A Taxonomy of Trump's New Trutherism

Insanity, stupidity, cowardice, and cynicism.

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Welcome back from the Holiday Long Weekend.

A Trump supporter yells at counter-protesters outside of the U.S. Supreme Court during the Million MAGA March in Washington on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Here’s the good news: Trump’s attempts to overturn the election have been spectacular failures. And… “In Key States, Republicans Were Critical in Resisting Trump’s Election Narrative.”

The bad news:

"Almost no Republicans on the national stage had the integrity or courage to offer backup for these local officials. Almost none gave any reason to hope that if Trump’s effort to steal the election had gained traction, they would have stood against it."

Welcome to the Countdown Journal. There are 8 days until the Electoral College’s “Safe Harbor” date; 14 days until Electoral College votes are cast; and 51 days until Joe Biden is inaugurated

ICYMI: The Wapo had a deep dive into Trump’s efforts to deny the fact that he has been fired by more than 80 million voters.

The result was an election aftermath without precedent in U.S. history. With his denial of the outcome, despite a string of courtroom defeats, Trump endangered America’s democracy, threatened to undermine national security and public health, and duped millions of his supporters into believing, perhaps permanently, that Biden was elected illegitimately.

This belief that the election was stolen has become the new Trutherism, and it will be the basis of Trumpism (and perhaps a litmus test for the right) from this day onward.

So a quick Taxonomy of the phenomenon is in order. There is some overlap and the lines, as usual in the age of Trump, are often blurred.

I. Insanity.

This includes the pure, undiluted bat shit crazy theories about hidden servers, and communist-Hugo Chavez-from-the-grave, vote-switching machines, and deep state plots. In other words Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani stuff.

(Make sure you read Mike Dunford’s piece in this morning’s Bulwark: on the latest ‘Kraken” lawsuit filing. It’s even dumber and crazier than you suspected. “This complaint reads like it was drafted at the afterparty for a three-day QAnon convention.”)

II. Stupidity/Gullibility.

Some of the election denialism is pure idiocracy, which we have written about here and here. But some folks are simply ignorant about the way elections are run and votes are counted. (Are you offended? I’d refer you the doctrine that “Facts don’t care about your feelings.”)

So you get stupid stuff like this, which is easily refuted here and here.

And this:

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III. Cowardice

Hello, darkness, our old friend. As usual, one of the reasons that Trump thinks he can get away with his firehose of falsehoods is that he knows that most Republicans will cravenly remain in a fetal crouch.

The vast, vast majority of elected Republicans know that Joe Biden was elected. They know that there was no systematic fraud or massive mysterious dumps. They know all this, and could affirm the integrity of our democratic process, but they don’t want to make the Truthers mad.

Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, for example, is not a stupid man. He simply lacks a spine. He fits well in the modern GOP.

IV. Mendacity/Cynicism

If Rudy and Sidney are somewhat lonely in defining the deranged end of the spectrum, the other end is crowded by many of the usual figures of Republican mendacity: Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Rand Paul, Matt Gaetz, Rush Limbaugh, Maria Bartiromo, Mark Levin, Matt Schlapp, and the publications associated with Ben Domenech.

These folks are neither crazy or dumb. But they are willing to play along to con the rubes and set themselves up for what comes next. They may not be Truthers themselves, but they are willing to wink at it, and even traffic in it. Like this, which seems to assume the stupidity of the base:

Relying on gullibility has become a business model for some of the media on the right . Via the NYT: “The King of Trump TV Thinks You’re Dumb Enough to Buy It.”

All successful TV programmers have some mercenary in them, of course, but even by those standards, Mr. Ruddy is extreme. He has turned Newsmax into a pure vehicle for Trumpism, attacking Fox News from the right for including occasional dissenting voices. And when Trumpism turned this month from an electoral strategy into a hallucinatory attempt to overturn the election, Mr. Ruddy saw opportunity: Newsmax, available on cable in most American households and streaming online, became the home of alternate reality.

So, where does Trump himself fall on this scale? Does he believe the insane conspiracy theories of hidden servers and communist plots? Or is he counting on his base to be stupid/gullible enough to buy his whining?

Is he genuinely nuts or is this all just a ploy to avoid being seen as a loser? Or are his attacks on the election a marketing gambit to launch his Next Big Grift as he tries to monetize his grievances and perhaps launch a comeback bid.

Exit question: remember all the smart folks who wanted to give him another four years in office?

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The folks at the hyper-Trumpy American Greatness are having a normal one.

“The question is not whether the Democrats tried to steal the election,” writes Bruce Bawer. “they did. At this point, there’s no honest question about that. The only question is whether there’s enough time to prove it in court, and whether the judges involved will dare to make honest rulings.”

The piece ends with what sounds like a thinly veiled call to revolution of some sort. Should Republicans concede graciously, he asks?

Is this the way real Americans react to treason?

In a word, no….

To hell with them. Let the waters roil. They’ve already shown us that they’re prepared to tear down homes and businesses for no reason whatsoever. Well, let’s give them a reason. Let’s make it clear to them that if we’ve been reticent so far, it’s not because we’re weak—it’s because we’re civilized. 

And let’s teach them that when barbarians try to sabotage a cornerstone of civilized society—an election—then civilized people will, finally, act. 

Things aren’t going well for Trump in the Courts:

In federal district court:

"Plaintiffs ask this Court to disenfranchise almost seven million voters," [Judge Matthew] Brann writes. "This Court has been unable to find any case in which a plaintiff has sought such a drastic remedy in the contest of an election, in terms of the sheer volume of votes asked to be invalidated. One might expect that when seeking such a startling outcome, a plaintiff would come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption, such that this Court would have no option but to regrettably grant the proposed injunctive relief despite the impact it would have on such a large group of citizens."

Instead, Brann says, "this Court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations, unpled in the operative complaint and unsupported by evidence. In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state. Our people, laws, and institutions demand more. At bottom, Plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden to state a claim upon which relief may be granted."

Things aren’t going any better in the appellate courts.

"Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy," writes Trump appointed Judge Stephanos Bibas. "Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here."

In Wisconsin: “Biden gains 87 votes in Trump's $3 million Wisconsin recount as Dane County wraps up review. President plans lawsuit.”

In Georgia:

Hat tip/ Bianna Golodryga, who found this description of Senator Joe McCarthy in a new biography of JFK:

As Susan Glasser noted: “The difference is that McCarthy was not president.”

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Quick Hits

1. The GOP is a Propaganda Party

Make sure you read Amanda Carpenter in today’s Bulwark:

Ask yourself, “Who are the actual leaders of the GOP?” Who truly influences Republican voters?

It’s not whoever the Republican National Committee will nominate as its next chairman. It’s not Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, for God’s sake. It’s the Fox News primetime lineup, the large galaxy of radio and digital outlets clamoring to place their personalities and stories on Fox News, and their vast array of fringy lower-tier knockoffs.

All day, every day, these talkers, writers, producers, and editors set the party agenda. They act as the Republican party’s “war room.” They give favored politicians airtime to solicit donations from their viewers. They go negative on their political enemies. Their stars even headline campaign events to rev up the base and get out the vote.

The ones who are good at it get paid far more by the likes of the Murdoch and the Mercer families to carry out the political agenda than any mere senator or congressman. These talkers, not the elected officials stuck grubbing around shaking hands and campaigning in the streets, are the party’s real leaders.

Donald Trump is almost an afterthought in this context.

2. School Closings (Probably) Work

Brent Orell in today’s Bulwark:

If school shutdowns are effective and necessary, it’s important that they be done carefully, predictably, and in the most logical and least burdensome way possible, with maximum coordination among government officials and between schools and parents. The farcical behaviorsunpredictability, and miscommunication among New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Governor Andrew Cuomo, and parents and teachers in New York City is a model of bad policy made in the worst possible way.

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Cheap Shots

Speaking of Matt Schlapp: Achievement unlocked for the CPAC boss to make his way into this sentence;

The strategy, according to a second senior administration official, was, “Anyone who is willing to go out and say, ‘They stole it,’ roll them out. Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, Sidney Powell. Send [former acting director of national intelligence] Ric Grenell out West. Send [American Conservative Union Chairman] Matt Schlapp somewhere. Just roll everybody up who is willing to do it into a clown car, and when it’s time for a press conference, roll them out.”

About those feelings.

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Deep Thoughts

1. Six Steps for a Bi-Partisan Foreign Policy

Frank Lavin in today’s Bulwark:

President-elect Biden’s initial national security appointments look promising, as the individuals tapped for national security advisor, secretary of state, director of national intelligence, secretary of homeland security, and ambassador to the United Nations are all foreign policy professionals with solid government experience. They are, along with some of President-elect Biden’s other cabinet picks, mostly pragmatists and institutionalists, as opposed to ideologues or radicals. But despite the common saying, personnel isn’t policy—not all of it anyway. If the Biden administration is to pursue a foreign policy in line with his campaign theme of restoring traditional American habits and virtues—and one that might garner some Republican support—he will need lodestars for how to approach both perennial and novel foreign policy questions.

The below six points helped shape much of the foreign policy of modern era under Democrats and Republicans alike, and they might serve as a guide for the Biden team to balance their foreign policy on a bipartisan footing….