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In the end, the Big Lie 2.0 went out with a whimper, instead of the bang Donald Trump and his acolytes were clearly anticipating. For months, Trump-loyal Republican candidates for state and local offices — often those hand-picked by Trump himself — recycled his false claims that a secret cabal of Democrats had secretly created a system to "steal" elections from Republicans. Not only did MAGA superfans like Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake argue that Joe Biden had somehow stolen the 2020 from Trump, they repeatedly suggested that, should they lose in 2022, that should be presumed illegitimate as well.
This article first appeared in Salon.
There was plenty of cause for worry that all these conspiracy theories were building toward some kind of Jan. 6 redux, especially as several of these candidates had direct ties to the original assault on the Capitol. Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, the GOP gubernatorial candidate, wasn't just at the Capitol that day, but literally paid for charter buses to send Trump supporters to the rally that turned into an insurrection. Tim Michels, the Wisconsin Republican running against incumbent Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, promised that "Republicans will never lose another election in Wisconsin after I'm elected governor." Mark Finchem, the Republican candidate for secretary of state in Arizona, was also in D.C. on Jan. 6 and his attorney was deeply involved in the "fake elector" plot Trump hoped he could use to steal the 2020 election.
In the days before the election, Homeland Security and the FBI circulated a memo warning of a "heightened threat" of election violence that might target "candidates running for public office, elected officials, election workers, political rallies, political party representatives, racial and religious minorities, or perceived ideological opponents."
Instead what happened, for the most part, was nothing, thank goodness. Most of the Trumpy candidates seeking swing-state offices that would give them control over the 2024 presidential election lost. They complained but mostly didn't try to fight the results. And none of them actually incited violence in an effort to steal those elections. Maybe that's a modest win for democracy, but it counts.
There was one holdout. Lake, who was a local news anchor in Phoenix before becoming the MAGA-tastic candidate for governor, stood out as something special in the highly competitive field of midterm election deniers. When asked by CNN in October if she would accept an electoral defeat, Lake gave the kind of trolly answer that makes Trumpist hearts soar: "I'm going to win the election and I'll accept that result."
Well, she didn't. Lake lost that election narrowly to Democrat Katie Hobbs, the current secretary of state. Unlike most of her fellow election deniers, Lake has created a public fuss since election night and, along with Finchem, has filed a number of frivolous lawsuits seeking to invalidate or overturn the election. But although Lake certainly tried to adopt Trumpian tactics — whining incessantly and shotgunning all kinds of irrational or ludicrous litigation into court — the whole effort has felt surprisingly tepid. Even Trump's attempt to get involved, by releasing a statement demanding that Lake be "installed" as governor for some imaginary reason, did little to generate any real momentum.
On Monday, Lake's moribund coup effort fizzled out as Arizona officials certified the election in a placid document-signing ceremony, utterly free of screaming Proud Boys trying to smash in cop heads or hang election officials. Sure, Lake is trying to save face with endless tweets about a "crooked election," and still shows up to bellyache on Steve Bannon's podcast. (When does his sentence start again?) But she's almost certainly reached the end of the road. Even the two Republican-controlled counties who initially refused to certify the election finally capitulated to reality and court orders, and did their duty.
It's amusing, of course, to watch Lake flail about impotently. But it does raise an interesting question: Why has it been so difficult for the myriad mini-Trumps of the 2022 midterms to build on his Big Lie? Why was he able to make Jan. 6 happen, but none of his followers have even come close to replicating that moment on the state or local level?
It's tempting to write this off to the structural differences between a national election and smaller, more spread-out state-level elections. Trump could draw on his fame and his enormous fanbase to get attention, and also on the singular, symbolic nature of the Capitol building and nation's capital draw a big crowd in one place on one day. But that explanation leaves something to be desired, because it's also true that it would be easier, in many ways, to stage a more localized insurrection. You would only need a modest-size group in a less secure location, such as a state capitol, to pull off a violent assault on a smaller scale. Just look at how successful far-right groups have been at dominating or disrupting school boards or intimidating drag performers over the past couple of years. You wouldn't need the thousands of people Trump drew to the Capitol in January 2021 to do serious damage. A few dozen right-wing militia types — as in the Michigan lockdown protests of 2020 — would likely be enough in some places.
No, I suspect the real reason the Big Lie is failing to incite fascist violence around midterm elections is that few, if any, Republicans actually believed the Big Lie in the first place. It was always a pretext for what its proponents really want, which is a movement to replace the process by which we choose American presidents with a dictatorship, ideally led by Donald Trump himself. Installing a bunch of mini-Trumps in state offices, even for the purpose of supposedly setting Trump up to steal the 2024 election, doesn't have the emotional power of an actual, no-BS, top-down fascist revolution.
"We're not just going to call them 'election deniers.' They are MAGA fascists," Adrian Fontes, the Democratic winner of Arizona's state secretary position, said on MSNBC on Tuesday.
This distinction isn't just rhetorical flair. "Election deniers" implies that the conspiracy theory of stolen elections is the primary motivation of Trump's insurrectionist movement. But really, the conspiracy theory is just a paper-thin excuse, one which Trump and his minions barely even try to establish as a functioning narrative. Fascists, as John Ganz writes in his most recent newsletter, "believe things have gotten so bad that only a radical move to break the present regime can save the nation." Taking the White House by force is satisfying. Taking the Arizona governor's mansion, not so much.
The fascist cult leader — and in this case you know who that is — draws his power from being the avatar of all his followers' grievances, which are mostly about social and cultural issues and not really about a sincere belief in "election fraud." The anger that drew people to the Capitol on Jan. 6 had nothing to do with any genuine concerns that Democrats had corrupted the election. It was driven largely by cultural grievances: Growing racial and religious diversity. Women's increasing independence. Rap songs dominating the radio and LGBTQ characters on TV.
The Big Lie was just the excuse. The goal was to punish non-MAGA Americans by inflicting Donald Trump on them against their will.
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That anger has more recenlty been rerouted into more direct expressions of right-wing cultural resentments, which is why we're seeing attacks on Pride events and hysteria about "wokeness" or "critical race theory." Having a tantrum, or staging a riot, over Kari Lake losing her bid to be governor of Arizona simply doesn't have the same emotional resonance. Even if such a coup had been successful — a pretty big "if" in a moment when Democrats still control the executive branch of the federal government — it wouldn't have done much to address the larger complaints that fuel modern fascism. Lake talked a big game about being the media's "worst fricking nightmare," but even if she had successfully wedged herself into the governor's mansion, the "liberal coastal elite" media would still have viewed her as a backwoods novelty, rather than a real threat.
The symbolism and power of the presidency is what makes it a prize worthy of violent insurrection. A governor's seat can't hold a candle to that. That's probably the biggest reason why the MAGA movement that was ready to crack skulls on Jan. 6 didn't get out of bed to protest lost midterm elections. The good news here is that the Big Lie 2.0 failed to rile up Trump's jackass army in 2022. The bad news is that while Kari Lake fell on her face in trying to get the MAGA masses outraged on her behalf, those people could potentially be moved to violence again, if they think that means putting their true cult leader back in the White House.
Herschel Walker's former partners expressed relief at his loss to Sen. Raphael Warnock in Georgia's runoff election for U.S. Senate.
Women who had romantic relationships with the former NFL star went public during the campaign to reveal their stories of secret children, abortions and abuse are pleased that Georgia voters rejected his bid to serve as their senator, reported The Daily Beast.
“Finally, this violent liar, cheater, adulterer, abuser and deranged, manipulative idiot has been defeated,” said one woman, who had two-year affair with Walker in the 1990s and then a decade later. “As a victim of this disgusting liar, I finally feel relieved, vindicated, and not alone.”
Five women spoke to The Daily Beast about their history with Walker, including Cheryl Parsa, who had a five-year relationship with him in the 2000s and accused him of habitual lying and infidelity, and says he once violently attacked her.
“I am extremely proud of the outcome of this runoff,” Parsa said. “The great people of Georgia deserve better representation in the Senate than Herschel Walker, and today they have chosen better."
Walker cultivated an image as deeply religious father who opposed abortion and absentee fathers, but a woman told The Daily Beast in June that he had fathered a secret son out of wedlock and hadn't seen that boy since 2016 and played no active role in his life, and two days later the website reported he had a second secret son with another woman -- and he then confirmed he had an adult daughter he hadn't previously acknowledged.
“Georgia made their choice today. Herschel will not be their voice. Your votes matter. Your voice matters. When we as a country demand more of our leaders, we will be heard! ” said the woman who revealed the first secret son.
That same woman told The Daily Beast in October that Walker had paid for her to have an abortion three years before their son was born, and she had a receipt and other documentation to prove it, and the women who spoke out were gratified that voters seem to have listened to them.
“Having Herschel Walker lose this very important Senate race tonight not only vindicates that democracy has won but the women that he betrayed, have won," said one woman who had a relationship with Walker in 2006. “The truth has won and I hope Herschel finds a way to start telling the truth. However, I highly doubt he knows what the truth is anymore.”
Watch: McConnell refuses to say he will not support Trump for president even after ‘terminate the Constitution’ demand
Even after Donald Trump called for the "termination" of the U.S. Constitution this weekend and demanded he be put back into office or be given a do-over national presidential election, Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is refusing to say he will not support the ex-president's current run for the White House.
McConnell kicked off his weekly press conference Tuesday by mildly criticizing Trump, although not mentioning him by name.
"First, let me just say that anyone seeking the presidency who thinks that the Constitution could somehow be suspended or not followed, it seems to me would have a very hard time being sworn in as president of United States," McConnell told reporters.
But when asked if he "categorically" would refuse to support Trump – personally or in his role as Senate Republican Minority Leader – McConnell refused to go that far.
"This is the second week in a row you've come out to begin your press conference criticizing Donald Trump," a reporter off-camera said. "Can you say categorically that you do not support him if he were the Republican nominee?"
McConnell could not.
"What I'm saying is it would be pretty hard to be sworn in, to the presidency, if you're not willing to uphold the Constitution. That's what I said, and I just said it again," McConnell stated.
"How about your personal support?" the reporter shot back.
McConnell ignored the question.
During the 2016 campaign Trump also made clear he did not feel beholden to upholding the Constitution, so it's unclear why McConnell would suggest he could not be sworn in again should he be elected in 2024.
In fact, Trump's concerning remarks surrounding the Constitution in 2016 led Brown University political science professor Corey Brettschneider to pen a piece for Politico: "Trump vs. the Constitution: A Guide."
"It may be true that Donald Trump has read the Constitution. But it’s unclear if he understands it," it begins.
McConnell is not only the second longest serving leader of a party's caucus in the Senate, nor his he just the Senate Republican Minority Leader.
He wields massive power and influence via his ties to a Super PAC.
According to CNN, the Senate Leadership Fund is "a super PAC affiliated with Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell."
This year alone, the Senate Leadership Fund has spent nearly $300 million to elect Republicans to the U.S. Senate. In 2020 it spent over $475 million.
Many have seen their ads, which are almost entirely, according to Open Secrets, against Democrats, not for Republicans.
Watch McConnell below or at this link.