The debate over how to characterize what the country’s been put through over the past three weeks will carry on for the rest of our lives. And Donald Trump’s waddle through the stages of grief is sure to last through January. But his election gambit is functionally over. Results have been certified in Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania; the General Services Administration has formally recognized Joe Biden as president-elect; and the transition team finally has a shiny, new dot-gov email address that means more, materially speaking, than any concession speech.
Even in the conservative press, prominent figures have thrown in the towel. On Monday night, Fox News’s Laura Ingraham told her viewers that Biden will be inaugurated in January, “unless the legal situation changes in a dramatic and unlikely manner.” Earlier that day, Rush Limbaugh castigated Trump’s legal team for last week’s bizarre press conference. “You call a gigantic press conference like that—one that lasts an hour—and you announce massive bombshells, then you better have some bombshells,” he said. “There better be something at that press conference other than what we got, such as a hacker who can tell us, ‘Yep, everything these guys have said is true. I’ve looked into it. I’ve run the software, I’ve hacked this, I’ve hacked that.’ Even put him behind a screen, if you want to protect his identity.”
The efforts now in conservative media to talk the base back down to reality are only coming after weeks of rhetoric aimed at shooting imaginations into high orbit in the first place—rhetoric a number of prominent Republicans, including Senator Ted Cruz and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, actively indulged in. And while a few Trump critics have piped up, most other Republicans in Congress have either tersely endorsed Trump’s complaints or kept mum about them, as Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz said last week. “Republican Senators are awfully quiet during this ongoing tinpot dictator act but they still think they deserve to run the Senate,” he tweeted. “If this were happening in Central America all of these silent Senators would be proposing sanctions.”