We’re Being Taken for a Wild Ride, Needlessly

With each passing day since the November 3rd election, it is growing abundantly clear that we are being taken for a ride. All of us. The ride, which is in no way pleasurable, is needless and pointless. It is scary, too.

Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Thanks, too, go to: your administration (especially Mike Pompeo), nearly every Republican senator, Fox News, One American News Network (OAN), Rush Limbaugh, and, among many others, Roger Stone. With a major assist from social media.

The president continues to promote the false, unproven, and wholly unsubstantiated claim that there was widespread voter fraud. His latest tweets, which are unworthy to include here — or anywhere, for that matter — admit that Biden won the election, but only due to a ‘rigged’ election, with ‘no vote watchers or observers.’ This, of course, is flat-out wrong. Videos from around the country show the presence of observers from both parties in vote-tallying rooms. And despite assurances even from state Republican officials who are responsible for overseeing and ensuring secure elections, the president and many of his supporters believe strongly that the Democrats ‘stole’ the election. That Republicans throughout the country won elections on the same ballot with the president is, I guess, irrelevant. There is even a coordinated social media campaign — ‘Stop the Steal’ — to enrage and mobilize fans of the president. That it originated with Roger Stone contributes to the belief that we are being taken for a wild, dangerous ride.¹

Nothing has the power to foment rage and further divide an already divided country than a president unwilling to accept defeat, all the while blaming the other half of the country for stealing a win from him. But that is the ride we are on.

Making it worse, if that is possible, is the administration continuing to promise publicly a second term for the president, despite the fact that he lost. Mike Pence said late last week during a speech to the conservative nonprofit Council for National Policy that the administration will stay in office for four more years even though Biden won the election. “That’s the plan,” he said.² Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has told the world that there will be a “smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”³

The administration is also blocking the peaceful transition of power. As a point of reference, by now four years ago Hillary Clinton had already conceded — despite a significantly smaller vote difference than Biden has over the president — and president-elect Trump had already been invited to and had visited the White House. This is the difference between maturity and petulance, between honor and egocentrism.

In the meantime, the president has lost every legal challenge to the election outcome he has brought before the courts. Last Friday alone, the president was 0–9, not counting the loss of one of the law firms representing his specious claims of voter fraud.⁴ Some of the suits have been thrown out within hours of being filed, given their utter lack of substantiating evidence. Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio openly support the president’s efforts to litigate his way to a win. The vast majority of Republican senators has remained silent, tacitly supporting the administration’s malevolent actions. All lack honor. And to prove his steadfast commitment to the health and well-being of the American people, Mitch McConnell is already promising that any initiative brought forward by the Democrats to address the coronavirus will be blocked in the Senate — and he doesn’t even know what the bill(s) might contain.

Are you aware, Mr. President, that the job you won four years ago is a temporary assignment? That you serve at the pleasure of the American people? That this was not a hostile corporate takeover led by an angry board member, but a nationwide election to determine who will serve as president for the next four years? Sir, that election has been completed. It takes a majority of the Electoral College to remain in the job. You did not win the required 270 votes. It is time to accept defeat. Take your self-centeredness, your selfishness, and move on. It is time for the next temp to take over.

Then there are Fox News, OAN and Rush Limbaugh. Where would the president be without these avid supporters? They fill our devices with unsubstantiated, dishonest ‘facts’ and conspiracy theories (e.g., the Biden crime family, QAnon) made daily at a volume beyond 11. They instill open hostility for those who do not share their views. They define a reality devoid of truth. The animosity they sow is powerful, for they have perfected the art of deception. They are propagandists of the highest order. They are fueling this ride, which would have had little energy without them.

Another particularly important driver of the ride we are on is social media, which continues to enable and embolden those with passionate views regardless of their veracity. So, Steve Bannon can call for the beheading — yes, the beheading — of Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray on Facebook and not have his account deleted? What cannot be said on Facebook?⁵ (Twitter has already permanently suspended Bannon.) The president can make repeated claims on Twitter that are shamelessly false or even seditious (e.g., ‘Liberate Michigan!’) with no repercussions? As long as anyone, including him, can say nearly anything on social media, this unnecessary, ever-scarier ride will continue. It is time for Facebook and Twitter to step up.

And the victims? Us. All of us. Millions are sick, millions are out of work, hundreds of thousands are dead, hospital ICUs are filling fast or are already at capacity, we are headed to the return of shelter-in-place orders, and the president and his administration are blaming a clear defeat on the deviousness of others. Because of their cowardice, because the media continues to alienate and divide us, because social media allows anyone to post just about anything, we suffer.

There are always remedies. Here are three:

1. Concede. The election is over, Mr. President. It is time to man-up. Do the right thing. If not for the country, then for your supporters. You owe it to them. And since we pay you and you live in our house, you owe it to us, too.

2. Deal with those who traffic in hate online. Social media, it is time to accept the reality that not all speech is appropriate for the world’s consumption. Go beyond simply affixing a warning label to misleading and dangerous posts. Ban them. And expel those who post them repeatedly. Start with the president. Today is not too soon.

3. Enough already, Fox News. To those at Fox News who enable and promote bad behavior: accept responsibility. Also accept that you are a propaganda machine. The use of ‘news’ in your name is entirely misleading, especially during your evening programming. The lies and conspiracy theories your primetime anchors promote hurt innocent people. Such is the nature of your influence and power, used, sadly, for dark and nefarious purposes — and, of course, to make money. There are other ways to maintain high ratings. Try truth.

Any of these recommendations will help us heal, help bring us a bit closer together as a nation. Any will end this ride we never wanted to take.

In the meantime, expect the ride to intensify in the days ahead. We undoubtedly have more dramatic dips and gravity-defying turns in store. Even as we do, the ride is nearing its end. A better day is coming. I can feel it.

¹ https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/13/business/stop-the-steal-disinformation-campaign-invs/index.html

² https://news.yahoo.com/mike-pence-suggests-trump-administration-163930275.html

³ https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/10/pompeo-ignores-biden-victory-vows-smooth-transition-to-second-trump-term.html

https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/14/politics/trump-election-cases-status/index.html

https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/13/tech/facebook-steve-bannon/index.html

Alan is a consulting psychologist with a long and storied history of helping organizations of all sizes become more enriching, empowering places to work.

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