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The long grift: How Donald Trump’s ‘voter fraud’ claims may not be about the 2020 election

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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump kisses a baby at a campaign rally in Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S., July 29, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

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Terry H. Schwadron
Terry H. Schwadron

It’s becoming apparent that if you don’t like Donald Trump’s vocal debasement of our election results, you probably aren’t going to enjoy his next four years.

In fact, when you think about it, maybe this is all part of a long-term Trump grift.

Consider that:

–A new snap poll – yes, they’re polling again – shows that seven of 10 Republicans believes that the election was “stolen” by Joe Biden.

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–A finance group is working quietly to approach Newsmax to buy the conservative, conspiracy-theory-filled network as a voice for Trump and Trumpism.

–Despite the consistent failure of Trump campaign lawsuits charging a variety of “fraud” in the elections, Rudy Giuliani, as Trump’s lawyer, is launching more that already have been undercut by Trump’s own Homeland Security folks, even as the campaign walks away from losing arguments about lacking observers to counting, since there were observers.

Indeed, in stories in The New York TimesPoliticoThe Washington Post and in more conservative websites all underscore similar themes – that what we’re seeing play out in these challenges were long in the planning, kicked in as election counts turned against Trump in Pennsylvania and other states.

Moreover, they note that the current spate of challenges is meant to cement a political base for continuing attacks on U.S. institutions – as well as the Biden presidency.

Here is Politico: “Trump is not making a narrow, surgical, legally feasible case to enhance his chances to still be living in the White House come January 21. (That’s … improbable.) He’s not doing this, either, to win the argument. (It’s almost mathematically impossible.) He’s doing it, say political strategists, longtime Trump watchers and experts on authoritarian tactics, to sow doubt, save face and strengthen even in defeat his lifeblood of a bond with his political base.”

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Futile Challenges

Let’s deal first with the continuing legal challenges. Giuliani has ordered that lawsuits just abandon the argument that Republican observers were denied access to the counting, but has amplified attacks on the companies involved in manufacturing counting machines as biased for Democrats.

Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s excellent fact-checker,  basically has destroyed this argument with reporting that goes point-by-point through the Giuliani arguments. Plus, in a statement, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, an arm of Homeland Security, said “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”

As we have seen, court after court has denied challenges by the Trump campaign as lacking evidence or just being flat wrong.

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So, we have to conclude that other than trying to humor Trump’s ego, there must be some kind of logic for the campaign and the Republican National Committee to continue banging its head against the legal wall.

The answer seems to be that the craziness of denying election results is working to some extent: Republicans are buying into conspiracy in wide numbers.

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At this point, few people in any world I know believe that any combination of these challenges will change the election results – to say nothing of the fact that the same election processes have returned Republican senators and congress members to their seats.

“The shocking lack of specifics, which Trump’s critics mock as laughably unserious for something so consequential, is not a deficiency. It is the feature of his strategy,” argues Politico. “It’s … working. Seven in 10 Republicans, according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll earlier this week, believe the election was stolen from their candidate.

It is overall for Trump both a culmination and a continuation: a grand finale of sorts of the past five-plus years, in which he’s relied so much on so much unreality—and also a runway, a kind of topspin toward what’s to come once he leaves Washington . . .

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He’s doing what he believes he needs to do to put at least himself in the best possible position for the future after yet another failure.

“This isn’t about winning the presidency,” former Trump publicist Alan Marcus told Politico this week. “It’s his exit strategy.”

How Does It Help?

Trump is out to use other people’s money – for his business debts, for his political survival and for any attempt to establish a media alternative to Fox News.

After all, we’ve already learned that  bulk of money from the fund-raising for Trump election challenges is headed for an ill-defined Trump political slush fund.

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Here’s the argument: Trump will make money for selling the Trump image as iconoclast. He will be paid handsomely for making speeches, for holding rallies, by fund-raising efforts that seek to take advantage of 70 million votes in a losing effort.

By doing so, he will maintain leadership of the Republican opposition and be able to threaten Republican lawmakers into blocking Biden agenda items.

Politico quoted a Republican strategist who said it’s imperative for Trump to keep active the potential for another run in 2024. Even efforts to prosecute Trump “just on the sheer financial side of it, the martyring of Trump—martyring himself—is good for business,” he said.

I had hoped that a substantial election result would allow us to move on. Apparently, it ain’t so.

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