A speaker at a "Million MAGA March" calls for Trump supporters to "destroy the GOP" in response to perceived disloyalty by Republican officials who have affirmed the results of the election. Washington D.C., December 12, 2020
Trump always presented a danger to his supporters. Once they signed up for his tales of greatness, perfection, and winning, winning, winning, they were liable to be sucked further and further down his rabbit hole of fabrication. Because Trump never admits that he was wrong and continually embellishes the lies he invents, supporters are unable to draw a line without repudiating their earlier endorsement of his dishonesty. Trump employs his inability to admit anything less than genius to attack everyone who doesn’t buy his whole program. The silence of Republicans in Congress since the election, which has been interpreted as tacit approval of his ever crazier claims about fraud, represents their dilemma: they can’t get off the Trump train as it speeds into uncharted waters.
Sorry for the mixed metaphors. But I’m not sorry for Trump’s sycophants, who deserve the very predictable problem they brought on themselves. The Washington Post surveyed all 249 Congressional Republicans last week, and only 27 acknowledged Biden’s election.
Brian Kemp, Governor of Georgia, is a prominent example of what happens to those who can’t take any more. His support for Trump over many years has been vociferous, and Trump endorsed him in the Republican primary for Governor in 2018, perhaps after seeing Kemp’s ad on FOX News, where he brandished a rifle and threatened to round up illegal immigrants himself. Kemp then narrowly defeated Stacey Abrams, helped by his earlier removal of hundreds of thousands of people from the voter rolls as Secretary of State, overseeing his own election. But Kemp and other Georgia Republicans could not prevent Georgia’s voters from handing the state to Joe Biden, thanks to Abrams’ massive get-out-the-vote drive since 2018.
When Trump insisted that he had won Georgia but for massive electoral fraud there, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger, and then Governor Kemp, defended their state. It’s all or nothing for Trump. On social media, he called Raffensberger “a so-called Republican (RINO)”. He said on FOX News about Kemp, “I’m ashamed that I endorsed him”, and placed Raffensberger in a special category of “electoral officials making deals, like this character in Georgia who’s a disaster.” On December 1, Trump said Kemp should “do something”, because he had allowed his state to be “scammed”. An even better idea: “Then call off the election. It won’t be needed.”
Trump’s demand to follow him or be thrown out of Trump World hit FOX News after the network called Arizona for Biden. Since then, the libelous claims by Sidney Powell, a lawyer so outrageous that even Trump’s campaign had to disavow her, that voting machines systematically changed Trump votes to Biden across the country, have caught FOX’s foxes in a trap. Lou Dobbs let her offer this Trumpism on November 30: “It’s really the most massive and historical, egregious fraud the world has ever seen.” Sean Hannity encouraged her to repeat those claims, also without contradiction. Tucker Carlson, however, demanded that she show some evidence. When she refused and displayed public outrage at this demand, conservatives began to criticize him.
Georgia attorney Lin Wood included Carlson as the new enemy, writing on Nov. 22, “Fox News is now part of the propaganda arm of the leftists/Communists who think they are going to overthrow our Constitution.” At a “Stop the Steal” rally in Georgia last week, Wood shouted at the crowd that they should not vote for either Kelly Loeffler or David Perdue until the electoral fraud is fixed, which means never. “Why would you go back and vote in another rigged election?” I wonder how those 222 non-committal Congressional Republicans would answer that.
At the state level, Republican leaders have mostly followed the law, bringing us to “safe harbor” day tomorrow, when states make final decisions in any controversies over the appointment of their electors. But handfuls of local representatives have openly offered to commit whatever political crime it takes to reverse the election. A group of 64 Republican Pennsylvania state representatives signed a letter to the whole Pennsylvania Congressional delegation asking them to “to object, and vote to sustain such objection, to the Electoral College votes received from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania” when Congress meets on January 6 to confirm the Electoral College results. That’s half of all Republicans in the lower House, including the Speaker and the Majority Leader, and 7 of 28 in the Senate.
It is not easy to predict how those who have so closely clung to Trump will react to his escalating attacks on our constitutional system. Attorney General Bill Barr already transformed his supposedly non-political Justice Department into Trump’s taxpayer-funded legal defense team. Then Trump said on November 29 that the Justice Department and the FBI might be co-conspirators: “This is total fraud ... maybe they’re involved.” Two days later, Barr told the Associated Press, “we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.” Too bad he didn’t tell the whole truth, that there was no systemic fraud at all. Still Trump is pissed at the latest traitor. NBC News reported that Trump wouldn’t say any more that he had confidence in his Attorney General: “Ask me that in a number of weeks from now.”
The “army” representing Trump, people he picked and encourages, is led by a small collection of wacko publicity hounds, who will scream their fabricated claims over and over again, no matter how unlikely and easily disprovable they are, or what kind of people they offend by their accusations. The claim by Giuliani & Co. is simple: the Dems stole the election. But now they are attacking Republicans who won’t abuse their offices in the cause.
The pattern is in plain sight. Since he won the Republican primary in 2016, the divide between pro- and anti-Trump Republican politicians has been their view of the future. Those who saw themselves searching for Republican votes in the future went along. The Republican members of Congress who have criticized Trump’s lies about the election come from the same cohort as those who campaigned against him before the election: out of office or on their way, “formers”, “ex-’s”, soon-to-be-formers.
Maybe it’s still true that the number of Republican Congresspeople who have contracted COVID is larger than the number who have endorsed the election results as fair and free. The vast majority are sliding along with Trump on his slippery slope, with no brakes, no place to get off before crashing. What will that crash look like?
Will anyone pay a price for this attempt to overthrow our constitutional system? The answer lies not with those politicians, who will adopt every possible slippery justification for their actions. We, those who have opposed Trump from the beginning, can’t make Republicans pay an electoral price, because we don’t vote for them. Only Republican voters can decide to stop supporting individuals and a Party leadership that cares much more about winning, than about democracy. Will they hold any of their “leaders” responsible for their choices? How many will make any effort to discover truth and to compare it to the lies with which they have been bombarded? We, however, can urge state prosecutors, state bar associations, and Democratic legislators to seek penalties within the law for all those who are subverting our electoral system by telling lies.
December 8, 2020