Trump Tries to Rave, Rage and Bluff Past the Facts in Georgia
He spared a few words for Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue but he was there, of course, for him and his own lost cause.
For the last five years, I’ve been criticizing Donald Trump from the perspective of a Never Trump conservative. Long before he came down that escalator, he struck me as not just a bad leader, but also a bad person—one determined to drag his party, and his country, down with him. He showed it again in Georgia on Monday night, campaigning not so much for Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue as he was for himself, as though voters hadn’t already rendered their verdict on his own campaign.
But he’s still campaigning, talking about how his bigger rallies are proof he can’t be beat and wasn’t, even after he lost, by a lot. Talking about “your whacky secretary of state” and ticking off the same muddled and outright fictitious “facts” about how he supposedly won while unsuccessfully trying to pressure Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to undo the will of Georgia’s voters in the president’s latest “perfect call.” He talked some about Loeffler and Perdue but also about coming back to punish Raffensperger and Governor Brian Kemp, both Republicans, for refusing to steal the election for him. Instead, in his addled telling, the Republicans were working with Stacey Abrams on behalf of Dominion.
Trump Monday night, in his element while absorbing the maskless crowd’s energy, reminded me of Wile E. Coyote running over the cliff’s edge and still going—until he looks down. The Coyote can’t stop chasing the Roadrunner, and Trump can’t stop being Trump. So there he was at a half-assed rally nominally trying to save the Republican candidates he may well have just sabotaged much like he sabotaged himself, talking endlessly about what a winner he is in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, about all the ways things were stolen from him, and through his greatest “hits” down to ripping Hillary Clinton.
Truth be told, Trump doesn’t have much at stake on Tuesday. If the Republicans win, he will claim credit. If they lose, he will blame the same “rigged election” that cost him his own election, which he went on about in excruciating, inaccurate detail Monday night like an internet comment section come to life and made president. Normal Republican politicians like Mitch McConnell, it seems to me, have much more on the line—not least because a lot of them won their elections. Still, Trump went through his energetic, exhaustive motions:
“Your vote tomorrow will determine which side controls the United States Senate,” he said, warning that the people of Georgia would “be at the mercy” of radical left-wing “socialists” and “Communists.” Trump also warned Democrats would abolish the filibuster and “ram-through” left-wing legislation such as eliminating the Second Amendment. In other words, it’s your “last chance” to save the country you love.
In Trump’s world, it’s always Flight 93. And it’s also always about him, so it should come as no surprise that, even when trying to stress the urgency of Tuesday’s election, he couldn’t stay on script. “These Senate seats are truly the last line of defense,” he said before realizing the implications of this and hastening to add “no, I don't concede” the presidential election, “I think we are going to win, in which we will be the last line of defense."
As usual, he couldn’t resist talking mostly about himself—about how much he hates holding rallies for other people. how he helped certain pols win last time around, joking that Fort Benning should be renamed “Fort Trump,” and, of course, pretending he hadn’t been defeated in November. “Over the past few weeks, we’ve demonstrated that we won the election in a landslide,” he lied. “I hope Mike Pence comes through for us,” he continued, publicly urging the vice president to refuse to certify the Electoral College results (and doing so in such a way that he can say, however absurdly, that he was “just kidding”).
Of course, Trump couldn’t have gotten to this point on his own. For years, Republicans enabled his bad behavior, and today, he is enabled by Senate Republicans who know better, yet are engaged in what can only be described as a "race to the bottom." Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, especially, seem to be leading this contest, by virtue of their plan to reject the Electoral College certification on Wednesday. It’s a game of one-downmanship—of seeing which Ivy-educated populist can live down to the base's expectations. Along the way, they gained followers (including Senators Loeffler and Perdue) and enlisted arguments that can only be described as sophistry. One such example is the suggestion is that they are just “speaking up for those who feel disenfranchised.”
Since when does how people feel impact whether we seat a duly elected president? (And, by the way, since when does conservatism cater to the emotions of stupid or ill-informed people, at the expense of logic and facts? What is the Ben Shapiro line? "Facts don't care about your feelings…") Another is the notion that a stolen election would only impact the president, but not down-ballot races (where congressional Republicans—unlike Trump—generally won).
Yet another absurd notion Trump supporters have inserted into the body politic is the notion that the vice president gets to select the next president—an idea that will surely be popular with Democrats when Kamala Harris is the Senate "president." To appease the capricious demands of an audience of one, Republicans have reverse engineered a philosophy of government that is jerry-rigged and held together by wires, and thereby set a precedent for, at least, future presidents making the case. Not only is this contradictory to the law, constitution, and even conservative philosophy, it's also bound to bite them in the tuches. It's one thing to have a bad take. It's quite another to have one that is malleable and inconsistent, based solely on an ad hoc reaction to whatever helps Trump (or harms his enemies) on a given day.
Despite all the stunts and misleading arguments, the fundamental problem is that there is zero reason to believe that Biden didn’t win the 2020 election fair and square. Even Trump’s biggest cheerleaders these days seem unwilling or unable to argue otherwise. Appearing on Fox Business, Lou Dobbs suggested that “everyone knows” a “crime” was committed, even as he conceded there is still no, you know, actual “proof.” As George Will recently noted, to JFK conspiracy theorists who distrusted the lone gunman theory, “the complete absence of evidence proved the conspiracy’s sophistication.”
This seems to sum up the whole argument for Trump’s re-election. His supporters feel very deeply that he won, even though (or maybe because) they have no evidence to support that idea.
But the facts don’t care about their feelings.