It is an end-of-week mixed bag of observations and quick takes. Four, to count them. Let’s get going.
One: A full month after the election, to spend time on social media is to be exposed to an alternate reality. To listen to President Donald Trump and those not insubstantial numbers still guzzling all of his Kool-Aid is to believe, apparently to the depths of one’s soul, that the election was a total fraud; the vote-counting was rigged and tantamount to a heist; and that the incumbent actually won in a veritable landslide.
Among this crowd, there is no conspiracy theory too wacky. Counter-intuitively, the rejection or dismissal or discrediting of one claim after another only feeds the full-on paranoia. Each loss just intensifies the delusion that the whole thing is rigged against them.
For this observer, the real story is not the meritless claims or the dispatching of them one after another, but the more disturbing fact that a durable chunk of our fellow citizenry lap this up, hook, line and sinker. How does America heal, much less endure, when so many so eagerly and so unrelentingly glom onto a convenient fantasy?
Two: For my money, if you are to list Trump’s abundant shortcomings of character, the most notable and unforgivable is really that of plain old bad manners.
Clearly, no one likes losing. That is perhaps doubly true when your entire brand, no matter how ridiculously fictitious, is based on some notion of winning.
But other presidents and presidential candidates have managed this with grace and aplomb. Witness the note left on inauguration day by a vanquished George H.W. Bush for incoming President Bill Clinton. Witness John McCain’s concession statement, arguably the finest speech of his career, having lost to Barack Obama.
To be clear, such expectations for a losing Trump were low. But day by day, he underperforms even that very minimal bar.
Recall the grace displayed by President Obama just four years ago in welcoming President-elect Trump to the Oval Office just two days after his victory. Obama regarded this as a duty of office regardless of Trump having been the lead promoter of the birtherism slur.
Trump’s refusal to concede in almost any circumstance now coupled with his rumored intention to forego attendance at the inauguration of his successor will damage him far more than it does Joe Biden. But bit by bit, drip by drip, it all serves to further chip away at our democratic institutions. About which Trump could give a damn.
Does the White House not have an adviser on etiquette and protocol?
Three: Flash back to 2016 and all the talk of how the election turned on a total of 77,000 votes spread between Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Well, by that same analysis, the 2020 race was even closer, despite Biden having more than doubled Hillary Clinton’s lead in the national popular vote.
Biden carried Wisconsin by 20,682 votes; Arizona by 10,457; and Georgia by 12,670. Add those together and that comes to a Biden win by an even smaller margin: a combined 43,809 votes in those three states.
Now consider this: If those three states had tipped narrowly to Trump instead of Biden, 37 electoral votes (Wisconsin-10; Arizona-11; Georgia-16) would come off Biden’s count and move to Trump.
Where would that have left the election? At a 269-269 electoral vote tie. Meaning that while this presidential race was not that close in many respects, in other ways it was razor thin.
Four: Sadly, it seems like a whole generation of civic and political leadership has passed away over just the last few weeks.
In a very short period, we lost longtime, thoughtful legislator Peggy Kerns and Denver City Council trailblazer Cathy Reynolds. Also, banker and foundation leader Tom Stokes; businessman and all-around civic good guy Harry Lewis; ski industry captain Bob Maynard; and attorney Gerry Niederman, with whom I was privileged to serve as a board member for Judaism Your Way.
And two others to whom I would like to pay brief tribute in light of our closeness and their profound impact.
Education champion and tireless advocate for all sorts of humanitarian needs across the Pikes Peak region and the state, Joyce Schuck, left us within the past few days. An obituary written by her family described her thus: “An extraordinary woman, beautiful in many ways, and bordering on being renaissance.”
Decades ago when it was far from the social norm, Joyce showed that a politically conservative woman could be every bit as liberated and engaged in the broader world as anyone on the other side of the aisle. Far more recently, in tandem with her equally dynamic husband Steve, they founded Parents Challenge to provide low-income parents in the lowest-performing Colorado Springs school districts with the resources to choose the best school option for their children.
Then there is the loss of the irreplaceable Sam Gary. Born into modest circumstances, Sam maintained a trademark humility even after discovering one of the country’s large oil fields in Montana more than 50 years ago. He immediately set out to pay it back and pay it forward, dedicating very substantial profits to all forms of charities across the Denver area. Years later, he formed the Piton Foundation, now paired with Gary Community Investments, to aid some of the neediest among us, and to shift public policy in the direction of opportunity and empowerment.
Life was often harsh for Sam. With wife Nancy, they lost multiple children to a rare genetic ailment. That would have stopped many in their tracks. Or left others terminally angered. But Sam continued to arise each morning feeling humble and blessed; to take risks in both business and philanthropy; and to constantly refer to himself as, “the luckiest guy in the world.”
May all of them rest in peace. May their memories be a blessing. And may our communities be so fortunate to produce another crop of leaders of such talent and commitment.
Eric Sondermann is a Colorado-based independent political commentator. He writes regularly for ColoradoPolitics and the Denver Gazette. See his previous columns here. Reach him at EWS@EricSondermann.com; follow him at @EricSondermann