We're witnessing the birth of a dangerous new strain in America's right-wing movement
Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice K. McGeachin (middle-right, with arm raised) gives an oath on the steps of the state's capitol while Three Percenter militia members (left) stand by. Image via screengrab.

Donald Trump has a lottery ticket's chance of overturning Joe Biden's decisive victory in the 2020 election. There's no evidence of fraud that would hold up in a court of law. Biden's margins are beyond what might be reversed in recounts. And while the Constitution gives states the power to determine how their electors are selected, all states have laws on their books awarding them to the popular vote winner (aside from a few congressional districts in Nebraska and Maine).

Given that Trump is using these bogus claims of a stolen election to shake down his followers in order to pay off campaign debt and fund his new PAC, some have questioned how dangerous his refusal to accept the results really is. Perhaps he's working toward acceptance, or keeping his base engaged for two upcoming Senate runoffs in Georgia that will determine control of the chamber next year. According to reports, many elected Republicans who back his silly claims are only doing so to humor him, and to avoid the wrath of his cult-like supporters, and privately acknowledged that the election is over. "What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time?" one senior Republican official told The Washington Post. "No one seriously thinks the results will change."

But this is ultimately a distinction without a difference. The GOP is delegitimizing the Biden presidency so they can launch a new, meaner and more conspiratorial Tea Party movement. Republican operatives, including some veterans of the first Tea Party groups, are behind the "stop the steal" protests now underway across the country. A new poll conducted by YouGov for The Economist found that 86 percent of Trump voters believe that Biden did not win the election fairly, and a plurality of all voters said they thought there was enough voter fraud to swing the results of the race.

Meanwhile, Trump has decapitated the senior civilian leadership of the Pentagon and much of the intelligence community and replaced them with Trump loyalists, many of whom are conspiratorial nutjobs. We don't know towards what end, but it is a brazenly authoritarian move that's inconsistent with the idea that he's just trying to keep donors' dollars flowing.

By following Trump's lead, Republicans are guaranteeing that Joe Biden will be dogged by a new sort of Birther movement. Whether intentionally or not, they are encouraging more political violence from the far-right. They're making the country ungovernable, and that is effectively a soft coup.