November 19, 2020 | Reading Time: 3 minutes

Kneeling to the Republican collective

Individuals don't matter. Democracy doesn't matter. Unless they are a threat.

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The president lost the election. He’s losing his legal fight. He’s now trying to get obscure local election officials to overrule the sovereignty of the citizenry. It’s a last-ditch effort on Donald Trump’s part, but also a clear sign that democracy isn’t the point for the president or the GOP. It’s an obstacle to power they must overcome.

According to the Post, the president on Tuesday called a Republican member of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers. Monica Palmer said he called after she and another Republican member changed their minds, deciding to certify votes in their jurisdiction. (They had initially refused to.) Importantly, the president’s phone call came before Palmer and William Hartmann changed their minds again. They filed affidavits Wednesday alleging they were “improperly pressured” to certify votes.

When put like this, it’s clear that Donald Trump isn’t just an electoral loser. He’s the leader of an insurgency in the making.

Bear in mind none of this matters. The president may have told Palmer and Hartmann to “rescind” their votes, but Michigan law prohibits it. The move is, moreover, part of an unprecedented effort by Trump to delay or undermine a peaceful transition of power, said University of Kentucky law professor Joshua Douglas. “It would be the end of democracy as we know it,” he told the AP. “This is just not a thing that can happen.”

What’s curious is that Michigan would go blue even if the president’s gambit succeeded. President-elect Joe Biden’s vote margin there is in the tens of thousands. What did Trump hope to accomplish by improperly pressuring obscure local election officials? If democracy isn’t the point, and winning Michigan isn’t the point, what is? I think the point can be seen in Palmer and Hartmann’s term “improperly pressured.”

True improper pressure is the president of the United States calling an obscure local election official to say she and the other guy made the wrong choice, now go out there and humiliate yourselves in my name even if there’s no chance of winning Michigan. False improper pressure is local citizens like Ned Staebler who, during a public hearing of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, said Palmer and Hartmann were choosing to disenfranchise Black Detroiters, a cardinal sin for which they will burn in Hell.

Palmer told the Post:

“Last night was heartbreaking. I sat in that chair for two hours listening to people attack me” as a racist who was attempting to disenfranchise Detroit residents. She said her intentions were the opposite—but her efforts have been lost in a sea of invective that night that included death threats against her and her family.

Free speech isn’t a threat unless it’s literal. Otherwise, it’s protected. People seeking to invalidate democracy often make free speech seem threatening, though. “I sat in that chair for two hours listening to people attack me.” That’s what Palmer and Hartmann mean by “improperly pressured.” Outrage poured down on them for refusing to certify the vote. The public pressured them. Democracy urged them. Nothing’s improper there.

Here’s the tip jar! Put something nice in it!

Then they changed their minds a second time. That’s where true improper pressure comes in. Not only did the president appear to tell them to “rescind” their decisions; Palmer received death threats after certifying votes that turn Wayne County blue. Kayla Ruble saw texts in which Palmer was threatened. Palmer told Ruble they came from the right and the left, but that’s not credible. (“Leftist” threats came from “Antifa from Grosse Pointe.”) More likely, she got death threats from Trump supporters aiming to punish her for disloyalty to Trump despite loyalty making no difference.

Like Palmer, Tricia Raffensperger, wife of the Georgia secretary of state, is also getting death threats. Fox’s Atlanta affiliate reported some of them: “You better not botch this recount. Your life depends on it.” “Your husband deserves to face a firing squad.” “The Raffenspergers should be put on trial for treason and face execution.” Back in Michigan, white vigilantes arrested in connection with a scheme to kidnap the governor had a Plan B, according to prosecutors. ABC’s Chicago affiliate reported Wednesday it “involved a takeover of the Michigan capitol building by 200 combatants who would stage a week-long series of televised executions of public officials.”

If democracy isn’t the point, and winning Michigan isn’t the point, what is? The point, I think, is simple once you think about it. It’s subordination to the collective. Palmer succumbed to democratic pressure. She betrayed the group. She must be punished. Humiliation or death, the goal is the same. The call of the tribe is so strong you’re willing to slander democracy—I sat in that chair for two hours listening to people attack me.” Individuals don’t matter. Neither does democracy. Not till they threaten the collective. Then they justify an equal, opposite, and seditious reaction. Put like this, it’s clear Trump isn’t just a loser. He’s the leader of an insurgency in the making.

John Stoehr

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.


  1. John Smart on July 30, 2021 at 11:24 pm

    I am convinced we will have a secession crisis in this country soon. And we probably need one.

    The GOP is now so deranged I’m not sure we can move forward without – well— something that crushes and hobbles them. They are evil, deranged and unfixable.

    • Burgs on July 30, 2021 at 11:24 pm

      This all the way.

    • Stephen Van Doren on July 30, 2021 at 11:24 pm

      Secession somehow implies to me that we, on the correct side of history, aren’t entitled to all that land that would somehow secede. It’s clear we’re in the majority, and currently all those lands are American as apple pie and the 14th Amendment. They’re welcome to leave, as they have been so fond of saying to us these many years. I think there might be some people of color who have a stronger claim to that land than the southern whites, and plenty of indigenous folks with better claims than the Midwest/west whites.

      They should be kept separate from their children, of course, maybe in cages….

      • John Smart on July 30, 2021 at 11:24 pm

        Honestly if it would up to me I’d just round all the MAGAts up and give them half of Alaska- the part nearest Russia. That said at some point we do kinda need to admit that there are 2 countries in this country. Certainly in broad terms small d democrats should not tolerate for long domination of a minority of authoritarians who’ve gamed the system.

        The Northeast Acela Corridor and entire West Coast – with the possible exception of Newport Beach CA – are in a different country than Arkansas, Mississippi, or Midland-Odessa. NOW. As different as France is from Serbia. Eventually that reality will play out and need resolution.

        Can we all get along? Seems like the answer is “no” and maybe it is worth at least considering accepting that and trying to figure out how to solve it.

        • on July 30, 2021 at 11:24 pm

          NB is part of the US. It’s Huntington Beach, next door, where I live, that sometimes seems like Kentucky Beach.

  2. Sara Lefebvre on July 30, 2021 at 11:24 pm

    It is preemptive sabotage of the Biden presidency. Half of the country will not view Biden as the legitimately elected president. I don’t see how this ends well for our country. I am very disheartened and discouraged.

  3. Burgs on July 30, 2021 at 11:24 pm

    You are absolutely on to something here. I will never understand what these people’s attraction to him is though. To me, it’s inexplicable.

  4. Anonymous on July 30, 2021 at 11:24 pm
    • John Smart on July 30, 2021 at 11:24 pm

      This is 100% correct in my view. The fundamental thing moderates and liberals cannot seem to see and truly INGEST – even at this late date – is that Trump is a psychopath. A real one. He does not care about ANYTHING outside his immediate “hunger” and is extremely dangerous – Many people STILL respond to him as if he had human emotion- that he can somehow be convinced of this or that – that there is something rational buried in there. He does not have any connection to anything we think of as human empathy. Once one truly “gets” that he is a psychopath (people need to learn the clinical parameters) how to respond to him becomes much simpler and much scarier….it is simpler though.

      Outrage at Trump is largely predicated on the mistaken idea – that normal humans have a hard time shaking – that must Trump care on some level. He does not- except about his immediate hunger for validation and sadism.

      • Jim Prevatt on July 30, 2021 at 11:24 pm

        Well said John Smart

  5. Jim Prevatt on July 30, 2021 at 11:24 pm

    We need to recognize that half the voters are or close to being psychopaths and that the lame duck president is absolutely a psychopath. Psychopaths have no conscience.

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