Is Lindsey Graham Literally the Worst Person in the World?
Every generation gets the politicians it deserves.
1. Sweet Lindsey
Despite my cheap-pop headline, I think the answer is definitively no.
Lindsey Graham is not the worst person in the world.
We’ve got a lot of bad hombres out there: Kim Jong-Un, Mark Zuckerberg, the BTK Killer. If you’re talking the literal Worst Person Alive, Lindsey might not even make the top hundred.
But he might be the most despicable man to ever serve in the United States Senate.
I mean, yes, that’s a tough list to crack, too. I’m aware.
But something amazing happened yesterday.
Lindsey Graham went on Fox & Friends and said the following:
“I want the American people to know that . . . people wonder about the peaceful transfer of power. I assure you, it will be peaceful. Now, we may have litigation about who won the election, but the court will decide, and if the Republicans lose, we will accept that result.”
That would be the same guy who said:
And then this:
Look, anyone can change their mind on a giant matter of principle once. Consistency, hobgoblins, etc.
At least Lindsey hasn’t spent the last four years lyi—sorry. I forgot. There’s this, too:
So here’s my question:
When Lindsey Graham looks into the camera to assure America that Republicans will absolutely accept the verdict of the election, is there anyone in America stupid enough to believe him?
2. Voters or Courts?
While we’re talking about Graham, it’s worth parsing exactly what he said yesterday:
“[T]he court will decide, and if the Republicans lose, we will accept that result.”
This is not a slip of the tongue.
Note that he doesn’t say “voters.” He doesn’t even say “Electoral College.”
He says “the courts.”
Think about that for a minute.
Donald Trump has given up on winning more votes than his opponent. Both he and the Republican party have conceded this. They’re not even trying to win more votes.
Instead, for the better part of a year they have focused on trying to win just enough states to squeeze out an Electoral College victory.
But with just a bit more than a month remaining, they’re abandoning that hope too. They seem to believe that they cannot get to 270 with a straight-up count of votes.
So their new goal is to try to manufacture 270 electoral votes by using the courts to challenge ballots in the interregnum, once the voting has ended.
That is literally their strategy.
Lindsey Graham said so—explicitly.
The sophisticated view of all of this is to say,
Yes, yes, Donald Trump is terrible. But he’s such a buffoon and so incompetent that he couldn’t subvert an election. He’s not Juan Perón; he’s Bozo the the Clown.
My response to anyone making that argument:
What is your confidence interval on this assessment?
Let’s say you’re 95 percent sure that Trump is so incompetent that he won’t be able to steal the election. A 95 percent confidence interval is really high!
If you told me that you had a 95 percent confidence interval on winning the lottery, I’d be very excited for you.
But risks are different than payoffs. And the larger the stakes, the more reticent you should be about taking even a 5 percent risk.
Example: If I told you there was 5 percent chance of you losing $10 today, you probably wouldn’t worry too much.
If I told you there was a 5 percent chance that you were going to die today, you’d be pretty freaked out.
You should be pretty freaked out: 95 percent sounds like a big, impressive number. But 1-in-20 events happen All. The. Time.
My own estimation is that it is unlikely that Trump will subvert the election. It is more likely that the election will be relatively orderly and will proceed in a fashion that is considered legitimate to a broad majority of the country.
But there is a non-trivial chance that this estimation is wrong. That Trump is capable of doing what he says he wants to do. That either he isn’t Bozo the Clown or that the system is weak enough that even Bozo can get lucky.
What’s at risk here is our experiment with self-rule.
Anyone who does not take that seriously should not be taken seriously.