Trump and the audacity of hope
I don't know about you, but I'm beginning to think this Donald Trump guy might not be the president next year. His campaign insists in press conference after press conference that he really won by landslide, the same way that I and millions of other people in this state believe Michigan beat Ohio State in the infamous 2016 game, with a Big 10 championship and a playoff bid on the line.
Unlike the fake news spot, which has been criticized by actual physicists, the results of the presidential election in Michigan are being dismissed on the basis of a handful of affidavits, some speculative mathematical analysis, and a conspiracy involving "communist money through Venezuela and Cuba." This isn't a smoking gun. It isn't even a wet water pistol. It is what Barack Obama called "the audacity of hope."
How audacious are we talking? On Thursday Trump invited Mike Shirkey and Lee Chatfield, the respective leaders of the two houses of Michigan's Republican-controlled state legislature, to meet him at the White House to discuss one final gambit: ignoring the state's popular vote tally and appointing a slate of GOP electors. Spoiler alert: This is almost certainly not going to happen. The two Michigan Republicans have said as much already, which raises the interesting question of why they are bothering to travel to Washington in the first place. (Maybe they just look forward to the possibility of dining out.)
Despite what a lot of excitable liberals are claiming to the contrary, there is actually no reason that the GOP couldn't do this, at least from the perspective of federal law. The popular vote in each state has the constitutional status of a straw poll. All authority to determine who will serve as electors flows from the state legislatures, not from governors, who are simply charged with sending certificates of ascertainment to Congress before the Electoral College meets on December 14.
But let's be real. Even if Shirkey and Chatfield were somehow able to ram through 16 pro-Trump electors without anydefections from their own party in the legislature here, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer would just respond by putting 16 pro-Biden names in the ascertainment certificate. Then the whole thing would go to court, where it would almost certainly be dismissed because even a seemingly impossible victory for the president here would not be considered "determinative" of the actual outcome of the national election. It's even possible that under such circumstances Michigan's electoral votes would end up being forfeited.
Unlike two decades ago when Florida controlled our electoral destiny, 2020 did not come down to a single state. Georgia just finished its recount, which only superficially reduced Joe Biden's margin of victory. Most of the states Trump is hoping to flip — Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada — will be certifying their election results next week. Between now and then, he would somehow have to move the needle in at least two of them even after "winning" Michigan.
This would almost certainly be the single most brilliant display of legal gamesmanship in modern American history. Does anybody really think Rudy Giuliani or Jenna Ellis, the presidential adviser who tweets indignantly at well-known parody accounts, are going to be the ones to pull it off? For all his talk going back months about the possibility of post-election legal wrangling, Trump would not have been prepared for even one statewide election challenge, much less hundreds taking place simultaneously across the country.
This is what I found so objectionable about Trump's comments on Thursday. It is one thing to suggest (as he will almost certainly do for at least the next four years and as his opponent did in 2016) that the election was stolen from him. It is another thing entirely to insist to his supporters that he still has a "viable" path to victory. They are the last people likely to be well served by being told more lies.
I would be lying if I said I didn't think the Democratic Party in Michigan were capable of the dastardly plots being imputed to its leaders by the president and his allies. (You would hope Dems at least entertained the idea of cooking the books, since most of them give the impression that the candidate Biden was running against was some kind of fascist dictator.) But as I and millions of others learned in 2016, whether we were paying attention to the election results or college football, being convinced and getting the refs to agree with you are entirely different things.