Ever see a thriller where the monster just won't die?
It's a common scene. In the Lord of the Rings, the defeated Balrog on the bridge suddenly snares Gandalf. The Alien keeps coming after Sigourney Weaver. My favourite of the type is Fatal Attraction. Who can forget when Glenn Close, thought drowned in a bathtub, lurches one more time at Michael Douglas with a knife?
That's more or less what we had in the states this past week. It looked like Donald Trump's 56 crazy and meritless lawsuits to overturn the election here had all been drowned in various legal bathtubs, including one at the Supreme Court. But then Close, played by Texas, lurched out of the tub with a knife. And it was briefly scary.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a big Trump supporter, filed a novel lawsuit directly with the Supreme Court. Think of it as a really weird curvy looking dagger in Close's hand. In order to get in front of the Supreme Court again, after being shut down once last week already, Paxton sued states that had voted for Biden, claiming they allowed fraud. Lawsuits between the states themselves are handled before the Supreme Court. So, clever, huh?
The lawsuit claimed Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia had allowed massive voting errors, irregularities, violations, mysterious conduct and outright fraud. And that supposedly hurt Texas and other states by denying their voters the true winner they had voted for, aka Trump. It presented virtually no convincing proof that any of this was true, but millions of democrats worried that in 2020 anything can happen.
And one more nuance: Paxton wasn't just asking for a careful recounting of the votes to make sure the results were correct. Recounts had been done in those states, several times. The goal of the Texas lawsuit was to directly overturn the election in those key states Biden had clearly won. In case anyone thought otherwise, Trump himself tweeted "Overturn!"
Shamefully, the Republican attorney generals of 17 different states signed on as friends of the lawsuit. And even worse, 126 members of Congress declared their support of it too.
My friends worried that the court might hear it. If it did, Trump would pour on his hateful rhetoric. There could be violence. Republican controlled state legislatures might want to try overriding their own election officials. The election might be stolen from Biden on zero grounds before our eyes.
But none of this happened. The Supreme Court once again stood firm and refused to hear obvious malarkey. The Paxton suit was dismissed. Michael Douglas' wife bursts into the bathroom and shoots Close.
But isn't it unnerving to think that a third of US states and a quarter of the House of Representatives were ready to sign on to a coup? And make no mistake: when you overturn an election with obviously phony evidence of fraud, that's a coup.
Is it over? Not quite. But the chance of Close lunging is greatly diminished. All states have now certified their results. Biden won. He won in each of the four states contested in the Texas lawsuit. He won 306 electoral votes to Trump's 232. He also won 51.3 per cent of the popular vote in the biggest turnout in American history.
On Monday here, the members of our electoral college will officially cast their votes according to the state results. And then the risk of a successful coup recedes further. But the damage of these ruthless, blatantly anti-democratic Trump election tactics goes beyond our federal government. It's spreading, like a weed.
Here in Washington State, a small-town Republican police chief named Loren Culp lost to our popular incumbent Democratic governor Jay Inslee 57 per cent to 43 per cent. I've known the governor for 30 years and contributed to his campaigns, so I can tell you this was not a close election. Nonetheless, the clear loser of the governor's race this year is suing to contest the election Trump style. He filed initial claims in court here last week promising evidence of fraud, mismanagement, misbehaviour, statistical anomalies, lots of bad stuff. As a first step, he wants an audit of several counties Inslee carried.
"We have evidence that five people who were born in the 1800s voted. Sasquatch voted. Cinderella voted. There were three people over the age of 120 who voted," Culp's lawyer Stephen Pidgeon told me yesterday. Worse, he said, "There's video footage of them filling out ballots after midnight on November 4 in the Whatcom county precinct with no watchers present."
That would be video evidence of actual voter fraud, if that's what it actually shows. If it exists. And if it shows enough fraud to offset the fact that Inslee won by 545,000 votes. That's a lot of ballots for those guys to fill out.
There's another thing to consider. Pidgeon is what we call a birther. He has championed pretty wild political causes in the past. For example, he didn't believe Obama was entitled to run for President. In 2008, he sued here. "It was to exclude him from the Washington ballot because he wasn't a US citizen or he couldn't establish his American citizenship," Pidgeon explained. He lost.
Before you leap to conclusions, please understand that Pidgeon is not someone who promoted the idea that Obama was born in Kenya. "I believe he was born in New York City under a different name," he explained. "He was never born in Kenya. That whole Kenya thing is a bunch of garbage."
To New Zealanders who live in a vibrant, functional democracy, this must seem pretty crazy.
It certainly does to me.
• Dick Brass was vice-president of Microsoft and Oracle for almost two decades. His firm Dictronics developed the first modern dictionary-based spellcheck and he was an editor at the Daily News, NY.