A Tainted Election? “Hamlet” & Politics

For roughly the first half of Hamlet, the audience is left in suspense as to whether or not Claudius, the present king, had in fact secretly murdered his predecessor, Prince Hamlet’s father. Then the prince devises and executes a plan to find out, and deems his suspicions confirmed; we in the audience get to be privy to still more conclusive evidence of Claudius’ guilt. Mystery solved. Except that this isn’t the play’s only mystery, nor the most vexing one. For – despite what we’re tempted to think – the confirmation of Hamlet’s suspicions doesn’t resolve the unanswered question looming over the play from the start: how is it that Claudius, the murdered king’s brother, got to be king after him?

Never mind how the former king died. Why did the crown not pass to Hamlet, that king’s son and namesake? Shakespeare supplies us with just enough information to allow the inference that the Denmark of the play (like the Denmark of Shakespeare’s own time) is an elective monarchy, not a hereditary one. This doesn’t answer the question; it defines it. In the elective monarchies that Shakespeare’s audience knew, a king with a direct male heir would almost invariably be succeeded by him on the throne, barring exceptional circumstances. In Hamlet, the recently-deceased king is survived by an adult son, bearing his father’s name. Yet somehow the crown has passed not to the son but instead to the former king’s brother. We are told nothing about the procedure whereby he was elected, or who was involved. It seems to be connected somehow (whether as cause or consequence) with his having won the heart and the hand of Gertrude, the queen. Shakespeare withholds any definite information. He simply presents us with Claudius on the throne, his election a fait accompli.

This turn of affairs, however it happened, has left Hamlet in a state of incredulous, shocked disgust. He finds Claudius loathsome, a disgrace to the kingdom. He can barely contain his rage at his mother for having let herself be swayed to the side of a man so deplorable and disgusting. When he learns (from his father’s ghost) that his uncle had brought about his father’s death, he absorbs this disclosure as if it were something he might have known all along. As the son of the murdered king, he finds himself tasked with avenging the crime.

But make no mistake: what Hamlet seeks is not public justice, and his cause serves no useful political purpose.   The revenge he is tasked with is  merely a private affair, familial score-setting. For Claudius (we must assume) is Denmark’s legitimate king. He may be a treacherous, unscrupulous thug.  He might never have gotten his chance if he hadn’t committed a devious crime. But it wasn’t the crime that got Claudius his crown. He got elected.

Just how Claudius got elected, Shakespeare leaves unexplained. We’re given no information about the procedure, nor of the identities of the electors.   We’re not told whose support Claudius had relied upon for the election to go in his favor.  Maybe whoever it was  (Gertrude? Polonius? Osric? Others unmentioned?) would have chosen differently had they known of the candidate’s crimes in the run-up to his election.  Maybe; or maybe not. Maybe they were in a position to guess what he’d done; maybe they didn’t care. They might still have preferred him to the other available candidates, for reasons unknown to us.   In any event, it’s a moot hypothetical. A royal election can’t be revoked or retracted.

Hamlet generally seems to understand this.   He never speaks of his uncle as   a usurper, nor disputes the legitimacy of his title to rule. He accepts that Claudius is indeed Denmark’s king.  And yet his lucidity on the matter does seem to have limits. He cannot help himself from cruelly berating, and baiting, his mother, merely for having married the man. He rails at her pointlessly, wildly imagining he might shame her into abandoning him. It never occurs to him that she might have had her reasons for marrying, now that his father is dead. This is painful to watch.

There’s a reason why Hamlet so brutally and irrationally castigates his mother, as if she alone were responsible for Claudius’ ascendancy. It spares him the need to confront the hard truth – nowhere stated by anyone, but inscribed in the situation – that it isn’t his mother who bears the blame for enabling Claudius’ rise, but his father, the previous king. We tend not to notice this. But it’s true.

For consider: somehow the long-reigning King Hamlet had failed to ensure that the crown would pass to his son. Was his father a weaker, more pusillanimous king than Hamlet allows himself to remember? Was he merely negligent, and short-sighted? Might he not have cared for his son to succeed him, or cared to expend the political capital that would have been needed to assure his son’s success? Might it be that the father and son had been somehow estranged? Shakespeare withholds from us any basis for knowing, one way or another. The father is dead (though still haunting the place, now and then); the son is disappointed; the uncle is king. Later the uncle is dead, along with the son and the mother, and somebody else takes over. The rest is silence.

Bad Shakespeare, Bad Politics: The Case of the Central Park “Julius Caesar”

1. Unlike most of those who have felt the need to express an opinion of Oskar Eustis’s production of Julius Caesar at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, I’ve actually seen it. I attended a performance during the third of the three weeks of previews that preceded its formal one-week run — a couple of days before the furor over the production erupted into national news.  I found it to be reasonably entertaining — and embarrassingly confused:  dubious as a staging of Julius Caesar, and politically irresponsible.

I hasten to say that I see no merit at all in the indignant, opportunistic complaints of those who profess to be scandalized at Eustis’s choice to identify the character Julius Caesar with Donald Trump.    About those complaints, I will say only this. I can see nothing  objectionable in a theatrical representation of Julius Caesar as the sitting President of the U.S., even if that should include (as it inevitably would) on onstage assassination. A stage-play is not an incitement, period. In reply to the “serious question” hurled by the President’s son—in the words of his tweet, “When does “art” become political speech, and what difference does that make?” — I defer to the U.S. Supreme Court: Expression, artistic or not, counts as political speech the moment the attempt is made to suppress it for giving offense on political grounds; the difference that this makes is that it’s precisely then that the First Amendment kicks in with full force (vide R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, 505 U.S. 377 (1992), Scalia, J., Opinion for the Court). The issue is much the same as with burning the flag. (I note without comment that the scandalized theatergoer who first put the would-be censors on the scent seems to have been as much scandalized by the sight of the Trump look-alike naked in the bathtub as by the assassination scene.) You don’t have to enjoy or admire the spectacle of it to acknowledge its legitimacy as political expression.     It confuses the issue to defend such expression on the grounds of its artistic worth or edifying value.

Among the unfortunate consequences of the controversy is that it’s shunted aside any serious discussion of the merits of Oskar Eustis’s staging. The play has been denounced on irrelevant, pernicious grounds by supporters of Trump, and embraced as a cause célèbre by the cultural establishment. An eminent scholar has assured the readers of The New York Times that the staging would have had the Bard’s own approval, and commended the production for illuminating our political circumstances. (The writer, James Shapiro, identifies himself as a consultant on the production, and I grant that his actual wording – although not the headline writer’s – is a bit more oblique.) I’m afraid I can’t agree.

As I say, the performance I attended was before all the nonsense went viral; I had the benefit of seeing it without any of that in my head.    I was disposed to enjoy it – waiting on line for five hours to get tickets does that to you. (Five hours in line is the standard procedure, for any Shakespeare in the Park production. The free tickets are distributed in Central Park at noon on the day of the performance; people start lining up even before the park opens at 6 a.m.) The actors’ performances  were consistently top-notch., and the details were  often clever.  But in the end the dramaturgy was incoherent, and the politics blinkered, or worse.   The representation of Caesar as Trump — that is to say, Trump as Caesar — has a certain specious believability, so far as it goes.  But it makes for a muddle of Julius Caesar, and muddled understanding of the political moment to which it purports to be tailored. Eustis has said that he looked to Julius Caesar to offer a parable for our time. But what he has made of the play isn’t a parable; it’s a proposition. It fails to carry conviction.

Preceding the performance (at least on the evening that I attended), a recorded audio announcement informs the audience that every line to be spoken onstage adheres to Shakespeare’s original (one small, immediately-recognizable topical joke excepted).  The same assurance is given in the director’s program note printed in Playbill.  The fidelity to Shakespeare’s text is cited as if this attested to the production’s coherence and seriousness.   In fact it’s part of the problem. It’s as if Eustis imagined that he need only supply the contemporary correspondences (a Caesar who talks and gesticulates like Donald Trump, an opponent of Caesar who sports a pink-pussy knit hat), and leave Shakespeare to do all the thinking.  The trouble is,  Shakespeare is thinking about other things.

2. That the actor in the part of Caesar, Gregg Henry, is meant to be taken for Donald Trump is uncontestable (and uncontested). His Caesar is not merely reminiscent of Trump, a Trump-like politician. He replicates all the signature mannerisms that are  unmistakably Trump’s.  Gregg Henry has mastered Trump’s verbal inflections and physical gestures with a literalness that by comparison makes Alec Baldwin look like, well, Alec Baldwin. That is to say, he approaches an order of verisimilitude that would interfere with Baldwin’s satirical purposes. The marvel of it, though, is that this is all done while speaking lines written by Shakespeare for Caesar. The lines Shakespeare gives Caesar to say are things we can well imagine Trump saying (were he a bit more verbally fluent).  Henry need only speak the lines in the manner we know to be Trump’s, and the fit appears perfect.

It’s a marvel, but it doesn’t get quite so far as all that.  The most that it shows is that Shakespeare’s idea of Caesar can pass fairly well for Trump’s idea of himself.    Caesar always delivers; he knows himself better than anyone. He’s the man that he takes himself for, the man that he gives himself out to be. Here is Caesar, explaining why he’d never reverse a prior decision:

…I am constant as the northern star,
Of whose true-fix’d and resting quality
There is no fellow in the firmament.
The skies are painted with unnumber’d sparks,
They are all fire, and every one doth shine;
But there’s but one in all doth hold his place.
So in the world: ’tis furnsh’d well with men,
And men are flesh and blood; and apprehensive;
Yet in their number I do know but one
That unassailable holds on his rank,
Unshak’d of motion; and that I am he,
Let me a little show it…

The actor  need only supply Trump’s spoken inflections, and his air-slapping gestures, for this to pass for a genuinely Trumpian utterance.  The audience, lately familiar with this sort of thing, understands that it doesn’t correspond to anything actual. We recognize the speaker as a man for whom constancy means nothing real.

That isn’t how Shakespeare sees Caesar. More to the point – it isn’t how Caesar is seen by anyone in Shakespeare’s play; it gets no purchase whatever on the situation with which Shakespeare’s characters are confronted. What’s alarming to Caesar’s opponents is not Caesar’s outrageous indifference to truth, but precisely the fact that Caesar is just as he says. Caesar, truly, always delivers, at least to the limit his aging body allows.   That’s the reason why Caesar’s most bitter detractor, Cassius, is reduced to harping on his limited physical stamina.  (Hmm… ) It’s also the reason — the only reason — why Brutus becomes persuaded that that Caesar must die.

This last point is crucial, for making sense of the play Shakespeare wrote. It’s not for tyrannical personality traits that Brutus comes to see in Caesar a menace to the republic.  “To speak truth of Caesar,” he says — in the soliloquy in which he persuades himself to join the conspiracy,  “I have not known when his affections sway’d / More than his reason.”  What makes Brutus fear for Rome’s safety – so he tells himself, anyway – is simply that Caesar is peerless, in every sense of that word.   The menace is hypothetical, consisting  in what future abuses that any leader so universally admired and applauded might at length be tempted to commit. (“So Caesar may; / Then lest me may, [let us] prevent.”) Brutus  knows very well this won’t fly as a political argument —  “the quarrel / Will bear no colour for the thing it is.” He takes it for granted that normal political opposition, on grounds such as this, is futile.  Desperate measures are called for.

Brutus  convinces himself that his notional fears will be publicly validated, if only he shows how far he’s willing to go in acting on them.  His egregious misjudgment in this becomes obvious, after the fact, when he proves to be no match for Caesar’s friend and admirer Mark Antony in controlling the public understanding of the assassination. But it isn’t so clear what alternative there might have been, in the world of the play, given the premises. And it isn’t so clear on what other premises Caesar is to be seen as a menace. There are no actions in the play that attest to alternative means of resistance to Caesar’s ascendancy — and no voices that counsel their adoption. (It’s not an accident that the figure of Cicero is sidelined – not just by the conspirators, but by the playwright.)   The alternatives offered — as Caesar’s opponents see it — are violence or acquiescence.

I do not mean to imply that Eustis’s staging endorses assassination, or advocates violence. Eustis states in his program note, and has repeated in the press, that the lesson of his staging is that “those who attempt to defend democracy by undemocratic methods… pay a terrible price and destroy their republic.” It’s presumably meant to be highly significant that the set’s painted backdrop — a mural which depicts, along with portraits of Washington and Lincoln, an image of the parchment presentation text of the U.S. Constitution — is abruptly torn down immediately after the assassination. Out come the riot police, commanded by Caesar’s successors. (I was briefly confused when Octavius comes on stage; the actor looks nothing like Jared.)   James Shapiro explains: “Anyone who sits through the final scene will see the consequences of deposing the tyrant: The brutality of the victors, Antony and Octavius, is far worse than that of Caesar.”  That’s clear enough.    Now all we need is for someone to explain how this is supposed to speak to the present political moment.

3.  It actually isn’t true that everything said onstage is from Shakespeare.  The production’s vaunted fidelity to Shakespeare’s text is limited to the lines spoken by  the named characters; Eustis gives himself greater license with the anonymous persons who stand in for the populace — appearing onstage in crowds, and sometimes shouting from the audience.  Especially in the latter third of the play, with Trump/Caesar gone from the scene, these extras serve as the bearers of the play’s topical reference, and do so verbally. They carry signs recognizable from anti-Trump demonstrations of the past half-year (“Resist!”).   And they chant: “This is what democracy looks like.”

What does democracy look like, in this staging of Julius Caesar? Who are these chanting protesters, in relation to the named characters of the play?   Watching the performance, I had assumed that they were to seen as the partisans of  the conspirators — I took their clash with the riot police for Eustis’ rendering of the conflict between the  forces raised by Brutus and Cassius and those loyal to Antony and Octavius.    (The text refers only to “powers”  on either side.)  After reading the director’s various statements in the press, I suspect I had misread the intention.  Perhaps the idea is that the unnamed protesters are acting on their own initiative, a leaderless movement à la Occupy Wall Street — acting independently of the conspirators, innocent of the conspirators’ violence.  In that case, the point of the chant is not to identify democracy with the cause of Brutus & co., but instead to announce the emergence of a more authentically democratic alternative.  That would better comport with the lesson that Eustis has said he has meant to convey; there’s a logic to it.   The trouble is just that it corresponds to nothing that anyone says in the play of Shakespeare’s that Eustis has chosen to stage.  It means discounting everything said in opposition to Caesar by any of Shakespeare’s characters, so as to affirm an alternative  mode of  oppositional politics (call it “resistance”) of which those characters are apparently unaware, and which has no discernible impact on the political situation.  Grant that these other, nobler democratic citizens are innocent of complicity in the fatal misjudgments of  Brutus and Cassius.  By the same token, they’re just as innocent of  responsibility for everything else that occurs in the play.  Their innocence is the obverse of their  inefficacy, from beginning to end of the tragedy.  Some resistance. Some democracy.

4. Eustis has stated that he made the decision to mount this Julius Caesar on November 9, the day after Trump’s election. I get that. But we’ve all had a chance to learn a few things, in the interim.



[Original Title: “An Emperor Disrobed: Some Thoughts on Oscar Eustis’s Julius Caesar.” Revised for clarity, 6/19/17.]

What might Arendt have to say about Trump?

A few people have been asking me my thoughts on the recent surge of interest in Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism, in relation to our present political crisis.  I’m working on writing something on the subject, but meanwhile – to air some rough ideas –  I offer the following snippet  of a conversation I had last week at Brooklyn College (where I teach), in the office of the chair of our political science department:

Roy [sleep-deprived, over-caffeinated]: …Agreed. Obviously Trump is no Hitler, and this isn’t 1933. But that’s why I’m starting to think Arendt might be relevant, after all. It’s like I always said: her focal case  for totalitarianism isn’t the Nazis, it’s the Bolsheviks – and only under Stalin, not before— 

Corey Robin [impatient, scanning his inbox]: — I know, I know…

Roy [talking against the clock]: —So the point is, her theory can accommodate  a case where there’s little or no authentic mass movement beforehand. The leader need only be in a position to commandeer  and transform existing institutions, and manipulate prior loyalties…  You could think of Trump’s hold on the Republicans now as something like Stalin’s over the Old Bolsheviks – they didn’t like him before, and don’t like him now, but they’re boxed in; to abandon him now would leave them with nothing… But, look, never mind Stalin.  Arendt is sketchy on Stalin, and I’ve stopped trying to do her homework for her a long time ago.  The point is – that’s why I’m finding her relevant now. I want to say – Trump could turn out to be a better instance of what she meant by totalitarianism than either Hitler or Stalin…

Corey [baffled]: What are you talking about? I still don’t see it.  Where’s the relentless drive for logical consistency, the compulsive force of ideology? —

Roy [puzzled, then incredulous]:  — Huh? …You mean, the stuff Arendt wrote in the last chapter?  ‘Ideology & Terror’? That’s  from 1953. You thought I meant that? Corey, please  I’m talking about Arendt’s theory from ’49 —  the one in the book’s first edition.*  It’s not about consistent ideology.  It’s about taking reality for one massive conspiracy, and operating on that basis.  Part of what she saw as distinctively totalitarian in the Bolsheviks under Stalin was their flexibility — and their contempt for those who complained of their contradictions… The other stuff — the stuff Arendt added in the later chapter — that doesn’t interest me, never did. She herself  abandoned it later. We’ve been through this, remember? Thus the Eichmann book…

Corey [bemused chuckle]:  ….

[* The changes to Arendt’s theory of totalitarianism are documented in this old paper of mine,  written on the occasion of 50th anniversary of  the publication of The Origins of Totalitarianism in 2001. (The paper came out of a conference held in New York just a few weeks after the September 11 terrorist attack, which explains its ominous last paragraph.)   A few details of the interpretation are superseded by subsequent scholarship, but I’m not aware of any challenge to the basic documentary account.  Links to some other pieces I’ve written on Arendt’s work can be found here.]

Original post title: “Is Arendt Any Help? Raw Thoughts on Trump and Totalitarianism”

Arendt: “The reality in which we live”

“Never has our future been more unpredictable, never have we depended so much on political forces that cannot be trusted to follow the rules of common sense and self-interest — forces that look like sheer insanity, if judged by the standards of other centuries. It is as though mankind had divided itself between those who believe in human omnipotence (who believe that everything s possible if one knows how to organize masses for it) and those for whom powerlessness has become the major experience of their lives….

“The central events of our time are not less effectively forgotten by those committed to a belief in an unavoidable doom, than by those who have given themselves up to reckless optimism…. Comprehension does not mean denying the outrageous, deducing the unprecedented from precedents, or explaining phenomena by such analogies and generalities that the impact of reality and the shock of experience are no longer felt. It means, rather, examining and bearing consciously the burden which our century has placed upon us — neither denying its existence nor submitting meekly to its weight.  Comprehension, in short, means the unpremeditated, attentive facing up to, and resisting of, reality — whatever it may be….

“We can no longer afford to take that which was good in the past and simply call it our heritage, to discard the bad and simply think of it as a dead load which by itself time will bury in oblivion. The subterranean stream of Western history has finally come to the surface and usurped the dignity of our tradition. This is the reality in which we live. And this is why all efforts to escape from the grimness of the present into nostalgia for a still intact past, or into the anticipated oblivion of a better future, are in vain.”

–Hannah Arendt,
Preface to The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951)



Clinton Lost, but Trump isn’t President Yet

The result of the Presidential election on November 8 has brought us to the brink of the most acute political crisis of the American republic since the Civil War and Reconstruction. Not only is the presumptive President-Elect egregiously unfit for the office of President, he would bring with him to the White House a claque of nativist bigots who can be counted upon to foster and further the worst autocratic tendencies in their chief.  In the wake of last Tuesday, there has been some desperate, mostly wishful talk in recent days of a last-ditch attempt to avert the catastrophe that would be President Trump.  The desperation is understandable, but we don’t have time for the wishfulness. There’s still one constitutional way to prevent Donald Trump from becoming the next President of the United States. The first step is for Democrats to concede that it won’t be Hillary Clinton either.

Hillary Clinton offered herself as the last bulwark against the abyss.  Her campaign ended in failure, deserved or not.  The only thing now that stands between Donald Trump and the Presidency is the fact that the Constitution vests the choice not in the balloting that took place in every state of the Union on November 8, but in the follow-up votes cast by the designated electors in each state on December 19.  Hillary  Clinton’s defeat last Tuesday means that a clear majority those electors — 290 of 538 — are Republicans. To keep Donald Trump from becoming  the 45th U.S. President in January, it would take at least 21 of those 290 to be willing to disregard the nominal outcome of the popular balloting in their home state, in favor of some other candidate.  It comes down to this – 21 Republican electors breaking ranks with their party’s nominee, and voting for somebody other than Trump. In the present emergency, I believe that it’s entirely reasonable to call upon them to do so, as a matter of constitutional principle.  What isn’t reasonable, now, is for Democrats to expect them to throw the election to Hillary Clinton.

That’s what’s being demanded in a petition that’s been making the rounds on the internet.  It isn’t serious, except as a vehicle for unhelpful indignation. We don’t have time for that now.  The petition demands the electors to recognize Trump’s unfitness for the Presidency, and instead to honor the choice of the national popular vote — Hillary Clinton. This would be obnoxiously opportunistic, if it weren’t so patently silly.  You can’t urge the electors to exercise their own judgment in casting their vote, while also demanding them to defer to majority opinion.  To ask this of any elector who’d need to be asked (i.e., one not committed to voting for Clinton already), is inherently to ask them to disregard the majority preference in the state for which they are appointed, in favor of the preference that prevailed elsewhere in the country.  It comes down to asking electors in Ohio and Michigan— all of whom are Republicans in good standing, thanks to Hillary’s defeat  — to accede to the judgment of the majorities in New York and California, as to which party’s nominee is better qualified (or less unqualified) to be President.  If there’s anything to be learned from last Tuesday’s debacle, it’s that this sort of talk is worse than idle. It’s what got us into this mess.

Hillary Clinton lost the election. The fact she won more votes overall nationally is of interest only for what it says of the relative unpopularity of the monster that won.  She lost the only contest that she and her campaign had set out to win.  She recognized this, and graciously conceded her defeat on Wednesday morning.  Her supporters on November 8 — of which I was one — need to accept that defeat, and face the reality of the situation.  We need to acknowledge that nobody but a small number of Republicans (appointed by the state party organizations in their respective states) are now in a position to keep the U.S. Constitution safe from Donald Trump’s grasping hands.  Democrats need to accept some responsibility for having put those Republican electors in so awkward and difficult a position, by having made effective opposition to Trump contingent on support for a candidate — Hillary Clinton — who had long been viewed with exceptional mistrust and antipathy by Republican voters (and not only them).  We can and must call on those Republican electors – 21 of them, anyway — withhold their votes from Donald Trump on December 19. But we need to meet them halfway, and we might as well take take the first step.

The electors chosen by states won by Hillary Clinton are just as free to vote for someone other than their party’s nominee as the electors from states won by Trump. If the red-state electors can be asked to take that extraordinary step – as an act of constitutional patriotism – then the same can be expected of the blue-state electors, for just the same reason.

If Trump is to be stopped, electors from both parties will have to converge on another candidate altogether. Hillary’s loss — to say it again — means that the Republican electors are in the majority; the only viable alternative to Trump at this point would be a Republican, who had endorsed neither Trump nor Clinton, and for whom at least 21 Republican electors might be prevailed upon to cast their vote in December.  At this point, I see only one realistic possibility: Ohio governor John Kasich.

It’s irrelevant whether Kasich is enough of a moderate to win over Democrats. This isn’t about party alignments – it’s about using the Constitution as it was designed, to prevent the unthinkable.  The Democrats lost the election.  The case for Kasich is simply that he remained defiantly aloof from Trump through the primaries, and he remained an outspoken critic of Trump to the end.   Most important – his position as governor as Ohio made for an awkward and often antagonistic relationship between the state Republican party and the Trump organization, even though Trump won the state.  An Ohio elector who opted to vote for Kasich over Trump might be able to do so without undue strain on his conscience. Ohio has 18 electors.  If they could be swayed to vote for their own state party’s favorite son, it would take only 3 of the remaining 272 now in Trump’s column to turn the election.

I have no idea whether Kasich would go for it. Back in the primary season, he stood out among Trump’s rivals in openly embracing the possibility of a contested nomination vote at the party’s national convention.   Late in his candidacy, he  went so far as to say that the spectacle of a brokered convention would be a good lesson in what democratic politics is really about.  He just might be the man for the moment.

As I say, we can’t wait for Republican electors, in Ohio or elsewhere, to take the initiative.  So here goes.  I call on the Presidential electors for the state of New York — my own state — to renounce their  pledge to cast their votes on December 19 for Hillary Clinton, and to promise to vote for Ohio governor John Kasich instead.  Let’s call on the electors from each of the states won by Clinton last Tuesday to do the same. Let’s make it unequivocally clear that as Democrats we’re ready to accept our defeat at the polls, and prepared to make reasonable concessions to Republicans who join with us in standing firm against this  unique menace to our constitutional, democratic republic.

Of course it’s a long shot. The mere attempt would disrupt the smooth transition of power that’s already underway.  That alone is a reason to try.