Hal Bidlack

Hal Bidlack

You may recall from a long ago high school literature class the story of Don Quixote, a man who thought he was fighting injustice through noble acts — chivalry and all that. But the moment in that long-ago tale that stays with us in the 21st century is when Quixote jousts (or “tilts”) at windmills. Mistaking the windmills for evil foes, he galloped into battle with, well, a series of inanimate objects. The book is a tough read, and other than “the Scarlet Letter,” few works of prose have done more to make ninth-grade English a tough slog.

Which, of course, brings me to Donald Trump and the election…

We know that Trump has never been especially fond of windmills, nor has he understood them. But one cannot help but think back to the 17th century Quixotic jousting at said windmills as a suitable analogy to Trump’s refusal to accept, well, reality.

As it turns out, lots more people voted for Joe Biden than did for Donald Trump. That is not news, I know. And when state election officials of both parties, partisan poll watchers, the news media (including that famously left-wing Fox News) all announced that Biden had won, we saw Trump pick up his lance, mount his rickety steed of parochial self-interest, and charge at windmills, in the form of election results. 

I have written many times on my loathing of hypocrisy. And it doesn’t take much work to find buckets and buckets of hypocrisy in the Trump (and national GOP) response to the will of the people as exercised on Nov. 3. Our great state of Colorado, because grownups are in charge, was able to provide the results of our nearly all mail-in voting on election day, because by Colorado law, the various elections offices could start verifying and then counting ballots a full 15 days before election day. Makes sense, right?

But in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania (one of four states that call themselves “commonwealths,” along with Kentucky, Virginia, and Massachusetts. Shall I take a few pages to explain what that term means and why they are all also “states?” Ed: no, let’s let that go for another day…), the GOP-controlled state legislature was looking for a way to make it harder for Democrats to win — I’m sorry, I’m sure it was to “ensure safe voting.” They passed state laws that prevent any mail-in votes to be counted until the morning of election day itself (and a handful of counties there delayed it even later). And since Democrats overwhelmingly voted by mail and Republicans (because Trump falsely claimed mail ballots were somehow unsafe) overwhelmingly voted in person on election day, the initial returns showed Trump leading. And of course they did, because no mail-in ballots were counted until election day. And counting ballots takes hours and hours. 

Everyone knew this was going to happen, but Trump still claims somehow that he won, because you shouldn’t ever count any mail-in ballots? Something like that?

As regular readers (Hi Bob and Fred!) know, I have spent a good part of my adult life studying the Founding Fathers and kind of becoming one (cough…HamiltonLives.com…cough). And in reading the Federalist Papers and other writings, it is clear that those very smart folks who set up our Constitution and our republic got lots of things right, or as right as they could given the knowledge and wisdom of 1787. But they also got a few things wrong.

Thomas Jefferson believed that mankind is basically good, and if government would largely get out of the way, greatness is possible. Hamilton, on the other hand, believed our species to be “ambitious, vindictive and rapacious.” And while there have been great and noble leaders of this nation, I gently suggest, dear reader, that Hamilton was closer to the truth than Jefferson. Indeed, can you think of anyone who would make a better poster child for ambitious, vindictive, and rapacious than Donald Trump? But here is where the Founders got it wrong. They assumed that other people in government, in pursuit of their own power, would battle any demigod and would prevent that person from getting too much power. The Senate, for example, was supposed to be a brake on the excesses of the executive. Or, say, an independent U.S. Attorney General? How’s that working out for you?

Trump’s refusal to accept the outcome is a true danger to our national welfare and security. Recall please that when he won the Electoral College 306-223, he called it a landslide and a “shellacking.” But now with Biden winning by the exact same margin, Trump is claiming voter fraud was rampant, which we know it was not. 

The windmills Trump is now tilting against will not yield to his bullying. Various governors, of both parties, are stating clearly that they will not entertain seating “alternate fact” EC delegations to steal the White House for Trump, and even Fox News is starting to hint that Trump should begin the transition to a Biden administration. 

But, of course, Trump will not do that, because that would require him to put country before self-interest. We can only hope that we can make it through these next couple of months without real leadership on COVID or other issues. And at 12:01 pm on Jan 20, we can all breath a bit easier, as we watch Trump ride off in search of other windmills to sue, I mean to tilt at. Fingers crossed.

Hal Bidlack is a retired professor of political science and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who taught more than 17 years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

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