When Donald Trump entered the Republican Primary in June of 2015, he sort of caught journalists and the political world by surprise. In the months that followed, both groups quickly became familiar with a pretty weird phenomenon: Donald Trump would say something offensive, people would get offended, then Trump would say he had not said what he had in fact just said, and his supporters wouldn’t just defend him; they would also deny that he ever said it. It was alarming, but somewhat overlooked at the time. Trump had a unique hold on his supporters, where he could, in effect, get them to deny reality. Things that were clear and obvious to anyone with a functioning brain were rejected as untrue or “fake news.” In response, the term “gaslighting” fell into popular use during both his campaign and his Administration.
Almost six years later, after multiple rounds of steroid injections, the point almost seems laughable. Trump’s supporters - both the hardcore and the softcore - all reject any narrative that does not emerge from the Supreme Leader’s mouth. They have now created an entire sub-universe where reality does not exist, and while it is most evident with Qanon (which I think can now be accurately described as a political cult), you can also follow the thread to Parler, some of the opinion shows on Fox News, and obviously Newsmax and OAN. The denial ranges from the serious topics, like non-existent election fraud, to the more innocuous, like Trump denying that he paid off Playmates to conceal his affairs with them.
Timothy Snyder has a great op-ed in the New York Times Magazine that highlights the danger of the moment we’re currently in. You should read the whole thing, but it can be summed up with this quote: “Post-truth is pre-fascism, and Trump has been our post-truth president.” Snyder goes to make the point that when a country has a populace that is divorced from reality, it can be easily manipulated by any autocrat:
When we give up on truth, we concede power to those with the wealth and charisma to create spectacle in its place. Without agreement about some basic facts, citizens cannot form the civil society that would allow them to defend themselves. If we lose the institutions that produce facts that are pertinent to us, then we tend to wallow in attractive abstractions and fictions. Truth defends itself particularly poorly when there is not very much of it around, and the era of Trump — like the era of Vladimir Putin in Russia — is one of the decline of local news (my emphasis).
One of the problems with Trump’s post-truthism is how it sits all too well with his various calls for violence. In 2018, I wrote a piece with a pretty tough headline: Donald Trump Incites Violence and Conservative Media is Helping Him. It was written shortly after Cesar Sayoc was arrested for sending homemade bombs to CNN, Hillary Clinton, and other “enemies” of Donald Trump. In it, I noted something:
The misinformation provided by outlets like Fox News — specifically the primetime lineup — does actual harm to Trump’s own supporters. Sayoc probably didn’t become radicalized by watching Tucker Carlson or Sean Hannity’s shows, but watching them repeatedly take digs at CNN and the President’s opponents created an environment where someone like Sayoc could feel justified about their actions. Horrific acts like Sayoc’s are also possible in an environment where no one in the Republican Party attempts to hold Trump accountable for his words, outside of a few Senators who shrug and express “disappointment.”
The problem is now much bigger than Fox News; Trump and huge swaths of conservative media have created an environment where someone can feel “justified” in attempting to assault the Capitol. If election fraud truly did occur, then why wouldn’t you try to overthrow the people who were “in” on it?
In this case, you had a dangerous mix of people who truly believed that the election was fraudulent sitting - and primed for violence - at the feet of the leader of their cult. In his promotional materials for his speech on Wednesday, Trump called the event the “Save America March.”
After already assuring his supporters that they really were there to “save America,” Trump gave a 70-minute speech that contained lines like this:
Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore, and that is what this is all about. And to use a favorite term that all of you people really came up with, we will stop the steal.
And I would love to have if those tens of thousands of people would be allowed the military, the Secret Service and we want to thank you and the police and law enforcement great you're doing a great job, but I would love it if they could be allowed to come up with us. Is that possible?
The weak Republicans--and that's it, I really believe it. I think I'm going to use the term. The weak Republicans. You've got a lot of them and you've got a lot of great ones. But you've got a lot of weak ones. They've turned a blind eye.
And Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us. And if he doesn't, that will be a sad day for our country because you're sworn to uphold our constitution.
Now it is up to Congress to confront this egregious assault on our democracy. And after this, we're going to walk down and I'll be there with you. We're going to walk down--
We're going to walk down. Anyone you want, but I think right here, we're going to walk down to the Capitol--Because you'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.
We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated. Lawfully slated.
And then his supporters marched on the Capitol. There are now five dead, one of them a Capitol police officer. They found pipe bombs at the RNC and the DNC. A man dressed in military gear was carrying around zip ties. They found a van filled with napalm and molotov cocktails. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that if it had not been for Democrats and the Republicans who actually respected the rule of law (and this does not excuse them from their acquiescence to and corrupt bargain with Donald Trump) and finished their work, the Republic could have ended on Wednesday. It really could have been so much worse.
The foregoing is why I have only the teeniest, tiniest violin for anyone who says that “Big Tech” is now engaging in censorship of Donald Trump, his supporters, and some conservatives. While I am aware that Twitter allows the CCP and Iran’s leaders to have accounts, and that they sometimes use those accounts to call for violence, Americans are not being persuaded to attack the Capitol by the Ayatollah (and likely never would be); they are being persuaded by Donald Trump. And if I have learned anything about Trump from when I first started covering him in 2015: He does not change. He does not learn any lessons. He cares only about himself and he will do this again if he thinks it will help him succeed.
Of course, the narrative is now shifting to Big Tech because even Trump’s most calculating and sniveling supporters understand that there is no credible defense of him anymore. Here is Ted Cruz only two days ago:
Sean Davis @seanmdavThe account of the terrorist ayatollah of Iran, who has repeatedly called for literal genocide against Jews, is currently being *promoted* by Twitter. Twitter doesn’t care about violence. What it wants is silence from its enemies: you. https://t.co/3vGutcV0Xc
And yet here is Cruz when he actually was running a race against Trump:
Never forget who these people are.
So, the big question: Will the House impeach? The answer is yes. Trump is going to be the first President in American history to be impeached twice. There has been some talk about the 25th Amendment, but that is currently seen as more of a “break the glass” alternative by many people in the Administration.
Will the Senate convict? I think it is probably likely that the Senate will convict (though I am done counting on the good will of Republicans in Congress), but based on what Mitch McConnell has told his members, they will not be able to take up the Articles of Impeachment before January 19th. That makes a removal prior to Joe Biden’s inauguration almost impossible.
Nearly everyone in the Senate (even the people who pretend not to) understand what Trump was trying to do. It has to be punished in the most severe way possible. And, after that happens, Trump should be harassed by the Department of Justice for the rest of his life. Bury him in lawsuits. Force him to declare bankruptcy to cover his legal defense. Force his family to sell their properties and liquidate their trust funds (is that what you do with a trust fund?). Show no mercy. Send them all back to the Shadow.
It is now America vs. Donald Trump.
We can come back midweek to discuss how I was clearly wrong about the Georgia elections, and maybe a little bit about polling too (are we gonna kiss and make up? FIND OUT!). But I do want to highlight what was said about Wednesday:
Anyway, the point is that Trump is flailing in every direction possible, and because he is a narcissist who cannot lose, there is nothing he won’t do to stay in office. Does that mean he will be successful? Of course not. But is it possible he will amplify white supremacists/Proud Boys/violent Gator Moms on Wednesday as they attempt to #stopthesteal? Of course he will.
Something Tim Miller said stuck out to me: Who could have predicted this? Everyone. Literally everyone.
Have a great week my beautiful babies.