Before we dive into the latest American darkness, take a moment to read our splendid discussions of the Queen’s funeral this morning. In today’s Bulwark, Adam White examines Queen Elizabeth II’s timeless lesson in republican virtue; Brent Orrell writes about the House of Windsor’s personification of the universal struggle to live with dignity.
Periodically over the last six years, we’ve been told that we worry too much about the dangers posed by the former president. The worthies of anti-anti-Trumpism, who populate the media formerly known as conservative, caution against being too alarmed by Trump’s “personality,” or his “mean tweets.”
To take him too seriously, they insist, is evidence of TDS, or Trump Derangement Syndrome.
Days after the election the Wapo quoted the new maxim of the Smart Kids in The Room: “What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time… he’ll tweet some more about how the election was stolen, and then he’ll leave.”
As my colleague Tim Miller wrote, the argument from unnamed (but ubiquitous) Senior Republican Officials “was premised on the (wildly off-base) presupposition that the former guy was just gonna stomp his feet and smear his ketchup on the wall and then move on from the whole coup thing after a few weeks of sucking on his Bedminster-branded pacifier.”
The corollary to the denialism was the insistence, it can’t get any worse, can it? “Whatever damage he was going to do,” Ben Shapiro explained in October 2020, “he's already done, and it's not going to help if I don't vote for him this time.”
By then, of course, we had already seen more than enough to get a good idea of who and what Trump was, and what he was capable of doing. Shapiro had seemed to understand Trump’s character even before he was elected in 2016. Since then, however, he had watched the lies, corruption, bigotry, and mendacity of Trump’s presidency, and decided — “let’s have four more years of that.”
What more damage could he possibly do with a second term? Shapiro asked. Hadn’t we seen the worst?
What could possibly go wrong?
Of course, that was before the Big Lie.
Before Trump’s attempt to overturn the election. Before he delayed the transition. Before he demanded that his vice president nullify electoral votes.
Before military leaders feared he might stage a coup.
“Whatever damage he was going to do, he's already done,” Shapiro argued.
Since then, he incited the January 6 Insurrection.
Since then, Trump praised the rioters as “patriots” and “peaceful people.” Since then, he made delegitimizing the election a litmus test for the GOP.
I regret to tell you that the worst is yet to come.
ICYMI over the weekend, the former president went full, wooly Q.
The “just mean tweets” crowd might be tempted to dismiss this “re-truthing” image as mere Trumpian lulz trolling. But it was just the beginning.
It was followed by rallies, finger salutes, and… the music. The message was unmistakable.
After winking at QAnon for years, Donald Trump is overtly embracing the baseless conspiracy theory, even as the number of frightening real-world events linked to it grows.
On Tuesday, using his Truth Social platform, the Republican former president reposted an image of himself wearing a Q lapel pin overlaid with the words “The Storm is Coming.” In QAnon lore, the “storm” refers to Trump’s final victory, when supposedly he will regain power and his opponents will be tried, and potentially executed, on live television.
None of this is subtle.
Earlier this month, Trump chose a QAnon song to close out a rally in Pennsylvania. The same song appears in one of his recent campaign videos and is titled “WWG1WGA,” an acronym used as a rallying cry for Q adherents that stands for “Where we go one, we go all.”
And lest there be any doubt…
The finger salute was… something.
Still doubt that the storm is coming? Here’s a few more data points to consider:
Last week, Trump offered this not-very-veiled warning against indicting him:
“I don’t think the people of the United States would stand for it,” he said. “I think if it happened, I think you’d have problems in this country the likes of which perhaps we’ve never seen before. I don’t think the people of the United States would stand for it.”…
The MAGAverse understands the signal perfectly. Here’s Trump’s former acting attorney general on Newsmax, predicting “mass chaos and anarchy” if the rule of law is applied to his former boss.
Like a Mafia don’s warnings, this Don’s warnings serve as a kind of intimidation, trying to make authorities who care a great deal about the government, civil peace, and the reputations of their agencies (as Attorney General Merrick Garland clearly does) wonder whether it’s really worth enforcing the law against this particular would-be defendant.
As we’ve already seen, such threats “might also actually occasion violence.”
Sometimes, the violence comes from mentally disturbed individuals who think they’re doing what Trump wants, such as Cesar Sayoc, who sent bombs to Trump critics shortly before the 2018 midterms, or Ricky Walter Shiffer, who was killed after attempting to attack an FBI office in Cincinnati just days after the Mar-a-Lago search.
Other times, the violence comes from Trump backers who simply listen to what he says: the kinds of people who slugged protesters at campaign rallies after he waxed nostalgic for the “good old days” of rough treatment and offered to pay legal bills, or who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, after Trump called on them to “fight like hell.”
After six years of marinating in disinformation, denialism, and political thuggery, the threat now extends beyond Trump himself. Consider these reports from the last few days:
The AP reports: “Support of false election claims runs deep in 2022 GOP field.”
Nearly 1 in 3 Republican candidates for statewide offices that play a role in overseeing, certifying or defending elections supported overturning the results of the 2020 presidential race, according to an Associated Press review.
They include contenders from one end of the country to the other, often in pivotal swing states, for positions that are the linchpins of democracy.
Meanwhile, Via the NYT:
When asked, six Trump-backed Republican nominees for governor and the Senate in midterm battlegrounds would not commit to accepting this year’s election results, and another five Republicans ignored or declined to answer a question about embracing the November outcome. All of them, along with many other G.O.P. candidates, have pre-emptively cast doubt on how their states count votes.
The Crisis Is Coming
Make sure you also read David Leonhardt in Sunday’s NYT: “‘A Crisis Coming’: The Twin Threats to American Democracy.”
The first threat is acute: a growing movement inside one of the country’s two major parties — the Republican Party — to refuse to accept defeat in an election….
The second threat to democracy is chronic but also growing: The power to set government policy is becoming increasingly disconnected from public opinion.
**BONUS: Reuters offers this explainer: “What election deniers could do in 2024 if they win U.S. November midterms.”
Refusing to certify election results would immediately be met by lawsuits and pleas to state courts to reverse such unprecedented actions, and there is no guarantee these Republican office holders would ultimately succeed in overturning results if they decided to try.
Yet at a minimum such radical action would delay election results, likely throw the country into chaos, undermine faith in the voting system and potentially lead to civil unrest.
So, yes, it can get worse. And almost certainly will.
Exit take: Don’t count on “respectable” Republicans to resist.
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Rusty Bowers update:
Via CNN: There’s that word again.
“‘Welcome to fascism’: Top Arizona Republican blasts Trump-backed candidates who might try to overturn future elections’”
The outgoing Republican speaker of the Arizona House says Trump-backed GOP candidates might send the country “back into the dark ages” if they win key midterm races and help enact laws to make it easier to overturn elections – which he said was tantamount to “fascism.”
1. Ronjon’s Inelegant Flip-Flop
So to summarize: Johnson was for codifying same-sex marriage before he was against it, he agrees with Justice Thomas’ argument that Obergefell had been wrongly decided — and therefore unconstitutional — but he insists that there was no chance that it would ever be overturned, and he blames the media for forcing him to falsely proclaim his support.
Even the most cynical of pols cringed at this convoluted chop logic.
The New York Times columnist Bret Stephens offered a fitting political epitaph for Johnson: “His principles are lousy, and he’s not a man of principle.”
But Johnson is a man in a desperate fight for another term, and it’s not clear that he’s a man of political savvy, either.
2. Kemp-Warnock Voters: They’re Real And They’re Spectacular
Tim Miller, in today’s Bulwark:
So my search for real-life Kemp/Warnock voters began. And I have to say . . . they were much easier to find than I expected.
Over the course of two days, the Kemp/Warnock voters I found included: a Trump 2020 voter; a past campaign colleague of mine; my college friend’s retired parents; a current UGA student; a suburban Atlanta tax consultant; an exurban Atlanta banker; a couple TDS-addled attendees of my Why We Did It event at Virginia Highland Books; and even the wife of the first man I met at a midday Brian Kemp rally in Calhoun (a small town about halfway between Atlanta and Chattanooga).
3. Trump’s ‘Save America’ Scam
Make sure you read Amanda Carpenter in today’s Bulwark:
Trump’s Save America ruse is reasonably straightforward.
Immediately after the media called the election for Joe Biden on November 7, 2020, a joint fundraising committee between the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee called the Trump Make America Great Again Committee blasted Trump supporters with numerous donation requests. Many of those pleas asked for money to fund an “Official Legal Defense Fund.” Trump registered a new Save America PAC on November 9. Then, as explained by the Washington Post, Save America discreetly skimmed 75 percent of each contribution.
The humiliation is the point.
If you sign up to be the next Lindsey Graham, this is what you have to expect.
Said it before, will say it again and again because it's still all too true: To indict Trump is to risk further insurrection; to give him a pass is to guarantee his tyranny
The principle adopted at the height of the Islamist terrorism boom was "We don't negotiate with terrorists." The principle served us well.
We need a new principle to deal with existential threats to the constitutional order: You must indict. Trump is setting up the narrative that he has the strength to intimidate his political enemies. This bluff must be called. And the indictment must go big. No Al-Capone-tax-fraud-charges style of managing a problem. A trial must be about reasserting the ideals of how our self-governance is to operate.