The endless election: Why both sides keep punching back

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We are mired in the politics of perpetual payback.

It used to be that presidential elections settled things for awhile, even when power changed hands, as a new leader was given a little breathing room to pursue his priorities. Not this election. 

Yogi Berra famously said “it ain’t over till it’s over,” and while the world is acting like Joe Biden is the 46th president, Donald Trump is still filing lawsuits and complaining about a stolen election. It doesn’t feel like it’s over.

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On one side, we have Whoopi Goldberg scolding Trump voters for questioning the election, telling them to “suck it up.”

On the other, we have Mike Pompeo dismissing as “ridiculous” a question about the transition, saying: “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”

On one side, former Obama and DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan seemed to endorse a boycott against former Trump staffers, saying “employers considering them should know there are consequences for hiring anyone who helped Trump attack American values.” 

On the other, Georgia’s two Republican senators (who are facing runoffs) are calling for the resignation of its secretary of state, also a Republican, for saying any fraud did not rise to the level of overturning Biden’s narrow win there. 

On one side, former MSNBC co-host Toure is taunting Trump voters: “I hope the pain and anxiety you feel now is excruciating. You voted against America.” By voting for the candidate of their choice?

And payback isn’t limited to left-right sniping. The president has fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper, whose cardinal sin was opposing Trump on using the military to police urban protests. Of course, Esper may have just been sent packing 10 weeks before he’d have to leave anyway.

No one expected a kumbaya moment after such a hard-fought election the midst of a pandemic, after four years of a tumultuous presidency.

And yet you have the head of the General Services Administration refusing to sign a routine transition order that would allow Biden teams access to federal departments and agencies to start the customary talks with outgoing officials.

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Biden, taking questions for the first time as president-elect, tried to lower the temperature yesterday. Almost every question from the reporters was some version of isn’t-it-crazy-that-Trump-won’t concede. Biden paused, weighed his words carefully, and at one point said “how can I put this tactfully?” He did, however, say the situation had become an “embarrassment” for the country. 

Bill Barr generated headlines when he authorized federal prosecutors to pursue election fraud allegations, breaking with the Justice Department tradition of not getting involved until the results are certified. And the official in charge of such investigations promptly left that post.

But Barr’s memo was carefully worded, saying they could launch limited probes of “specific” allegations, but cautioning that “specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims should not be a basis for initiating federal inquiries.”

DOJ sources made sure the New York Times understood that Barr has privately said that election disputes should be resolved in court by the campaigns. Perhaps he felt he would upset the boss by saying that publicly.

I imagine we will see more payback in the weeks to come. You would expect Trump and his supporters to feel badly stung, just as Hillary Clinton voters were four years ago. But I’m surprised that some on the left are also lashing out, despite the fact that their guy won.

All this means that Joe Biden, who ran on a platform of unifying the country, has an uphill climb even before taking office.