Donald Trump got beat; we have saved our democracy

U.S. President Donald Trump in late October. Photo by Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Donald Trump is a loser. He lost. Got beat.

Everyone knows it except him, his venomous offspring, and his circle of true-believing flatterers, toadies, and suck-ups whining about “voter fraud” and trotting off to Fox to air their grievances.

Leading the cry-baby brigade, former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi claims there were “fake ballots that are coming in late.”

Not even “Fox and Friends’” Steve Doocy, rarely regarded as an intellectual giant, was buying this foolishness: “Tell us what you know,” he said.

Well, that’s your problem right there: she doesn’t know anything and has no evidence, other than Trump’s favorite “many people are saying.”

The legal term for this is “hogwash.”

President Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Tampa, Oct. 29, 2020. Credit: Screenshot, PBS News Hour.

Trump cultists are in the streets with their flags and MAGA hats, indulging in conspiracy theorizing and epic sulking, convinced that because the vote counting continues days after November 3rd (as it always has done) they was robbed.

One Trumpist in Thomasville, Georgia nicely summed up their limited understanding of the democratic process when she told a reporter, “Georgia is only guaranteed 16 electoral votes. The Democratic Party may win but if I vote Republican it seems like my vote is erased by the electoral (college) vote.”

Then there’s Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who, like Bondi, occasionally plays a lawyer on TV, calling for Republican legislatures in states Joe Biden won to install their own slate of electors, overturning the will of the people and giving the win to Donald Trump.

In other words, he wants a coup d’état.

This is extraordinary: a governor elected by a margin not so much thin as anorexic, casually suggesting that Trump’s loss means democracy itself is wrong, and his party should simply ignore the voters  and return their Mussolini-wannabe to the White House for four more years.

You’d think he’d be satisfied with how well he suppressed the votes of  former felons, even though two-thirds of Floridians approved a constitutional amendment restoring the franchise to them.

About 67,000 former felons managed to pay their fees and fines and register to vote in 2020, but around 900,000 more could not.

Trump won Florida, leading Biden by about 373,000 votes. (Biden captured enough electoral votes in other states to win.)

The punditocracy have declared that Florida is no longer purple, but deep-dyed red. I’m not convinced. Yes, the polls were wrong. Yes, Florida  Republicans picked up seats in Congress. Yes, Trump increased his margin of victory from 2016.

Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses a pro-Trump rally on Oct. 12, 2020, in Sanford. Source: Screenshot

Still, we may not know how “reliably” red Florida is until 2022 when Trump is not on the ballot and Ron DeSantis–if he runs for re-election and doesn’t just jump right into the next presidential race–must account for his failure to deal with COVID-19 (843,897 infections, 17,121 deaths of residents, and between about 4000 and 6000 new positives a day), his ignoring of catastrophic climate change in a state uniquely vulnerable to it, and his cavalier attitude toward American democracy.

Faithless electors: really?

It may be that Florida, with its constant influx of tax-averse Midwesterners  and Northerners, will become irredeemably Republican, a haven for white people convinced they’re “victims.”

President-elect Joe Biden speaks during a rally in Wilmington, Del. on Saturday, 11/7/20 (Screen Capture)

Or could Florida become more like Georgia, that once reliably Republican stronghold where Joe Biden is hanging onto a lead of a little more than 10,000 votes?

There will almost certainly be a recount, but if Biden wins, it will be a vindication of the kind of grassroots activism Florida needs.

In 2018, Stacey Abrams, a young Spelman College and Yale Law grad who’d served as Minority Leader in the Georgia House of Representatives, damned near got herself elected governor.

Georgia Republicans threw everything they had at her, purging 300,000 largely African American voters from the rolls and accusing Democrats of trying to hack the state’s voter registration system.

She lost, but instead of getting mad, she got even, starting a grassroots registration effort.

The result may be 16 more electoral college votes for Joe Biden and January run-offs in both of Georgia’s U.S senate races.

If Democrats win both U.S. Senate seats, they’ll hold a majority–and Mitch McConnell can go to hell.

Florida likes to brand itself as the “New South,” less haunted by slavery, less encumbered by the Confederate past and Jim Crow.

But a preponderance of people who don’t eat grits, never heard of Stonewall Jackson, and can’t use “y’all” properly does not erase Florida’s long history of racial violence, voter suppression and resistance to civil rights, nor does it stop Florida from behaving socially and politically like Mississippi or Alabama–without the charm.

Stacey Abrams in 2018. Credit: Wikipedia.

Florida needs its own Stacey Abrams, a leader and organizer who can get us stirred up, fired up, inspired to fight for equal justice and ready to counter the nonsensical charges that Democrats are all crypto-socialists, ready to turn the country over to Cuba, or just get the Democrats of the suburbs, the cities and the rural areas to get up off their butts and vote.

In the meantime, Florida may have been–as it so frequently is–a disappointment to those of us who hoped for a Biden victory, but the fact remains: Trump lost.

He can go to court all he wants; his minions can file lawsuits.

He still lost. He’s going to leave the White House.

We have saved our democracy.

Diane Roberts
Diane Roberts is an 8th-generation Floridian, born and bred in Tallahassee, which probably explains her unhealthy fascination with Florida politics. Educated at Florida State University and Oxford University in England, she has been writing for newspapers since 1983, when she began producing columns on the legislature for the Florida Flambeau. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Times of London, the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Oxford American, and Flamingo. She has been a member of the Editorial Board of the St. Petersburg Times–back when that was the Tampa Bay Times’s name–and a long-time columnist for the paper in both its iterations. She was a commentator on NPR for 22 years and continues to contribute radio essays and opinion pieces to the BBC. Roberts is also the author of four books, most recently Dream State, an historical memoir of her Florida family, and Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America. She lives in Tallahassee, except for the times she runs off to Great Britain, desperate for a different government to satirize.