After his porn store adjacent presser and his appearances alongside raving conspiracist Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani made a more dressed-up attempt to call into question the election results at a hearing on Wednesday in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Even before the president of the United States decided to phone in, it was a stage run for a shadow government—an alternate government for an alternate reality that bodes ill for what’s coming in the next couple of years.
In case you missed it, this meeting of Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers was billed as a “hearing,” though that description is a bit misleading. There were no Democrats (not that I saw, anyway). But it had the trappings. It looked the part. And, indeed, the most remarkable thing was how normal most of it seemed. On the dais were seated several state senators and representatives, all of whom were basically out of central casting. If you’ve spent any time around Republican politics, pre-Trump, these were essentially standard-issue pols, which is to say there were no visible tinfoil hats, just ill-fitting suits and red neckties.
Speaking as a conservative, the idea that some “irregularities” or “anomalies” regarding vote counting or “chain of custody” problems might take place in Philadelphia, sadly, doesn’t surprise me. It would be like finding out there was gambling in Casablanca.
This is all to say that I would not normally be hostile to these allegations (indeed, I am predisposed to believe them). Except, being receptive to this message would require having paid no attention to what has happened in the last few months. And (sadly) I have paid all too much attention.
So when I hear what might sound like sincere or persuasive examples of voter fraud, I am immediately hit with other questions. For example, how do these allegations of good old fashioned voter fraud (dead people voting, “chain of custody” issues, observers not being allowed to see the counting) square with the last time I saw Giuliani, when he (along with Sidney Powell) alleged that voting software created by Hugo Chavez switched votes from Trump to Biden?
I mean, if votes can be magically manipulated by machines to cancel or switch votes, then why go to the trouble of having dead people vote? I’m also haunted by Trump’s constant premonitions that the election was going to be stolen. I mean, isn’t it a coincidence that Trump literally spent months, apropos of nothing, warning that the only way he could lose would be if Democrats stole the election, and then he loses the election, and, amazingly, it was “stolen”?
What is noteworthy here is that, unlike recent events, Wednesday’s meeting seemed to focus less on conspiracies (though there were some), and more on believable (if impossible to prove) allegations. It featured “normal” seeming Republicans, like Sen. Doug Mastriano, who called for the hearing, and whose opening remarks referenced Gettysburg, Ben Franklin, John Adams, and Abraham Lincoln. “We are here today to try to find out what the heck happened in the election,” he said. Pretty normal-sounding stuff that, in any other context, would be hard to argue with.
And, of course, it featured the president. True, Donald Trump didn’t actually bother showing up, but he did eventually phone in as it droned on, just like a real government hearing, thanking OAN for broadcasting it, encouraging Republican state lawmakers to keep up the fight and punching back at anyone who doesn’t believe that he really won this supposedly “fraudulent,” "rigged” election, despite what the voters, states, and courts have found.
“Don’t be intimidated by these people,” Trump said. “But they’re bad people, horrible people. They’re people who don’t love our country.”
He also took time to praise a friend. “I want to thank Rudy Giuliani for having the courage to do this,” Trump said. “Other lawyers had backed down because they were being screamed at… This is going to be your crowning achievement because you’re saving our country.”
I’m still curious: Did Trump (who was originally slated to attend in person) skip attending the event because Giuliani had been exposed to someone with COVID (as many speculated, initially), or because Trump feared Rudy has become a joke, and was hedging his bets to see how the hearing shook out before joining?
When you consider that Trump already had COVID (presumably meaning he’s not susceptible to the virus), and that, despite being exposed, Rudy still went to Gettysburg, risking exposing a room full of people—and that Rudy’s last press conference turned into a laughing stock—I suspect the latter. The event started at 12:30 pm ET, but it wasn’t until around 1:51 that Trump took to social media and encouraged people to watch. Why the delay in promoting the event? Was something important happening that we don’t know about, or was Trump just waiting to make sure this wasn’t going to be another clown show?
It wasn’t exactly a clown show, but it certainly wasn’t an attempt to win a court case. And, while Rudy and others talked about the legislature throwing the state to Trump, this wasn't really an attempt to overturn the results, either.
What we witnessed, instead, was the performance of a government in exile. Except the government includes actual Republican lawmakers, and its head is, until January 20, still in charge of the actual state.
It is an attempt to keep people believing, in perpetuity, that Trump was the real winner and Biden, like Obama, is not really a legitimate president.
If that happens, we may look back and think of the town of Gettysburg in a whole new context.