years. I never covered concepts like “Safe Harbor” or exactly when the Electoral College officially placed their votes. Just covering the concept of the electoral college was enough.
Going through Facebook posts and Twitter feeds is enough to make me wonder how many people would pass my Government class today. Even still, I have to admit that these past few weeks have forced me to do a hard recall on the facts I learned in my political science classes more than 20 years ago. As I am fond of saying, I’ve slept since then.
Today marks the day that the electors are supposed to vote. We know the electoral college count (306-232) and there really hasn’t been any drama around the count itself for nearly a month. However, since the president has failed to concede we are still left talking about it just the same.
Last week marked the “Safe Harbor” date when all of the election results in each state were locked in. Again, we haven’t seen this come up since 2000 and even then it was really only about one state. You certainly didn’t have some states suing over states about their election rules. So, we somewhat sweated this routine that had previously been relegated into the small print of history.
There might be a few “faithless electors” as there were in 2016. It won’t be more than a handful though. Following today, the next marker on the election calendar will be January 6th when Congress officially certifies the electoral college’s choice. Again, it’s usually a formality, but this year we are relearning our civics step by step.
We mention all of this to say that the events of the past four years haven’t been all bad. People are more engaged in the process. A higher percentage of Americans voted in the last election than in any in decades. We literally had more people vote than ever before. People are more engaged and educated about the process than before. These are all good things.
However, we can’t help that the price of this engagement has been massive. I could rattle off the statistics as good as anyone else, but the biggest toll is not necessarily with just the pandemic or the erosion of our faith in our institutions, but the day to day toll it places on our psyche. We weren’t made to go through this level of stress every day. That stress should have ended on the Saturday following the election when it was called by the networks.
During college, we had a running cartoon called “The Adventures of Implosion Boy.” It was a simple enough cartoon. A little boy wore a costume with a large I and called himself “Implosion Boy.” He told unwitting bystanders that if they didn’t give him what he wanted he would implode at will. Somehow throughout the life of the cartoon (several months as it turned out) no one called him on his bluff.
So, Implosion Boy grew a few sizes in the waistline as he conned people out of sandwiches, pizza, and ice cream. The reaction was always the same. Everyone acted like hostages in a bank heist. They forked over the stuff to avoid seeing something that couldn’t possibly harm them even if he could deliver on his promise. I think everyone sees the parallels here.
I’m happy that we’ve all become engaged about the process. I’m happy that so many people now know about “Safe Harbor” and know exactly when the electoral college officially votes. I’m happy that people know when Congress officially certifies the electors and their votes. I’m certain we’ve also learned quite a bit about the legal process as well. Thank you Donald Trump.
Yet, I can’t get the nagging image of Implosion Boy out of my head. I can’t help but wonder if more than a few Republicans would call his bluff that all of this would be over. It would have been over a long time ago. Maybe we could have gotten some things done in the last four years if someone had just patted him on the head and told him to go ahead and implode.
Sure, maybe you lose his base, but the hard lesson of politics is that there is really nowhere for his base to go. Do they suddenly become Bernie Sanders supporters? Do they suddenly go from being ardent racists to being progressive? They can vote Republican or not vote. Those were always their choices. So, cow towing to them is a lot like giving Implosion Boy a sandwich. Sure, he didn’t implode. Better have another sandwich at the ready for after the inauguration.