The Better Letter: The Reality Show President Has Been Canceled

Congratulations to President-Elect Biden

Hi. My name is Bob. My day job is in the markets. But I’m a political junkie.

My addiction manifests differently today than it once did. I obsess about it. I read about it. I get angry about it. But I don’t live politics.

More than 40 years ago, during the Carter administration, for Heaven’s sake, I worked on Capitol Hill. As a rare young conservative. For the now-defunct House Republican Research Committee. I was regularly mistaken for Chip Carter at church.

I intended to make politics my career then. Perhaps as an operative. Perhaps as an elected official. 

I quickly changed my mind.

I hated the lifestyle. I hated the spin and duplicity. I hated the posturing.

Compared to today’s politics, which totally vindicate my long-ago decision, my complaints then seem quaint. 

Most of my substantive work on the Hill centered upon voter registration, election reform, and voter fraud. Then, as now, Democrats were anxious to remove barriers to voting and Republicans were concerned about fraud. The dirty secret both sides would acknowledge only behind closed doors was that there was far less fraud than Republicans railed against and much more fraud than Democrats pretended. Democrats were sure that new voters would favor them while Republicans liked their chances better if only American citizens voted.

Nothing much has changed. That’s the primary subject of this week’s TBL.

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Where We Stand

In a coronavirus year in which every day is Blursday, it’s fitting that Election Day lasted for almost a week.

As of yesterday, President-Elect Biden leads President Trump by 11,629 votes in Arizona; 14,056 in Georgia; 36,870 in Nevada; 52,140 in Pennsylvania; and 20,557 in Wisconsin. He will win all of them. No lawsuit by President Trump is active that can change one, much less three or four states’ results.

Not even close.

Joe Biden’s share of the popular vote is now up to 50.8 percent, which is greater than Ronald Reagan's 50.7 percent share in 1980 when he defeated Jimmy Carter. It is the highest percentage for a challenger since Franklin Roosevelt defeated Herbert Hoover in 1932.

There is only a tiny chance that the election will be overturned, and it will require the discovery of massive fraud that has not come remotely close to being established so far. Ironically, the various rumors and misinformation efforts are routinely shot down by the president’s own Department of Homeland Security. The New York Times called election officials in all 50 states, Democrats and Republicans, who report no instances of comprehensive fraud

Attorney General Bill Barr wrote a carefully nuanced memorandum allowing the investigation of election fraud by Justice Department officials but only if the alleged fraud was sufficient to overturn the election. That’s an enormous hurdle. However, Barr surely knows that the president won’t read it. That’s why his re line, underscored and in all caps, says: “POST-VOTING ELECTION IRREGULARITY INQUIRIES.” The president will read that, see the headlines stating that Barr broke long-standing non-partisanship policy to do it, and be satisfied, he assumes, without having to do the ridiculous. It will end up just like the Durham report.

Joe Biden is almost certainly going to be the 46th President of the United States.


The Reality Show President Has Been Canceled

The reality show president has been canceled. Joe Biden’s clear victory was not a delusion…

…and it’s not a joke.

The reality show president who first dabbled in politics using a wildly dishonest and racist conspiracy theory alleging that President Obama was born in Africa won’t have a time slot anymore. His decision to run for office originated in a joke…

…and in a comedy routine.

The reality show president’s initial campaign was defined by a crazy claim that Mexico would pay for a giant wall on America’s southern border. His first act as president was to lie about crowd size even though there were pictures. 

By this time four years ago, despite the election not being certified, being much closer than this year’s, and being subject to multiple voting challenges, President Trump had claimed a “MASSIVE” and “landslide victory,” transition efforts were underway, both Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence had made White House visits, and everyone was talking about “President-Elect Trump.” It was all in the “previously on” segment.

The reality show president’s term was characterized by dishonesty. In Trump-world, stating a simple fact can be profoundly contrarian, countercultural, and brave.

The reality show’s cast and crew must play pretend. As with all entertainment, the reality show president demands a willing suspension of disbelief.

Every single day.

That all Trump loyalists pretend he won last week’s election is just the latest manifestation of that requirement. Even though the ratings were lousy, the president insists he has been renewed and that the cancelation notice was fake.

We know it’s real for a variety of reasons.

If the reality show president still had a shot at being renewed, he would be represented by Jones Day. Instead, he trots out Rudy Giuliani at Four Seasons Total Landscaping to provide performance art, a plot detail that is Emmy-worthy. If the reality show president still had a shot at being renewed, he wouldn’t be funneling money donated to fight election fraud to retire campaign debt. If the reality show president still had a shot at being renewed, Republicans wouldn’t already be so obviously campaigning for his time slot. 

If the reality show president still had a shot at being renewed, Republican officials who recognize that Trump’s position is unsupported wouldn’t be providing carefully worded statements designed not to be clear that there wasn’t fraud.

If the reality show president still had a shot at being renewed, he wouldn’t already be angling to re-boot the series in 2024.

It’s hard to keep up with all the wild fraud claims, much less investigate them. The fans love them, but they keep getting debunked. Achieving what they want in court is going to be really tough.

That stocks are already up better than five percent since the election despite a global pandemic and a badly damaged economy suggests that the markets recognize the plot twists and intrigues are over. Done. 

If renewal were still plausible, the reality show president’s Department of Homeland Security would not have determined that the 2020 election was the “most secure in American history.” Indeed, “[t]here is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.” The Trump campaign itself acknowledged in a Pennsylvania court filing just yesterday that it has found no evidence of fraud, for example. 

You may have seen Tucker Carlson – who still has great ratings and is positioning himself to take over the reality show president’s time slot – ruing the decline of interpersonal trust in America this week. I won’t provide a link because, well, duh. 

Still, he of the former bow tie is right, this time at least. Our trust in each other and in our institutions is low and getting lower. And it’s the lowest among the young. After that accurate assertion, Carlson spent the rest of his show contributing to the problem. He went on and on about evidence of election fraud – which is surely real and worth eliminating. But even if everything he alleged was entirely true, it would only impact the vote tally by a few dozen, far less than the many thousands needed in multiple jurisdictions to overturn the election.

Let’s all be clear that without overwhelming new evidence, there is no way for the reality show president to be renewed. The current lawsuits are bogus. “Trump hasn’t even made allegations involving enough ballots in enough states to negate Biden’s electoral college victory.”

We don’t have an electoral crisis. It’s a political crisis, sure, and a moral crisis, truly. But the big problem is the ratings. 

Not enough people want to watch, so cancellation became inevitable.

Just like the object of their idolatry, Trump viewers (distinct from if not exclusive of Republican viewers) are not interested in matters of principle or policy. They care about grievance posturing, culture war, attacking “elites,” and owning the libs. If it bleeds, it leads. 

Don’t offend the crazies. Always fight, even (especially!) when you’re wrong. Punish whoever opposes you, even (especially!) when they’re right. As former show producer Steve Bannon famously urged, when in trouble, even (especially!) when you’re wrong, “flood the zone with s**t.”

Block the normal transition process, even though doing so would have no impact on the reality show president’s pending election litigation or on any state recounts. It’s hardly a coincidence that Hong Kong’s democracy movement was killed off by China this week without even a tweet of protest from the reality show president. It was a promising story arc, but it fizzled out.

A presidency born in a lie about Barack Obama’s birthplace is going to end in a lie about whether the reality show president was ever canceled, even though the show won’t be on anymore.

The reality show president’s team hasn’t found any significant evidence of fraud of the sort that might be sufficient to overturn the election and save the show. They haven’t found what they’re looking for.

But America has.


Totally Worth It

We celebrated Veteran’s Day this week. It marks the cessation of hostilities in World War I at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations….”

May “sweet freedom’s song” be sung forever. And to all veterans – I, together with a grateful nation, thank you. Be sure to have a look at this thread from Bill Sweet, a veteran talking about hearing “Thank you for your service.”

The most inspiring thing I saw this week. The silliest thing, unless it was this or this. The funniest (in a scary way). The smartest. The dumbest. The most painful. The most pitiful. The most terrifying, unless it was this. Good Florida man. Epic drum battleHow to beatboxWow.

Josh Brown gave me a nice shout-out on CNBC this week.

A post shared by @downtownjoshbrown
November 9, 2020

You may pre-order the volume Josh talked about here. It has been Amazon’s number one book on investing for a while and hit the overall Amazon top ten this week, peaking at number six. The book comes out Tuesday.


Benediction

This week’s benediction features a remarkable nine-year-old bassist digitally supporting the Grammy-winning gospel great, Smokie Norful. Aron totally has the stank face down. And he cooks.

If you can listen to that without smiling and tapping your feet, it is reasonable to doubt whether you are human.


Contact me via rpseawright [at] gmail [dot] com or on Twitter (@rpseawright). Don’t forget to subscribe and share.

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Thanks for reading.

Issue 38 (November 13, 2020)