A third of states have enacted new voter suppression laws since the Republican insurrection

Last November, a Republican president who oversaw 500,000 unnecessary American deaths and a resulting economic collapse lost his reelection bid. Rather than a begrudging admission that a seemingly delusional compulsive liar with no skills for the job and a record of scandal and chaos was a piss-poor candidate who lost because Americans had lost patience for his bellowing performance art, countless top members of the Republican Party immediately, and at Donald Trump's behest, declared that actually the only reason Republicanism lost at the polls was because the entire world conspired against them to secretly rig the election against Burping Authoritarianism.

As an excuse for a poor performance by a singularly unimpressive buffoon, it would have been merely pathetic. The moment the Republican Party began to act on their own false propaganda, crafting law after law predicated on false "fraud" that all aimed squarely at throwing up new obstacles to voting in communities that voted against them the last time around, it became an attack on democracy itself.

The Brennan Center for Justice now identifies one third of all American states as having passed new laws blocking access to the polls in the months since the last election. That's not laws proposed. That's laws already passed in Republican Party attempts to win future elections by specifically targeting working class, poor, communities of color, and other groups with new restrictions that make voting slightly harder or slightly more complicated.

Because mail-in voting during a deadly pandemic swung sharply against the Republican presidential candidate, mail-in voting is being sharply curtailed by Republican state legislatures. Because early voting and expanded poll hours both have allowed voters a chance to evade hours-long lines on election days—lines which continue to be conspicuously commonplace in neighborhoods of color even as polling places in nearby Republican-leaning communities enjoy more resources and few such delays—Republican legislatures are slashing early voting locations and times so as to force non-Republican leaning voters back into the long lines racist governments had previously engineered.

Other laws have placed new restrictions on providing any help to voters, whether it be help seeking ballots, help returning ballots, or even providing food or water to voters stuck in the hours-long lines that Republican lawmakers have insisted on preserving. New paperwork requirements present new hurdles for working class voters to overcome, hurdles of time, money, or both.

All of it is based on the Big Lie: A Republican Party-backed declaration that the last election was "stolen" from the incompetent Republican candidate, therefore justifying drastic nationwide action to do ... the same sort of vote-suppressing activities that the party has relied on for the last half century.

Federal action is currently being stymied by, of course, the same Republican lawmakers who united to save Trump from impeachment after he goaded violent insurrection with the exact propaganda being used by Republican state legislatures to justify new voter suppression laws now. The conventions of the Senate allow a minority—currently set at 40 senators, after multiple past changes to the number that were each themselves a response to a rump of racist lawmakers blocking past federal action to enforce basic civil rights protections—to block new federal protections giving all communities uniform minimum voting standards.

What's still not getting through the heads of some lawmakers, however, is just how extensive current Republican Party moves to reshape our elections truly are. A third of U.S. states have already seen voters placed under new, suppressive restrictions. Republican Party leaders are continuing to push completely false propaganda asserting that they "won" a presidential election they did not win. House and Senate Republicans continue their attempts to sabotage a probe of the resulting violent insurrection, in large part because any such probe of necessity must document how the party's provably false claims were spread to insurrectionist ears.

Civil rights activists are warning that attempts to "out-organize" new suppressive laws will not necessarily succeed. The point of widespread Republican voter suppression is to knock even the smallest possible fraction of Americans off the voting roles; not every one of the voters affected can be made whole again. Activists are thus beginning to express their frustration with this Democratic dawdling.

There may be a tradition, in the Senate, of using the filibuster to block new civil rights protections so as to allow the efforts of racist state lawmakers to continue unimpeded. There's also a tradition of altering the rules of the filibuster when it is being abused for that purpose.

There may be no more urgent time to protect voting rights than in the aftermath of a violent insurrection premised squarely on overturning an election rather than abide by voters' will. The anti-democratic party that goaded an attempted toppling of government by promoting false claims is using those same false claims to justify new roadblocks between voters and future ballot boxes. Both acts must be rebuffed.

Republicans aren’t turning away from Trump’s Big Lie, because confronting the truth is too painful

It’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) time, and Sen. Ted Cruz is knocking them dead—both metaphorically and literally—with jokes about how wearing a mask during a pandemic is “dumb.” But just because Cruz took time out to scoff at the pandemic, make fun of Bernie Sanders’ mittens, and throw in the requisite lies about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t mean anyone at the “conservative” conference has taken their eye off the Big Lie. That’s still going strong.

As the Associated Press reports, Republican officials across the nation continue to spread divisiveness and encourage violence by pushing disinformation and conspiracies that mimic, or exceed, the claims that drove the deadly Jan. 6 insurgency. Meanwhile, the vaunted algorithms behind social media are driving the evolution of these conspiracies by selectively elevating the most outrageous—and most threatening—lies. Not only are Republicans failing to condemn the assault on the Capitol; in increasing numbers, they’re supporting it.

Just as anyone could (and many did) predict, the failure to exact any consequence on Republican leaders for their part in the attempted overthrow of the government is turning what happened on Jan. 6 from a one-time tragedy into a practice run.

Not only are state and county Republican officials endorsing the Big Lie about election fraud, many of them are explicitly supporting the violent assault on Jan. 6. At the same time, Republicans in leadership positions who have repudiated either the violence on Jan. 6 or Donald Trump’s lies that made that day possible are finding themselves “sanctioned” by county and state parties, smothered in death threats, and “othered” by a party they help to lead.

Meanwhile, on the eve of CPAC, Donald Trump provided direction to the party he controls about where things are going next. As Politico reports, Trump is assembling much of the same team who saw him through the 2016 election, with Corey Lewandowski to be placed in change of a super PAC aimed at expanding Trump’s “post-presidential political apparatus.”

Notice that this doesn’t seem to be a PAC that’s directly dedicated to the election of any particular candidate. Neither it is a PAC aimed at supporting some particular set of policies. This is a pool of money that will be used to one end: expanding the power and influence of Donald Trump. 

For anyone believing that Trump would quietly sit in his cart for endless rounds of cheating at golf while Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz were pushed into obscurity by a party deeply embarrassed over the end result of Trumpism … that’s not how this is going. Instead, Cruz is front and center at CPAC, Hawley is considered a top contender for the Republican nomination, and rank-and-file Republicans are increasingly ready to treat Jan. 6 like their very own Beer Hall Putsch.

The day after Trump’s second impeachment trial, Sen. Mitch McConnell stood up in the Senate to say this:

“Fellow Americans beat and bloodied our own police. They stormed the Senate floor. They tried to hunt down the Speaker of the House. They built a gallows and chanted about murdering the vice president.

They did this because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth – because he was angry he'd lost an election.

Former President Trump's actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty.”

On Thursday, McConnell said this when asked by Fox News’ Bret Baier whether McConnell would back Trump if he got the nomination.

“The nominee of the party? Absolutely.”

All of this may make it seem as if the question of where the Republican Party goes next has already been decided. Trump has won, McConnell has folded, and every opponent is on the run. However, that’s not quite the case.

Despite bringing out record numbers of Republican voters, Trump’s tactics of racism, misogyny, and plain old fascism also generated an even larger pushback. After his surprise win in 2016, the Republican Party under Trump failed to hold onto the House, failed to hold onto the White House, and failed to hold onto the Senate. His reprehensible statements and divisive actions have done what many thought impossible: getting young Americans to vote in great numbers. They’ve also taken what was one of the biggest Republican strongholds—the suburbs—and turned it into a new source of Democratic Party power.

As columnist Nancy LeTourneau points out, there’s a good reason that Republicans have been unable to capitalize on even record amounts of support: They simply ran out of ideas a long, long time ago. 

For decades now, the central disagreement between Democrats and Republicans has been about the size and role of the federal government. When it comes to domestic politics, the GOP has promoted tax cuts in order to "starve the beast" and deregulation. In that way, Donald Trump fit right in with the classic Republican agenda. 

It could be argued that this was the one achievement of Trump’s whole term in the sense of being conservative in the classical sense. Trump’s tax cut for billionaires was exactly in the wheelhouse of the battle Republicans have been stoking against the programs of FDR’s New Deal for almost a century. Only Trump forgot the bathtub. As in, he gave the billionaires their billions, and went right on expanding the government—particularly in ways that he could use as a club to support his xenophobic agenda, such as granting ever more expansive reach to ICE, or that ultimate example of a modern folly, Trump’s wall along the southern border.

In fact, there’s a good argument to be made that Trump didn’t take over the Republican Party and empty out their last stock of “things to do,” because that store was already empty before he came in. Republicans were already running on the fumes of the things they were against—women, Blacks, gays, and immigrants. Their positive ideas were down to … down to … Surely there was one. Wasn’t there?

It was exactly this factor that allowed Trump to sail in. His willingness to set aside the reedy dog whistles and blow Trump-et blasts of hate really did seem like “speaking the truth” in a Republican Party that had been saying the same things. Only quietly.

So, when CNN reports that more than two dozen members of the House and Senate are unwilling to even admit that the election results were real, and that Joe Biden is the legitimate president of the United States, it should be shocking. But not surprising.

It’s not so much that Trump’s lies reveal him as the emperor who was duped into strutting around naked. It’s that the Republican Party has been without any real “new clothes” for so long, they’re willing to settle for Trump. He is, in their mind, better than fading away into the history book of parties that lost their reason for being. His lies, no matter how vile, energize a base of people, while the drivel coming out of the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Hoover Institution simply don’t.

As LeTourneau says plainly, “Republicans are rejecting democracy because they lost the battle of ideas.” They’ve lost that battle because they’re basically unarmed. Unarmed, that is, except for spreading hate and screaming “freedom” when what they mean is killing people for profit. However, despite appearances and the literal golden ass on worshipful display at CPAC, this doesn’t mean that the fight is over and that all Republicans will not file into line neatly behind Trump.

The number of Republicans who have been openly willing to defy Trump may seem small, and proposals like Mitt Romney’s child payments may seem like outliers, but these small numbers have outsized power. After all, how many times have Democrats mumbled the name “Joe Manchin” in the last month? Republicans already have that problem. Times five. 

Right now, Republicans seem willing to buy into the Big Lie about the election, even at the cost of potentially destroying the nation, because they have nothing else. They’re willing to burn it all down because they realize they’re out of alternatives.

But that willingness to follow Trump is far from a guarantee that their next election, or their next putsch, will be any more successful than the last.

Desperate to avoid impeachment talk, Tucker blames Black Lives Matter, George Floyd for … something

The sinking ship that is Fox News is helmed by the ghost of William F. Buckley Jr.’s toilet bowl, Tucker Carlson, financial liability Sean Hannity, and hoax racist Laura Ingraham. Tucker Carlson has been purveying his solid brand of fact-free, intellectually bankrupt, rhetorical monologue skills to promote racist COVID-19 conspiracy theories, and racist fearmongering of Black Lives Matter protests most of the year. Now, with Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial making it hard for Fox News to ignore, Tucker turned his attention on becoming a low-grade version of Infowars’ Alex Jones for the evening. But like everything Tucker, he adds a dash more white supremacy on top of what even Alex Jones has the capacity for.

Tucker went full deep state corporate conspiracy theory on Wednesday night in a long-winded, roundabout opening 12-minute monologue where he questioned the facts of the Capitol insurgency, arguing that Trump both didn’t incite the coup attempt, and then saying that it wasn’t a long-planned event, while also saying that it had to be either or of those two things. It’s a rhetorical trick where you create a straw man argument and then you step out of the fake argument to say that both positions are not real, thus negating your entire argument while pretending you have proven your argument. It’s the kind of intellectually vacuous dirtbaggery Carlson has made his entire existence on. But Tucker wasn’t done there, he needed a motivation for why everything we have seen has happened but also not happened the way we all seem to have seen it happen.

Black people, y’all. It’s socialism and Black people. It’s socialism and Black people that is funded by corporations—an organization well-known for loving both socialism and Black people? And that’s just one small piece of how offensive Tucker goes in his conspiracy theory.

Tucker explains that the facts Fox News viewers know—make-em-up things Tucker pretends are facts—contradict the impeachment proceedings. He explains that the reason this grand lie is being told to the American people dates back to this summer “beginning of Memorial Day, BLM and their sponsors in corporate America completely changed this country. They changed this country more in five months than it had changed in the previous 50 years.” Whoa! How’d this happen?

Well, as Carlson tells it, after George Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derrick Chauvin, protesters “upended society.” But even more importantly, the whole thing was a lie. According to Tucker, “The story they told us about George Floyd's death was an utter lie. There was no physical evidence that George Floyd was murdered by a cop. The autopsy showed that George Floyd almost certainly died of a drug overdose fentanyl.” Let’s pretend for a moment that one of the top reasons George Floyd’s death, unlike so many thousands of Black people’s deaths at the hands of law enforcement, set off mass protests, was because it was filmed by onlookers, while the sun was still out, and people were pleading with the officers to stop. Let’s pretend that that irrefutable fact does not exist.

Tucker is lying. His assertion about the autopsy is a lie. Not a misrepresentation of things but a straight-out lie. The autopsy notes the drugs in his system but the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office autopsy report determines Mr. Floyd died of "cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.” Tucker Carlson is a liar. He’s a weak-minded and cynical white supremacist apologist asshole, whose lazy mind cannot even come up with decent bullshit defenses for his obtuse attitudes and positions. Tucker goes on to make the textbook white American racist claim that these BLM protests “destroyed” the “fabric” of American society.

Here’s a man who has never been a good person but now finds himself grabbing at the empty void that their destitute morality has left them protecting. The 11-minute mark is around the moment where Tucker Carlson takes his final steps off the ledge of last night’s drivel.

This is infowars shit, just a completely batshit conspiracy theory blasted into your meemaws face pic.twitter.com/pjHzzeo5At

— Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) February 11, 2021

Trump supporters were fed explicitly racist and anti-Semitic propaganda before marching on Capitol

Republicans want to frame Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial as if it’s all about the speech he made at the “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6. It’s not. The impeachment is over the incitement to violence and insurrection created by Trump over the whole span from the election to the assault on the Capitol. That includes Trump sending tweets such as “This Fake Election can no longer stand”  and, of course, “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

However, so long as Republicans are focusing on the events of that one morning, it’s worth taking a second look at that rally and the one that came before on the evening of Jan. 5. While the words of Trump’s closing speech—complete with repeated demands that his followers march to the Capitol—are the most obvious subject of the impeachment, he was far from alone. Speakers at those two rallies included Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, Rudy Giuliani, Eric Trump, and Donald Trump Jr. All of them did their share in both raising the temperature of the crowd and encouraging violent actions. 

But there was one other event at that rally that both sums up what Trump’s movement is all about, and contributed to driving insurgents into the halls of Congress. It was a film. One in which every frame is a cast study in delivering violent, anti-Semitic propaganda. 

There’s no doubt that every speaker on the agenda added to the dark energy that resulted in the deadly insurgency. In fact, as The Washington Post reports, one of the speakers at the Jan. 5 rally was actually among those who bashed their way into the Capitol the following day. Brandon Straka—a white guy who founded the “walk away” campaign that encouraged Black voters to leave the Democratic Party—described Jan. 6 as “the revolution” in his speech to the gathered Trump supporters, and encouraged them to “fight back” as “patriots.” Straka, who frequently appears on Fox News as “a former liberal,” assaulted a police officer, called on others to do the same, then broke into the Capitol. He’s now facing multiple felony charges.

That same evening Roger Stone spoke while being flanked by “guards” from the Oath Keepers. As Mother Jones noted, Stone has a long-standing relationship with terrorist group the Proud Boys. On Jan. 5, Stone was there to tell Trump supporters to “fight until the bitter end” to block Joe Biden’s victory. Stone described the following day as the central moment of an “epic struggle.”

Michael Flynn described Jan. 6 as “a crucible moment in United States history.” While his word choice was suspect, his message to the gathered mob was clear. “We should not accept this,” said Flynn.  “Some of these states had more dead voters than the battlefields of Gettysburg or the battlefields of Vicksburg or the battlefields of Normandy. … We did not have a free, fair, and transparent vote on the third of November. And the entire world knows, everyone in this country knows, who won the election on the third.” And Flynn finished by explicitly telling the crowd what was expected of them. “The members of Congress, the members of the House of Representatives, the members of the United States Senate … those of you who are feeling weak tonight; those of you who don’t have the moral fiber in your bodies, get some tonight. Because tomorrow we the people are going to be here, and we want you to know that we will not stand for a lie.” On the heels of Flynn’s speech, former Trump adviser George Papadopoulos stepped up to make it clear that Trump’s supporters would not forget the “traitors” who voted to count the electoral votes. 

Before Trump spoke on Jan. 6, Rudy Giuliani took the stage and spun a completely fantastic tale in which halting the day’s count of electoral votes would somehow generate a 10-day period in which everything about the election could be reviewed. There’s nothing in the Constitution or later law that even hints at such an event, and Giuliani was speaking after 63 days and 62 lawsuits had failed to uncover any of the evidence of fraud he assured the crowd was present. Still, “Over the next 10 days, we get to see the machines that are crooked,” said Giuliani, “the ballots that are fraudulent, and if we’re wrong, we will be made fools of. But if we’re right, a lot of them will go to jail. Let’s have trial by combat.”

Donald Trump’s sons also appeared that morning, and their speeches—particularly that of Donald Trump Jr.—did have one especially notable quality. As Politico reported, Junior’s speech was so laced with expletives that Fox News, which had been covering the event live, was forced to cut away. But as Trump’s eldest son warned Republicans that they better vote the way his father wanted spoke, he did make one clear statement between all the four letter words. “This gathering should send a message to them,” said Trump Jr. “This isn’t their Republican Party anymore! This is Donald Trump's Republican Party!” Oh, and Eric also spoke. “We will never, ever, ever stop fighting,” said Eric. 

But for all those speakers, it was a film that both set the mood of the day and serves as the best defining document of Trump and Trumpism. Just Security has done a breakdown of the imagery involved in this brief film, and the message of fascism shines through. Not just the kind of authoritarianism that everyone casually assigns to Trump as if that’s just peachy, but genuine shiny-boot and red armband fascism, complete with enough tropes of Übermensch and Untermensch to make Leni Riefenstahl jealous.

As Just Security’s analysis makes clear, the video follows a long tradition of fascist framing. That doesn’t just mean presenting Trump as a heroic figure whose powerful presence causes others to swoon, or contrasting a false paradise under Trump with an equally false wasteland without him. It also explicitly involves using images to remind supporters what Trump stands for: white nationalism.

Everything about the video is designed to help viewers see a through line that connects what’s happening in the Capitol to an elite group of Jews secretly, and not so secretly, guiding America toward a state where white Christians are under siege. The scope of the threat is expanded to include an international conspiracy that includes the U.N. and E.U. who, with Jewish-controlled Hollywood, are seeking to weaken powerful white America.

The video shifts to an image of Senator Charles Schumer, reminding the viewer of prominent Jewish leaders of the Democratic party. Schumer is wearing a Kente cloth, an image evocative of Ku Klux Klan ideology — that Jews support Black liberation movements as a way to undermine white rule and destroy the nation. The next frame shows the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, flanked by two Jewish Congressman, Representatives Nadler and Schiff. Pelosi, too, is controlled by Jews.

House minority leader Kevin McCarthy may have had a sudden memory lapse when it comes to understanding QAnon and the intrinsically anti-Semitic ideology at its core. Trump’s video team did not forget. They’ve created a video that is practically a look into Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s hate-filled mind.

This video was sequenced right after Rudy Giuliani told Trump’s supporters that he wanted “trial by combat” and right before Trump himself stepped up to call on his followers to march to the Capitol. What those people who murdered a police officer, trampled over a woman, injured hundreds, smashed open the doors of the Capitol, raised a gallows, and went hunting for congressional hostages received wasn’t just limited to Trump’s statements on the morning of Jan. 6. What drove them there was what Trump, his surrogates, the right-wing media, and Republicans in both the House and Senate did after—and before—the election.

They created a world where people don’t just believe the propaganda of the video above, they’re willing to act on it. 

Trump’s demand that the election be overturned is farce—but Republican complicity is not

America's fascist moment has not passed, and will not pass while any of the current crop of Republican elected officials remain in office. The Republican Party continues to attempt to nullify the results of the presidential election—a longshot bid, to be sure—using conspiracy theories designed to do damage to democracy itself.

Surely it cannot be that bad, you may think to yourself. Surely Republicans are operating from a position of rank cowardice, and have only accidentally stumbled from that into strategies that accidentally undermine this nation's democratic ideals. It is that bad, and they are not cowards. They are attempting a power play—a new authority to nullify whatever elections their now thoroughly corrupt party cannot win. We are in a new era of voter manipulation and suppression characterized by party-sponsored lies intended to propagandize the public into believing not only that non-Republican governance is illegitimate, but that non-Republican election results are as well. The Republican Party is now fascist in both method and intent. Every senator and House member is, as we have seen, complicit.

It was an inevitable point, after the party witnessed impeachable crimes from the party's leader and instead voted to adopt those crimes as new valid policy. If crimes themselves are valid, if undertaken to boost Republican power, then lying to the public about the bones of democracy itself must be equally justifiable.

On the Sunday shows, multiple Republicans yet again pushed the false notion that Joe Biden may not have truly won the next presidency. To give audience to such malignant lies, whether in service to both sides-ing democracy or not, is contemptible, and the networks and hosts bear responsibility. It is not easy to simply end interviews with public figures when it is clear they are using the media to disseminate malevolent propaganda, but it is necessary. If the networks cannot do that much, their "news" programs are themselves public frauds.

Republican Sen. Mike Braun was one of those figures pushing forward false propaganda for the sake of misleading the public. Ostensibly booked to discuss COVID-19 stimulus options—itself a sham booking, since there has proven to be no possibility that Sen. Mike Braun will ever put forward a competent opinion on any subject, much less one so dire—Braun instead blustered to enabling ABC host George Stephanopoulos at length with conspiracy theories of voter fraud and other known-false, Trump-pushed claims.

On the ever-execrable Fox News, the ever-execrable Trump Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe called the election into question, saying "We'll see" if "there is a Biden administration." (Ratcliffe and the now thoroughly feral conspiracy wolverine Maria Bartiromo followed that up by puzzling over "Who got to Bill Barr?"—for the sin of not proving multiple conservative conspiracy theories that proved, even for Barr, too ephemeral to coax into faux-existence.)

It is important to note that John Ratcliffe is a frothing ex-House Republican seen as so conspiracy-minded and single-mindedly devoted to Republican power over the national good that even the Republican Senate balked, long and hard, before eventually confirming him to his current post. It is because of that past status as House propagandist and absurd Trump provocateur that he was elevated to the Republican administration to begin with. Ratcliffe is yet another fringe Republican figure elevated to higher power specifically due to his corruptions.

The Sunday show performances, of course, came on the heels of yet another week in which Donald Trump himself promoted crazed theories that the election that saw him get a shockingly high number of pro-incompetence, pro-white-nationalism votes but still millions less than challenger Biden must, by virtue of his loss, have been fraudulent. Trump is promoting those falsehoods obsessively, suspending nearly all presidential duties to instead weave nonsensical tales claiming the presidency was stolen from him. He did so at length this weekend in Georgia, during a campaign appearance ostensibly on behalf of scandal-wracked Republican senators Kelly Loeffler and David Purdue.

Both of those Republican Senators have called for the state's secretary of state, Republican Brad Raffensperger, to resign for his refusals to endorse the theory that massive voter fraud landed them in runoff elections. Though Raffensperger has been receiving plaudits for not furthering his party's conspiracy claims that the election was rigged against them, and for going farther still and condemning those claims, Raffensperger said on Sunday that he still supports both of their candidacies.

This, then, is an illuminating look at where even the most "heroic" and democracy-abiding Republicans now reside. He is not willing to himself endanger the republic merely to boost two Republicans seeking reelection. He is, however, still willing to endorse the candidates doing exactly that damage. Because, says Raffensperger, "I'm a Republican."

It is said as if it is obvious. It is natural to Raffensperger that he would still support the Republicans, even if they were engaged in corrosive, anti-democratic propagandizing that he himself could not stomach. However devoted to his nation Raffensperger may be, his devotion to even his party's worst actors remains higher.

Trump, in the meantime, has made the blunt request to the state's Republican governor that Georgia simply nullify the results of their presidential election. He asks that the vote counts be thrown out, and for the state's Republican-held legislature to appoint him the state's electoral winner.

It is (again) an explicitly corrupt request. Georgia's Gov. Brian Kemp has no authority to nullify the election. There is no scheme by which such an attempt would not be inherently un-democratic, whether successful or not. Trump is both ignorant enough and criminal enough to request it anyway.

Surrounded by less inept aides, there is no telling how much damage a similarly corruption-minded Republican president could do.

The attempts to dismantle democracy itself, rather than abide by election losses, are the newest arrived-at spot for the Republican Party after a litany of fascistic actions and proclamations. It is Jim Crow writ even larger, a new anti-democratic theory that not only ought the votes of non-white Americans be treated as illegitimate, but those of every voter who refuses to support the party.

After years of promoting the theory that Republican lawmakers were slavishly defending and promoting each of Trump's most corrupt actions due to a party-wide and all-encompassing cowardice, pundits are still attempting to pin current lawmaker silence, in the face of these Trump-led lies and blatantly fraudulent conspiracy claims, on the same. But this is wrong.

Or, as The Washington Post's Greg Sargent puts it, it "badly undersells the bottomless bad faith and dishonorable instrumentalism that Republicans are employing here."

The Republican Party is embracing claims of massive but invisible election conspiracies for the same reason they remained stubbornly, supremely silent on Trump's proven act of extorting election favors from a foreign nation: While the actions involved are absolutely corrosive to democracy, all of them of authoritarian vintage and used here for authoritarian ends, it is possible those actions could end up working. It is not so much that the McConnells of the party are remaining silent to avoid a lame duck's impotent wrath, and more that Republican lawmakers are almost to a person not willing to close the door on the very small but still real chance that Trump's obsessive attempts to overturn an American election could succeed.

They are playing a part considerably less nuanced than Brad Raffensperger's own decision to speak out against anti-democratic conspiracy propaganda while still endorsing the party leaders most directly responsible for promoting them. They are refusing to speak out against the claims so long as Trump's team of rancid legal pretenders, his administration propagandists, and the fringe elements of their conservative base still pursues them. If there is even a 10% chance of success, Republican lawmakers will not be speaking out to thwart it.

They defended Trump's impeachable act of election extortion with a similar silence. They pretended they could not see the evidence; they demanded they not be shown the evidence. If the Rudy Giuliani-led attempts to concoct Ukraine-based propaganda against Joe Biden had borne fruit, and at the time of impeachment there were still good reasons to believe the fabricated evidence could still be sold to the public, Republican lawmakers would benefit equally from the hoax discrediting their most visible opponent.

The decision to nullify impeachment proceedings, allowing Trump and an assortment of top officials to continue pursuing corrupt means to power, was an affirmative act by Republican senators. Their calculated silence here is for identical reasons. The acts may be criminal—but judgment on that will be withheld until the spoils can be divvied.

It is not likely that Trump will succeed in his own narcissism-fueled quest to claim that he could not have failed, in anything, unless subterfuge was involved. There are too many moving parts, the figures involved are still too ridiculous, and there are simply too many states involved this time around. But the eagerness of the party's base to adopt such rhetoric, the Republican Party leadership's embrace and furtherance of the moves, Republican lawmakers' calculated wait-and-see silence and, especially, their refusal to speak out to condemn election conspiracies all have firmly established Trump's propagandistic claims as acceptable tools for the party going forward.

Whether or not individual Republican actors like Raffensperger themselves act on such claims, there will be no penalties for simply declaring, upon losing an election, that the election was somehow Invalid, and therefore Illegitimate, and therefore the winner will be whoever a state's Republican officials choose to appoint. It is in the realm of the debatable, because Republicans on the Sunday shows are debating it. It is plausible that a future president may not be seated, if his predecessor has the backing of this crop of Republican elected figures and can put forward claims that are even fractionally less ridiculous.

The attempt to delegitimize American elections en masse rather than admit defeat is not a mere product of Trump's narcissistic delusions. It has the backing of top Republicans. It has the endorsement of an increasingly fascist-minded conservative media universe. It does not come from a vacuum; Trump is not the one filing the lawsuits to overturn results, and is only one of numerous Republican elites making the same outlandish assertions of "thousands" or "millions" of faked ballots, claims that near-unanimously target cities with large non-white populations.

It is a fascist movement, one based on the theory that party power must be preserved even if it requires the production of hoaxes and propaganda to accomplish. One that shows gaudy public contempt for expertise, and which invariably declares that any factual evidence that does not comport with the party's own oft-buffoonish claims must necessarily be a hoax perpetrated against Dear Leader, launched by remnant groups in government or outside it that seek to damage Dear Leader.

The party continually tests which democratic norms can be dispensed with, and have been successful at dismantling many or most. The push to overturn the results of a presidential election, and specifically to do so by nullifying the actual votes and tasking loyalist state elected officials create new ones, has very little chance of being successful this time, based on these states and these claims.

That does not mean that the party will not lend its weight to similar calls to overturn a future election. It does not mean that, in a Republican Party that continues to aggressively purge itself of the insufficiently sycophantic, it will with certainty run afoul of local officials unwilling to lend their own names to the effort. It does not mean that every collection of party lawyers and provocateurs will be as incompetent. There will be those that analyze these fraud claims not to discredit them, but to determine how they can best be made more compelling. And the movement of out-and-out imbeciles, Americans who pride themselves on believing hoaxes while condemning expertise, only continues to grow.

America remains at the same fascist moment, and Republican lawmakers and ex-lawmakers are going on the Sunday shows pushing false claims meant to suggest that our democracy itself is unreliable or compromised, having turned in results that the party's leader does not like. They are not turning the moment back, but pushing it forward. Again. Still.

It’s propaganda, not hypocrisy: Republicans use lying as primary governing technique

There is no point in accusing Republican senators of hypocrisy. Absolutely none. Only hours after the death of Supreme Court icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Republicans—who had previously gnashed their teeth at the audacity of the suggestion that the nation's first nonwhite president had the constitutional power to make nominations to the court at any point during the final year of his term—began declaring that this time around, obviously that new rule no longer applies. And obviously the president of their own party, impeached and transparently corrupt, must be granted a scrambling court even as voters line up to cast early ballots.

Hypocrisy implies there’s a previous ideology being upset; there wasn't one, and isn't one, and no serious politics-watcher ever thought otherwise. The principle being upheld by Sen. Mitch McConnell and clan then and now was more simple: Retain power using all available tools, and deny the opposition power using all available tools. There is no "ideology" inside the modern conservative movement, either before Trump's arrival or afterwards, that can survive its first brush with expediency. Each argument lasts only as long as the soundbites require and will be replaced with a new one immediately, without hesitation, when required.

Expediency as ideology is not a senate-only device. Former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia practiced it with aplomb, often resulting in lawyers and courts using his past words against him in new cases—a futile gesture. Of his "originalist," "textualist," or "institutionalist" allies, the same approach is used by All Of Them.

It's not hypocrisy if the principle all along was "whatever best increases power." And it is irrelevant if it is.

The relevant part is that it is accomplished by lying. The practitioners claim some bold new notion of how the world should work, and it is an absolute, baldfaced, bullshit-laden public lie. Those who watch McConnell or Sen. Lindsey Graham in their public appearances can easily identify, at this point, the schtick that makes up their entire persona.

They look the American public in the eye, and they simply lie to them.

“I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination." pic.twitter.com/quD1K5j9pz

— Vanita Gupta (@vanitaguptaCR) September 19, 2020

It was a lie from the moment he uttered it, and there was not a person in the room who didn’t know it from the outset. The movement is devoted to lying as governing principle. It works because there are countless channels through which those lies can be disseminated, and amplified, and praised. It will continue for as long as it works.

Over and over. About everything, all the time. The Moscow Turtle has never cried a sincere tear in his life, but according to him all Democratic actions are Devastation, all Republican actions are Sorrowfully Required Due To Democratic Existence, and the rest is puppet show. Graham is superb at being outraged in showy defense of the outrageous. Sen. Marco Rubio's usual deployed device is to respond to each act of corruption or depravity with a Bible verse, typically as non sequitur, and wiping his hands of the rest of it. Sen. Susan Collins is forever concerned by gross incompetence or criminality within her movement, and remains equally as concerned the next time around, and will make good on that "concern" exactly zero times as she votes to enable each concerning act one-by-one-by-one.

It's not hypocrisy. They're just liars. Conservatism is a movement of fictions, a series of nonsense falsehoods deployed like a squid ejects ink. Nobody asks the squid whether it stands by the cloud ejaculated in the last crisis. It would be pointless. The squid doesn't remember, and can't tell you.

It is not that the nation is run by a movement of "hypocrites." The nation is run by a collection of liars.

Propagandists.

Those who issue false statements and make false claims relentlessly in order to deceive the public, or to stir their base into new heights of feverishness, or—and this is rather more to the point in this particular year—to justify and endorse criminality in service to the movement. Incompetence, if in service to the movement. A quarter million deaths, if in service to the movement.

The lies are consequential. McConnell and his allies lied their way through the impeachment of a president, simply insisting that the evidence was not evidence and the testimony not testimony. The movement has lied its way through a pandemic, turning even the most rote of pandemic safety precautions—masks, even—into conspiracies and partisan litmus tests.

When Michael Caputo and his aides insisted that children were nearly immune to the virus and could not spread it, it was not ideology. It was a lie meant to keep more of the "economy" open even if the more pertinent metric—deaths—was multiplied.

When the movement claims "antifa"—a group that does not actually exist—is behind police reform protests, it is a lie. It is propaganda intended purely to discredit protestors, and better facilitate state and militia violence against them.

When Sen. Ron Johnson pipelines the work of known Russian operatives into his committee to declare that he has discovered very serious doings, doings that suggest his opponents are secretly corrupt in ways no American law enforcement has ever been able to find, he is fully aware of his own actions. He is not stupid.

When Attorney General William Barr releases a document that grossly undermines a report on Russian election interference that benefited his party, and follows up by launching conspiracy after conspiracy all premised on the notion that it is American law enforcement that is corrupt for going after Republican targets, he is lying to the public for the sake of the party.

The movement of Republicanism is propagandistic in nature. Lies are deployed towards political ends. All involved know they are lies. All involved spread the lies willingly. Fox News exists as propaganda factory. Donald Trump exists as propaganda factory. McConnell exists as propaganda factory. The sitting attorney general, the president's odd private lawyer—the only through line is relentless lying to the public about everything, all the time, for power.

There's no textualist in conservatism. Nonsense about precedents and institutions is barely even given lip service. There are no "deficit hawks," or "small government" idealism. None of those things have survived. The only takeaway from White House press briefings is a single, fundamental point: These are today's lies. If you don't like them, there will be others tomorrow.

There is a word for all of this. Declaring that your leaders are allowed to commit crimes while demanding the arrest of enemies on false charges; the rejection of facts and the explicit declaration that the free press is an enemy of the people for presenting information that conflicts with the state's own preferred interpretations; the altering and realtering of supposed norms so that the opposition is, invariably, declared to be out of control in their requests, so out of control that it is now necessary to alter the rules of government to properly constrain them:

It is authoritarianism. The party is a propaganda movement devoted only to self-preservation. There is not a stitch of prior ideological principle that will survive from 2016 to 2020—or from 2018 on a Monday to 2018 on a Tuesday. The rules are whatever they need to be to suppress the movement's perceived enemies. Not merely for a desperately needed Supreme Court seat, but for the now-existential election and all its myriad details.

The Trump onslaught begins—4 unadulterated days of brainwashing his cultists

Instead of waiting until his culminating nomination speech on Thursday to make a splash at the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump showed up Monday shortly after the convention's start to deliver a lie-laden rant lasting longer than his Democratic rival's 26-minute acceptance speech last week.

By conventional standards, Trump’s timing was a strategic error. The whole point is for the nominee to build anticipation throughout the week and then deliver a triumphant address on Thursday that draws in maximum viewership. "From a purely tactical perspective doesn’t every additional, unfocused Trump speech like this one in North Carolina, cheapen what his campaign would prefer to be the BIG SPEECH night on Thursday?" wrote NBC reporter Garrett Haake Monday as Trump was chipping away at objective reality from the podium. 

But that assumes Trump is running to win. In traditional U.S. presidential campaigns, major-party nominees generally start with base support of at least 40% and then they work toward winning over swing voters, independents, and perhaps a swath of disaffected members of the other party to reach 50 plus one on Election Day.

Not Donald Trump. As we have seen over and over again, Trump's campaign is much too incompetent and too disinterested to win over new voters. In reality, Trump is chiefly interested in cementing his base voters because his strategy is to lose by just a narrow enough margin to steal the election by claiming it was ridden with fraud.

Trump's strategic goals, therefore, don't rely on any buildup to Thursday. Rather, his strategy depends on saturating his cultists with propaganda that ensures they show up to vote and then automatically distrust any result that doesn't result in Trump's reelection. In other words, he's both brainwashing and preprogramming them.

On Monday, for instance, Trump fed his cultists patently false absolutism that if he lost reelection to Joe Biden, then the election was necessarily "rigged."

"The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election," Trump said. Never mind that Trump is losing in basically every reputable national poll along with most battleground state polls.

Trump also delivered a gusher of disinformation during his inaugural convention speech. "Most of the country is doing very very well," he claimed as reported U.S. deaths surpass at least 175,000 and total unemployment claims top 57 million. He told the crowd that Democratic governors were shutting down their states solely to hurt his reelection bid. He also mythologized that before the coronavirus "we were really coming together"—except for that whole impeachment proceeding over one of Trump's other attempts to steal the election.

This is a classic propaganda campaign designed to thoroughly brainwash his followers—the more they buy into his demented reality, the quicker they'll dismiss any fact-based reports that don't comport to Trump's fantasy world. In fact, that's why polling already shows that by a 3-to-1 margin Republican voters believe the battle against COVID-19 is "going well," while among all voters six in 10 say it is going "badly."

It's not the wow factor of a big speech that infects the minds of these GOP voters—it's the repetition, the bombardment, and the saturation that they succumb to, mostly because they need to believe in something. In deeply uncertain times, Trump offers them the “snake oil of certainty,” as Brené Brown calls it. 

And apparently, the media is going to fully help the campaign mainline Trump's disinformation straight to the public. After restricting Democrats to two hours of coverage a day during their convention, cable news outlets mostly took Trump's speech in full.

"I’m a little confused why Trump is being granted a full-day convention to just give a steam of consciousness rant of outright lies," wondered Jesse Lee, vice president of communications for the left-leaning Center for American Progress.

Meanwhile, before Trump even set foot on stage, he started dialing up his alternative reality wherein he's always being victimized and other people are always getting better treatment.

"Incredible that @CNN & MSDNC aren’t covering the Roll Call of States," Trump tweeted as both networks took part of the congressional hearing on U.S. Postal Service delays during the truly lackluster roll call. "Fake News! This is what the Republican Party is up against. Also, I’d like to hear the remarks of the Delegates from individual States, rather than @FoxNews anchors. Ridiculous!"

CNN and MSNBC ultimately both took major portions of Trump's speech, as did Fox News of course. So even as Trump complained about slighted, he actually got more than his fair share—all part of the brainwashing.

By making the pandemic a battle of ‘us vs. them,’ the pro-Trump media set their audience up to die

Long after the COVID-19 pandemic has passed and the bodies have been buried or cremated, historians will try to understand how a country that made up only 4.25% of the world’s population somehow managed have 22% of the worldwide number of people infected with the virus.

They’ll puzzle over statistics showing huge numbers of deaths in the rural American South and Midwest, far away from the most populated areas. They’ll consult physicians and epidemiologists for a rational explanation, but will find none. They’ll look at per capita income and marvel at the fact that this country harbored the wealthiest people on the planet, with even its middle class enjoying a (relatively) prosperous standard of living compared to other nations caught up in the pandemic.

Why then, they’ll ask, did so many people die? Why were so many infected in the first place?

As reported by Jeremy Peters in The New York Times, the media had something to do with it.

A review of hundreds of hours of programming and social media traffic from Jan. 1 through mid-March — when the White House started urging people to stay home and limit their exposure to others — shows that doubt, cynicism and misinformation about the virus took root among many of Mr. Trump’s boosters in the right-wing media as the number of confirmed cases in the United States grew.

It was during this lull — before the human and economic toll became undeniable — when the story of the coronavirus among the president’s most stalwart defenders evolved into the kind of us-versus-them clash that Mr. Trump has waged for much of his life.

The Times carefully traces back the response by the right wing in this country to what is rapidly emerging as the greatest public health threat in U.S. history. That response was striking in its knee-jerk, reactionary cynicism. From Candace Owens' sarcastic tweeting in late February, laughing about the dire warnings of medical professionals as a “Doomsday cult of the ‘Left’” (she actually doubled down just this week, advising her audience to consider the number of deaths with “a little perspective”), to Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, who in February called the virus “a new pathway for hitting President Trump,” to the sudden about-face of Sean Hannity—in exact tandem with Trump’s vacillating messages about the seriousness of the pandemic.

The blaming by the right continues to this day, as media figures continue to try to concoct new distractions for Americans from Trump’s abysmal negligence and disregard, even as the horror unfolds in Americans’ living rooms, broadcast from hospital floors in living color on the nightly news. As Peters notes, this blame game is also nothing new.

The pervasiveness of the denial among many of Mr. Trump’s followers from early in the outbreak, and their sharp pivot to finding fault with an old foe once the crisis deepened, is a pattern that one expert in the spread of misinformation said resembled a textbook propaganda campaign.

A “propaganda campaign” it was, and continues to be. Modern conservatism and what we understand as the “right,” with its torch-bearer, the Republican Party, does not thrive in this country based on its inherent ideas or philosophy. The absolute dearth of legislation passed by the Republican-dominated Congress during the first two years of the Trump administration (beyond a singularly skewed tax cut for corporate America) is the best evidence of that. Republicanism and conservatism do not exist because of their “ideas,” because, frankly, their ideas are largely repugnant to most Americans. That is why they rely on inflaming division and prejudices in their base while seeking to suppress the votes of as many non-Republicans as possible. Their “ideas,” to the extent they have any, are toxic and unpopular.

So the right wing always needs an enemy to blame, someone "conspiring" against them, and they need a media apparatus to stoke fear of that enemy in their supporters. The enemy can be African American, Latinx, Muslim, or a member of the LGBTQ community; the villains can be teachers, government employees, or even college professors. More generically, that enemy can be the “media,” “liberals,” or “Democrats.” And even more broadly, “financial elites”—which, roughly translated, usually means “Jews.” It really doesn’t matter.

Tobin Smith, a former Fox News contributor and anchor, explained last year in an op-ed for The New York Times how the network deliberately creates enemies for its viewers, to bind them to the network by providing them a sense of grievance, of someone conspiring against their interests. He explains the psychology as activating the Fox viewer’s “fight or flight juices,” making the viewer feel as if he is being attacked. He compares it to the administration of a highly addictive drug, prompting the viewer to come back again and again for another “conspiracy fix.”

Believing in conspiracy theories is a psychological construct for people to take back some semblance of control in their lives. It inflates their sense of importance. It makes them feel they have access to “special knowledge” that the rest of the world is “too blind,” “too dumb” or “too corrupt” to understand.

The COVID-19 pandemic has offered the right a litany of enemies on whom to place blame. The Times identified a systemic pattern among right-wing media’s response to the coronavirus—so systemic that the Times was able to categorize four stages of blame-shifting at various times by the right, as they continued to deny, deflect, and above all, defend Donald Trump. The stages were, in the order they were rolled out: 1) Blaming China; 2) minimizing the risk (and in some instances, ridiculing it); 3) sharing “survivor” stories to further minimize the risk; and 4) blaming the left (or “Democrats”).

The Times amply documents all of these tactics, as evidenced by Fox News, Limbaugh, Hannity, and the entire right-wing apparatus. China-blaming started early on, with Fox News as the “launching pad” for halting all travel from China, the promotion of the phrase “Chinese virus,” and the conspiracy theories of Republican politicians such as Tom Cotton, who suggested that the virus had been concocted in a Chinese bioweapons lab. This China-bashing continues to this day, with administration officials peddling the “Wuhan virus” designation to inflame their base’s sense of xenophobia and anger.

As the Times reports, minimizing or ridiculing the risk was a staple of right-wing propaganda from January onward, with recent Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Rush Limbaugh exclaiming: “Flight attendant working L.A.X. tests positive. Oh, my God, 58 cases! Oh, my God. Oh, my God,” and Sean Hannity gleefully feigning fear: “The apocalypse is imminent and you’re going to all die, all of you in the next 48 hours. And it’s all President Trump’s fault,” the Fox News star said, adding, “or at least that’s what the media mob and the Democratic extreme radical socialist party would like you to think.” Limbaugh claimed that the coronavirus “appear[ed] less deadly than the flu,” but warned that the media kept “promoting panic.” The Times notes that a Breitbart news editor named Joel Pollak merrily published supposedly “scientific” articles minimizing the threat and emphasizing the “best possible outcomes.”

Just one day after Pollak urged Americans to “chill out” about the pandemic, the first American died.

Their audience smiled and nodded, sure that this was all a liberal plot. While thousands around the world were becoming sick and dying from the virus, the “tone of the coverage from Fox, talk radio and the commentators who make up the president’s zealous online army remained dismissive.” This is probably what will be most remembered by those future historians, perplexed at the startling body counts in places like Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, because governors in all these states took their cues directly from such dismissiveness from people in power, and people with a platform.

The idea that this was all a “liberal hoax” was not only articulated by Trump himself, but amplified a thousand times over by Fox News and its ilk. That this cynical gamesmanship was occurring not in reference to a political campaign but a dire public health threat seemed not to matter to any of these people. They were collecting their fat paychecks, and that was apparently all that mattered to them.

After the deadly effects of COVID-19 became impossible to ignore, Fox & Friends ran a segment happily celebrating how its impact would really be quite minimal. “Survivor stories” such as Jerri Jorgensen’s were highlighted, suggesting to viewers that the virus was not a “big deal.” Limbaugh picked that one up, joking to his 15 million listeners that callers expressing concern about potential exposure weren’t phoning him from “beyond the grave.”

Finally, as the pandemic became more and more prevalent and could not be disregarded, came what Peters characterizes as the “Blame the Left” phase.

By the middle of March, the story of the virus on the right was one of how Mr. Trump’s enemies had weaponized “the flu” and preyed on the insecurities of an emasculated America.

Mr. Limbaugh blamed “wimp politics — which is liberalism.” Mr. Pollak, whose tone grew more serious, said the virus had spread while Democrats stretched out the president’s impeachment. “We now know the cost of impeachment,” he wrote.

Frank Luntz, the veteran political strategist who advises Republican leaders, said many on the right were applying the scornful, “own the libs” mentality of social media to a deadly and frightening health crisis.

We’re still at the tail end of that phase now, with conservatives and rightwing trolls attacking coronavirus task force expert Dr. Anthony Fauci with death threats, and others who have successfully punctured the right’s toxic bubble blaming January’s impeachment proceedings for Trump’s gross negligence and inaction, and, once again, blaming the Chinese. It’s not clear who the right will blame next for Trump’s colossal failure. But by the time they get around to it, many of their followers will already be dead.

Because all of this had an impact—in our politically polarized nation, how could it not? It caused millions of Americans who trusted such sources—who trusted Donald Trump—to let down their guard, to throw caution to the wind. It caused Republican governors to ignore the harrowing warnings of established science and advise their constituents to carry on as if the threat did not exist. It led those citizens to genuinely believe everything was going to be all right.

But we’re not going to be all right. Thanks to these monstrously amoral and unconcerned purveyors of Republican propaganda, many, many people are going to die who could have and should have lived. Families that should have remained intact are going to suffer the loss of people they love. And people who did actually understand the gravity of this pandemic are going to be infected by those who were lulled into complacency by that propaganda.

The full horror of what the right-wing media has done is just now becoming apparent, but in the coming weeks it will be impossible to ignore.