Let’s start with this question: Why are we even talking about these people?
Mike Lindell, as you undoubtedly know, is the My Pillow Guy, who has been spreading lunatic conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, and is being sued by the Dominion Voting Systems Company for $1.3 billion. His latest dose of insanity is his confident prediction that the Supreme Court will vote unanimously — 9-0 —to overturn the presidential election once they see his evidence.
Jimmy Kimmel has asked the most pertinent question here: "Why is the ONLY person in America who claims they have actual evidence of widespread voter fraud, just a dude who sells pillows?"
But let’s leave that aside for just a moment.
I regret to inform you that Donald J. Trump, the former and perhaps future president of the United States, appears to be listening to the My Pillow Guy.
And, indeed, that is what Trump is saying.
National Review’s Charles C. W. Cooke reports: “I can attest, from speaking to an array of different sources, that Donald Trump does indeed believe quite genuinely that he — along with former senators David Perdue and Martha McSally — will be ‘reinstated’ to office….”
I know you’ve heard all this before, but this is deranged stuff.
“Just how far out there is Trump’s theory?” asks Cooke.
Consider that, even if it were true that the 2020 election had been stolen — which it is absolutely not — his belief would still be absurd. It could be confirmed tomorrow that agents working for a combination of al-Qaeda, Venezuela, and George Soros had hacked into every single voting machine in the country and altered the totals by tens of millions, and it would remain the case there is no mechanism within the American legal order for a do-over of any sort. In such an eventuality, there would be indictments, an impeachment drive, and a constitutional crisis. But, however bad it got, Donald Trump would not be “reinstated” to the presidency. That is not how America works, how America has ever worked, or how America can ever work. American politicians do not lose their reelection races only to be reinstalled later on, as might the second-place horse in a race whose winner was disqualified. The idea is otherworldly and obscene.
And yet, here we are talking about an idea that everybody knows is obscenely stupid. Because Trump.
So let me reiterate the question I asked my fellow conservatives late last year: What were you thinking?
Near the end of the miniseries, Band of Brothers, the guys from Easy Company are shown riding in a convoy of trucks past a bedraggled column of German prisoners, some of whom are riding in carts drawn by horses.
Private David Webster is appalled by the scene and shouts at them:
Hey, you! That's right, you stupid Kraut bastards! That's right! Say hello to Ford, and General fuckin' Motors! You stupid fascist pigs! Look at you! You have horses! What were you thinking? Dragging our asses half way around the world, interrupting our lives... For what, you ignorant, servile scum! What the fuck are we doing here?
I woke up this morning thinking about him.
Admittedly, the parallels are hardly exact, but as I’m looking over the clusterfuck of American conservativism on this almost-Christmas Eve, I feel a kinship with Webster.
What were you thinking? You cowardly, ignorant, servile scum?
It’s not like you were not warned. Again and again.
It’s not as if it wasn’t obvious from the very beginning who Donald Trump was. You had to know it would come to something like this.
Now look at you. You have Trump.
So, Cooke, the author of “Trump: Maybe” in the weeks before last year’s election, can hardly be be shocked, shocked to find that we are smack dab in the middle of yet another shit show.
But he seems unsure what to do about it, if anything at all. He writes:
To acknowledge that Trump is living in a fantasy world does not wipe out his achievements or render anything else he has said incorrect. It does not endorse Joe Biden or hand the Republican Party over to Bill Kristol or knock down an inch of the wall on the border. It merely demands that Donald Trump be treated like any other person: subject to gravity, open to rebuttal, and liable to be laughed at when he becomes so unmoored from the real world that it is hard to know where to begin in attempting to explain him.
As James Madison might say, Oh FFS. We’re still at the let’s laugh at the silly man who was still a pretty good president stage of things?
Here’s a reality check:
In other words: a clown with a flamethrower still has a flamethrower.
Who’s up for another flashback? Last November, I wrote a rough draft of the taxonomy of election trutherism, and broke it down into four buckets. There was some overlap, and the lines, as usual in the age of Trump, often blurred.
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.
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.”)
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.
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:
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.
And then came January 6.
But, back to my original question: Why are we still talking about these people? Why do I have a video of Diamond and Silk in this newsletter?
One of the undersold aspects of the Trump presidency isn’t so much what he did while in office, but how much he elevated fringe figures like Flynn who would never have set foot inside virtually any other president’s orbit. With Trump now out of office, those figures’ continued drift toward the fringe and the credibility Trump lent to them is surely one of the lasting impacts of his presidency.
Exit question: How long will it be before The Trump Restoration becomes a new litmus test of GOP loyalty?
1. Trump’s White House Lawyer Don McGahn Finally Talks to Congress
This morning, Donald Trump’s first White House counsel, Don McGahn, is scheduled to testify about his former boss’s obstruction of justice in a closed-door congressional hearing. McGahn’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee comes in response to a longstanding congressional subpoena relating to former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. Although the Mueller probe seems like ancient news, the contents of the report—the first volume of which inquired into Russia’s attacks on the U.S. election system and the second into Donald Trump’s acts of obstruction of justice relating to the Mueller investigation—have yet to translate into meaningful accountability for either of the biggest fish in that scheme: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his pal Donald J. Trump.
Which is why the impending McGahn testimony is important.
2. The Groupthink That Produced the Lab-Leak Failure Should Scare Liberals
A recent Washington Post story, looking back at the government’s response to virus’s origination, reported that many officials refused to explore the lab-leak hypothesis because it was associated with right-wing politics. “For some of the officials who were privately suspicious of the Wuhan lab, Trump’s and Navarro’s comments turned the lab-leak scenario into a fringe conspiracy theory,” the Post found, “It became nearly impossible to generate interest among health experts in a hypothesis that Trump had turned into a political weapon, they said.”
That is an extraordinarily damning admission. Health experts who understood all along that it was entirely possible that the virus emerged from a lab simply refused to examine the hypothesis because it had become associated with the likes of Donald Trump.
Chait includes this shout-out to our colleague JVL:
Jonathan Last, an apostate conservative writing for the Bulwark (a new magazine that serves as a kind of refuge for Republican and conservative intellectuals unable to stomach Donald Trump), recently made an observation about conservatives taunting the mainstream media for dismissing the lab-leak hypothesis. Yes, Last allowed, many outlets got the story wrong by describing the hypothesis that COVID-19 escaped from the lab in Wuhan, rather than the nearby wet market, as a false, racist conspiracy theory, when in truth they never really knew the virus’s origins. But most of those outlets have since corrected their error and treated the issue as a live scientific mystery. When has conservative media ever engaged in anything like this sort of self-correction? Is Fox News running self-flagellating segments questioning, say, the network’s promotion of hydroxychloroquine as a proven COVID treatment? The very thought is a punchline.
3. Stu Spencer Is Out
Stuart Spencer has already seen enough.
In November, he voted for Joe Biden for president — the first Democrat he’s supported since Harry Truman in 1948. “I was in the Navy, on the way to invade Japan, when he stopped the war,” Spencer said, then laughed heartily. “I figured I owed him one.”
Apart from Nancy Reagan, there may be no one more responsible for Reagan’s political success than Spencer, who spent decades as a campaign strategist helping steer the former B-movie actor and long shot to the California governorship and then two terms as president….
But he doesn’t hold back when it comes to Trump, whom Spencer denounced as “a demagogue and opportunist” utterly lacking in core values or convictions. “He sees an issue,” Spencer said, “and no matter what he believes, he goes where it gets him the most votes.”
The ultra-MAGA, fascist-curious American Greatness is now going all in on its support of the January 6 seditionists.
Richard Barnett—the man pictured in Nancy Pelosi’s chair, the man who was imprisoned and abused for making Pelosi look weak (in order to frighten you and me)—deserves to be elected to Congress in the next cycle. Every single Republican in the House and the Senate who failed to stand up for America after the fraudulent 2020 elections deserves to be primaried and ousted by a man who has survived Washington, D.C.’s special prison, the Pelosi Palace. Send the January 6 protesters back to Washington as our elected representatives. Give the D.C. establishment something to get really frightened about.
This is the same magazine that recently published an endorsement of military coups by a retired military guy with close ties to TrumpWorld. Despite its dalliance with racism, and a fetish for sedition, American Greatness’s roster of contributors includes such right-wing luminaries as Victor David Hanson, Seb Gorka, David Harsanyi, Conrad Black, Roger Kimball, Mark Bauerlein, Josh Hammer, Ned Ryun, Dennis Prager, and Salena Zito.
Cancel culture, you say?