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McConnell is already scheming to derail Democrats by nuking the economy

hortly after President Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday, a friend told me he was worried. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was smiling way too much during the ceremony, he said, and it made him nervous. The sight of a smiling McConnell, after all, is like seeing a smiling Ted Bundy: It should immediately make you wonder where the bodies are buried.

This article originally appeared at Salon.

Sure enough, McConnell wasted no time launching his evil scheme to maintain control of the Senate after losing his Republican majority.

On Thursday, McConnell kicked off the newly Democratically-controlled Senate's first filibuster, not of legislation nor appointments, but of even starting the business of the Senate by assigning committee spots. He demanded that Democrats take the elimination of the filibuster off the table completely before commencing with the basic business of the upper chamber. He justified the move by pompously declaring, "Minority rights on legislation are key to the Senate" and disingenuously appealing to tradition.

This is complete and total nonsense offered with the utmost bad faith, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D.-Mass., pointed out. "Mitch McConnell was fine with getting rid of the filibuster to a United States Supreme Court nominee for a lifetime appointment, but he's not okay getting rid of the filibuster for unemployment relief for families that are out of work because of COVID-19," Warren told CNN. "I've just had enough of Mitch McConnell."

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, agreed, reminding the Republican leader: "We won the Senate. We get the gavels."

That McConnell is filibustering before Senate business even begins should serve as the surest sign that his strategy going in is to obstruct everything the thin Democratic majority wants to do, tank the ability of the government to serve the people, and force Biden's presidency into failure. This is what McConnell did to Barack Obama, working under the almost certainly correct theory that people blame government failures not on the Republicans who caused them, but the Democrat in the White House. And that's clearly what McConnell intends to do this time around.

The only solution is to take the filibuster debate off the table completely, not by agreeing to let the filibuster stand, but by killing the filibuster off completely, right here and now. McConnell's favorite tool for obstruction needs to be taken away from him.

Twitter banned Trump -- and peace broke out

After the violent but failed insurrection of Jan. 6, federal and state authorities were understandably terrified about violence on Inauguration Day. The FBI warned of threats of violence not just in Washington D.C. on January 20, but all 50 state capitols, the homes of prominent members of Congress, and other federal buildings across the country. This was hardly an idle concern. The same far right channels that were used to organize the insurrection were alight with excitement about another round, and Inauguration Day was the target. One of the organizers of the "Stop the Steal" rally that kicked off the insurrection spent the days after upping the ante, promising to "bring hell to my enemies" and declaring "I am the tool to stab" Trump's political opponents.

This article originally appeared at Salon.

Yet Inauguration Day came and went in relative peace.

The calm was maintained not just in D.C., where the presence of 25,000 National Guard troops was an intimidating deterrent to would-be insurrectionists, but the planned pro-Trump protests at state capitols barely materialized — with mostly a few disparate and sad sign-wavers, rarely numbering more than a dozen at any single location. Outside the perimeter in D.C. set up by the National Guard, journalists outnumbered the Trump supporters so badly that any redhats who bothered to show up got swarmed by photographers. Only Portland, Oregon seemed to have seen any real violence, possibly only because the antifa and fascist groups that have spent the past four years street fighting there seemed interested in one final go-round.

There's a number of reasons that Inauguration Day ended up being relatively peaceful.

For one thing, legal authorities took the threat seriously and took significant preventive action. For another, the mass arrests of the insurrections by federal law enforcement sent a signal that the impunity that Trump supporters were feeling was misplaced. But most importantly, the main driver of insurrectionist sentiment and the man who instigated the Capitol riot — Donald Trump — wasn't on hand to incite more violence.

Without their leader directing their energies and giving them targets, the violent right was aimless and confused — and not organized enough for another strike.

While conservatives are already trying to muddy the waters around Trump's responsibility for the events of January 6, the record is quite clear. He repeatedly — in debates, in interviews, and at rallies — made winking references to his far right supporters, encouraging their violent urges. He repeatedly signaled that January 6 was the day of action. Even the wifi password at Trump's Georgia rally two days before the riot reinforced this target date to his most fanatical supporters.

And, of course, Trump gave a speech on January 6 with a fairly explicit "go" order in it, telling his supporters to march on the Capitol and falsely claiming he would join them.

But while Trump had many ways to communicate with the delusional fanatics that love him so much, it was his Twitter account that was probably the most important. Trump repeatedly pushed the January 6 date on Twitter, promising it "will be wild!" Even during the riot, Trump was directing the crowd, tweeting vitriol about then-Vice President Mike Pence in the midst of the violence. Unsurprisingly, the crowd's energies turned towards finding Pence, while chanting, "Hang Mike Pence".

Twitter temporarily suspended Trump's account after the riot and then, after briefly letting him back on, permanently banned him when he went straight back to lying about the election and stoking the violent impulses of his followers. Facebook and other social media platforms also cut Trump off. There was also a purge of QAnon accounts and others who were spreading lies about Joe Biden "stealing" the election.

The positive effects of the Trump social media ban were felt immediately. The analytics firm Zignal Labs showed that Twitter experienced 73% drop in misinformation about election fraud in the week after Trump and some of his most avid fans were banned from the platform. It underscores how dependent right-wing extremists are on their ringleaders, including Trump, and how many of them are uncertain what to do or what lies to spread without guidance. Frankly, it's unsurprising. These folks are authoritarians. Following their preferred authority figures is the whole point of it.

That Trump was going to start losing his hold over his fanatical supporters was likely inevitable. They weren't ever really in it because of some great love for him, so much as they saw Trump as the most effective tool they could use to stick it to the liberals. Without political power, Trump's usefulness to his followers has disappeared, and their enthusiasm appears to be dissipating at a rapid rate. The New York Times reports that the Proud Boys are rapidly shifting from calling Trump "Emperor" to whining that he's a "total failure". QAnon chatboards were reeling in disbelief, as it became clear that Biden's inauguration was really happening and the promised mass arrests of Democrats were not materializing. One of the most popular Trump fan boards, The Donald, has rebranded under the even stupider name Patriots win.

Still, there remains a danger that Trump could build up a myth of himself as a rightful-king-in-exile with these people. Without Twitter, however, it's going to be much, much harder — if not impossible. Trump loved Twitter because it allowed him to spread misinformation with less effort than it takes to make a phone call. Trump is both lazy and dumb, and clearly is struggling to imagine how to rally support without tweeting his every errant thought during his "executive time". His efforts at communicating with his base in the two weeks since his Twitter ban have been lackluster at best, and mostly non-existent.

And we're all so much better for it. Without Trump giving both direction and permission to the violent urges of his followers, they are adrift, and seemingly starting to absorb the idea that there may actually be consequences for their actions.

To be certain, the authoritiarian movement Trump breathed so much life into isn't going away. Republican voters have been radicalized — nearly three-quarters are continuing to assert misinformation about the 2020 election — and it's unlikely they are going to start feeling warm towards the democratic system again, just because Trump isn't riling them up every day. There's also still plenty of outlets for right-wing misinformation, including Fox News. The threat of domestic terrorism is still incredibly high, especially as so many domestic terrorists are self-directed instead of attached to organized conspiracies.

Still, without a strong central figure to rally around, the seditionist crowd will likely fracture into hundreds of small communities, and get weighed down by in-fighting, as often happens with the deeply unpleasant and aggressive personalities that are drawn to authoritarian politics. A lot of them may even drift away, looking for some other fringe community to give their lives meaning.

So while it's hardly some cure-all for the problem of growing authoritarianism or right-wing domestic terrorism, keeping Trump off social media is still crucial to protecting lives and protecting American democracy. And, while I doubt they'll listen, social media networks should also snuff the accounts of any would-be Trumps, who are getting attention and likes for spreading lies online. And if they don't, Congress should step in and regulate these companies so that they have no other choice.

Trump is leaving -- but his poisonous amplification of right-wing entitlement will continue to fester

The aspect of the Capitol insurrection that continues to carry the most fascination is the way that most of the people involved seemed utterly unafraid of potential consequences, legal or otherwise. The FBI has already charged more than 100 people for their involvement in the riot, and they are, according to the Washington Post, "mostly individuals who revealed themselves as participating in the Jan. 6 riot through social media boasts". Most people committing crimes desire anonymity, but these folks acted with utter impunity, buoyed by their belief that, if an election didn't go the way they desired, they could simply demand it be thrown out, as if they were telling a waiter to send an unsatisfying dish back to the kitchen.

This article was originally published at Salon

One woman, Jenna Ryan from Dallas, TX, has become the face of this attitude. During the storming of the Capitol, she posted a video in which she juxtaposed her calls to overturn the election with hype for her company. The Texas real-estate agent who flew in a private jet to take part in the riot continues to behave in a shockingly brazen manner, insisting during an interview that she was right to fly in a private jet to take part in a riot and asking for a pardon from Donald Trump with the confidence of a woman demanding extra ketchup for her fries at McDonald's.

The whole incident is a microcosm of what will likely be Trump's most lasting legacy after he leaves the White House in disgrace on Wednesday: The metastasizing sense of entitlement on the American right.

The "Karen" meme has, in recent months, been distorted through sexism to become a slur term replacing "nag." But in its original form, it was a useful shorthand for the entitled attitude of Trump-loving America. Karens hold the belief that everything — particularly every public space or shared resource — belongs to them and them only, and that everyone else should always accommodate their preferences. The purest expression of Karenism was the white woman who called the police on a Black family having a picnic, absolutely certain she was entitled to determine who is and is not allowed to use a public park.

Trump himself, of course, was the ultimate Karen. Nowhere was this more evident than in his behavior since November, which was guided by his stalwart belief that all he needed to do was talk to the manager and this whole "losing the election" situation would be cleared up. Trump spent months calling every state and local official he could find, blackmailing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, threatening Vice President Mike Pence, and filing dozens of lawsuits, guided by his conviction that someone, somewhere had the power to simply toss out the presidential election results and install him in office for a second term.

It was, at times, downright comical — or would have been, anyway, if Trump hadn't been training his base to more fully embrace the notion that the rules are for other people. But now his base believes that, by virtue of being white and right-wing, they are generally allowed to break any rule that they want, deny realities they find unpleasant, and even demand that other people kiss their ass no matter how nasty they behave.

To be clear, conservatism has always been an ideology of entitlement.

From the belief that rich people shouldn't have to contribute their fair share in taxes to the belief that conservatives should determine for other people such private choices as who they can marry and when to give birth: It is all entitlement. But under Trump, the right-wing's faith in their own privilege has become all-encompassing, as has their collective bitterness and anger towards anyone who dares suggest that conservative Americans show respect for others, responsibility towards their community, or even an acknowledgment of factual information. The ridiculousness of the White House's 1776 Report is just the most recent of the often very silly examples. The whole thing started because right-wing America, under Trump's leadership, had a long and childish temper tantrum over the New York Times's 1619 Project, which chronicled the centrality of racism in American history. The 1776 Report is Trump's attempt at a counternarrative, forwarding a series of lies about the history of racism in America — basically, the American version of Holocaust denialism — repackaged as a "patriotic education."

This is a classic version of the right-wing entitlement that has exploded under Trump. History itself is viewed as the rightful property of white, conservative America. If they wish to replace actual factual history with a series of lies meant to flatter their own bigotries, then they believe that is their right.

As Matthew Rozsa detailed this weekend at Salon, psychological research shows "conservatives, not liberals, are far more apt to let their feelings to get in the way of accepting facts."

Again, this was a problem before Trump, most notoriously in the right-wing refusal to accept that climate change is real, despite there being an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence proving that it is. But the 1776 Report shows how ugly this entitlement has become, that conservatives assert that the facts of American history should simply be evacuated and replaced with their reactionary fantasies.

This attitude manifested in a more day-to-day way in the refusal of so many Trump fanatics to wear masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, a refusal that grew so toxic that 26 Republican-led states refused to pass mask mandates, choosing the snowflake-delicate feelings of Trumpers over the literal lives of their residents. The mask tantrum combined multiple forms of conservative entitlement: The belief that their feelings matter more than scientific facts, outrage at being asked to behave responsibly and a rejection of the idea that they owe any decency to other people.

Similarly, the Trumpian obsession with "cancel culture" is about this all-encompassing sense of right-wing entitlement.

At the heart of so many right-wing temper tantrums over being "canceled" is the idea that they should be able to say what they want, do what they want, and act like absolute jackasses without ever suffering a personal, professional, or social consequence for it. This attitude was epitomized by a September tweet from professional whiner and former New York Times writer (she left after tantruming about how others on the staff weren't accommodating enough of her repugnant personality) Bari Weiss.

Needless to say, no one is entitled to someone else's friendship, much less their "romance," and if people don't want to give you either because of your views, that is their right. But in Trump's America, having liberals decline your friendship is treated as a human rights violation. The ridiculousness of this attitude was most recently illustrated in the choice of GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene to wear a "CENSORED" mask — while giving a speech to a national audience from the floor of the House of Representatives.

Trump is leaving office on Wednesday, but this right-wing entitlement he cultivated lives on in Republicans demanding that the entire insurrection at the Capitol be thrown down the memory hole. Republican leader after Republican leader has insisted that "healing" and "unity" can only occur if there are no consequences for those, especially Trump, who incited the riot.

This is simply more of the Trumpian entitlement. Republican politicians spent over two months supporting and elevating Trump's lies about the election. And their assumption is that the responsibility for cleaning up the mess they made should be shouldered entirely by someone else, the liberals who are expected to do the hard work of forgetting and forgiving. Responsibility is for other people, not for Republicans, even when their lack of responsibility led to a violent attempt to overthrow the government.

It's outrageous, but no surprise. This is the culmination of years of the sense of unchecked entitlement Trump encouraged on the right. It's the same attitude that leads them to believe that they should be able to spread disease and spew hate, and to squeal about "cancel culture" if they get pushback. Trump may be leaving, but his poison of right wing entitlement will continue to rot away at our national fabric, unless something is done to curtail it. And that something can only look like accountability — for Trump and everyone who enabled him over all these years.

Trump needs to be punished -- it's the only hope for 'unity'

There is no way to defend Donald Trump's behavior last week, when, after pouring gasoline for months, he lit a match and set the insurrection fire. And, by and large, Republicans aren't even trying. Instead, the Republican arguments against impeaching the president for a second time largely cite "concerns" — or what might be better described as threats — that any effort to hold Trump accountable for his behavior may anger an already angry mob, leading to more violence.

This article originally appeared at Salon.

"A vote to impeach would further divide this nation, a vote to impeach will further fan the flames," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R.-Calif., warned after admitting during Wednesday's impeachment debate that Trump bore responsibility for the insurrection last week. Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., made a similar argument, saying impeachment will "further the unrest" and "possibly incite more violence."

Sen. Lindsey Graham echoed the same argument on Wednesday, saying impeachment "could invite further violence." On Fox Business Thursday, one day after Trump was impeached, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro went even further, arguing that the "Democratic Party did violence to this country by attacking a president who I believe was legally elected on November 3."

Of course, Trump lost the Nov. 3 election to Joe Biden by 74 electoral votes, the exact number he won by in 2016. Yet his team continues to amplify the foundational lie that lead to last week's violent desecration of the U.S. Capitol. In addition, multiple Republicans have spent the days since whining about Trump being "canceled," callously acting as if the loss of his Twitter account is the real crime while ignoring the ones he incited, like beating a cop to death with a fire extinguisher during a treacherous riot.

The flaws in this let-the-terrorists win argument should be immediately evident.

For one thing, Trump supporters already violently tried to overthrow the government — not because Trump was being impeached, but because they reject the results of a democratic election and believe Trump should be illegally installed as an authoritarian leader.

Republican logic would suggest that democracy itself should be thrown out because a small number of bullies demand it. They certainly wouldn't accept this logic if foreign terrorists attacked the U.S. Capitol, and so it shouldn't be taken seriously now.

But more to the point, there is no evidence that the mayhem was caused because of anger over Trump facing consequences for any of his numerous corrupt or criminal acts. On the contrary, the overwhelming evidence shows that impunity fueled the Capitol riot. The insurrectionists acted out of a belief that neither they nor the president they love would ever face any repercussions.

That the insurrectionists were confident they would never face a single, solitary consequence has been one of the most remarkable — and remarked upon — aspects of this entire ordeal. Very few of the attackers bothered to cover their faces. On the contrary, many of them photographed and live-streamed the event, after spending weeks online publicly planning the attempted coup. In fact, the only reason many of the participants are facing arrest now is they were so public about their role in the assault.

But while this behavior initially seems baffling, a deeper examination shows that it makes a lot of sense. After all, for five years, Trump supporters have watched their beloved president run roughshod over all the rules and norms of D.C. with nary a consequence for it. He lies without repercussion. He openly colluded with Russia to cheat in the election and got away with lying about it. His lawbreaking started during the campaign when he conspired with his lawyer to illegally pay off mistresses for their silence. His entire presidency has been defined by his open criminality, from his obstruction of justice during the Russia investigation to the extortion scheme against the Ukrainian president that got him impeached the first time to his post-election efforts to steal the election by pressuring and even threatening state and local election officials.

Despite Trump being a shameless and avid criminal, he has yet to face anything resembling a real punishment. He was impeached for the Ukrainian extortion scheme, but the thoroughly corrupt GOP decided to acquit him, despite his obvious guilt. People around Trump went to prison — including his campaign manager Paul Manafort and his lawyer Michael Cohen — but he skated away, scot-free.

Of course a lot of Trump's supporters started to imagine he had almost god-like powers shielding him from the normal sanctions people can expect for committing crimes. And a lot of them started to imagine that they, too, could do whatever they wanted, no matter how violent or seditious, as long as they did it for Trump.

It's also important to note the race and class privilege that fueled the impunity of the Capitol rioters.

"They were business owners, CEOs, state legislators, police officers, active and retired service members, real-estate brokers, stay-at-home dads, and, I assume, some Proud Boys," Adam Serwer writes at the Atlantic.

People, in other words, who have grown accustomed to the idea that their race and economic status shields them from accountability. In their world, going to jail is for other people — lower class people, people of color, leftists — and not "respectable" people like themselves. It's why so many were pouty about COVID-19 restrictions and mask-wearing. Responsibility to your community is for those other people, in their view, and not for the likes of them.

The only way to stop the violence is to strip Trump and his followers of their sense of impunity. The only way that happens is with, heaven forbid, actual sanctions for their actions.

Obviously, everything Republicans say is pure bad faith, which is why all this concern trolling — or really, threats — about "fanning the flames" shouldn't be taken seriously. But what should be taken seriously is the impunity with which Trump and his minions operate. This has gone on too long, and the riot at the Capitol was the result. If there's any hope of stemming the tide of violence, consequences — real ones — need to start flowing. People who participated in the riots need to be prosecuted. Any members of Congress who incited the riot or, as some are alleging, assisted the insurrectionists, need to be investigated and prosecuted.

And above all other things, Trump needs to be punished.

The impeachment is a good start, but it's not enough, especially since there's little chance of the Senate, which is still half-Republican, convicting him. Trump has been impeached before and got right back to criming, empowered by his unjust acquittal. As painful as it may be for Joe Biden to admit this, the newly elected president needs to unleash the Department of Justice on Trump, both for his role in the insurrection and for all his crimes prior to it.

Trump and his supporters staged a coup against the U.S. government because they thought they could get away with it. The only way to keep them from doing it again is to make sure they know there's a price to pay — by extracting it.

Trump didn't suffer from 'paralysis' -- he failed to stop the Capitol siege because he loved the show

After four years of nonstop abuse from Donald Trump, it should be beyond a shadow of a doubt that, while Trump is indeed an ignoramus, his ugly behavior is largely motivated by malice, not stupidity. Yet, as we've seen through the years of Trump's presidency, mainstream media outlets have continued to cast his actions as the choices of a man too numpty-headed to know right from wrong, instead of the behavior of a shameless villain who does vicious and cruel things out of a deeply felt sadism. Since Trump sent an unruly mob to ransack the Capitol, however, mainstream journalists have woken up, describing Trump's actions accurately as incitement, instead of using euphemisms or casting around for an "innocent" explanation.

They are now showing signs of slippage back to old habits.

On Monday night, the Washington Post published a report detailing Trump's refusal to do anything to discourage the insurrectionist mob after they penetrated the Capitol. The headline: "Six hours of paralysis: Inside Trump's failure to act after a mob stormed the Capitol."

This headline is wildly misleading. Trump did not suffer from "paralysis," nor was his inaction due to "failure." Both words imply that there was a desire to act, but that Trump was somehow incapable. The reality: Trump refused to act.

He had incited the mob and delighted in their actions. He may very well have believed it was going to work to keep Congress from certifying Joe Biden's win, especially if the insurrectionists had successfully captured or killed members of Congress or Vice President Mike Pence. But one thing that should be beyond all shadow of a doubt is that Trump refused to do anything to stop the riot because he was loving every minute of it.

This framing is all the more aggravating because the details provided by Washington Post reporters Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker make the ill will behind Trump's behavior crystal clear. They report that Trump refused to take calls from the various congressional members who called for help. They describe a situation where aides and family members pleaded with Trump for hours, yet he refused to listen, and instead was glued to his TV and soaking in every delicious moment of the chaos he caused. When he finally caved and released a message telling his followers to "go home in peace," he only did so "begrudgingly," the Post reporters write.

"Trump watched with interest, buoyed to see that his supporters were fighting so hard on his behalf, one close adviser said," they write.

The reporters describe a situation where aides are begging Trump to tell the insurrectionists to stand down, but he would only agree to ask for vague "support" for law enforcement, writing, "They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!"

But Trump "had not wanted to include the final instruction to 'stay peaceful,'" they report. Hours later, Trump reluctantly agreed to release a video telling rioters to go home, but only on the condition that he continue to tell lies about the election, resulting in a video that was less a call for peace and more further incitement. Even Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a reliable Trump sycophant, admitted, "The president saw these people as allies in his journey and sympathetic to the idea that the election was stolen."

These details matter because Trump's behavior is not ambiguous. He incited an insurrection, and once it was underway, he reacted with excitement and delight. His actions were purposeful and malevolent. He wanted all this to happen and got grumpy at anyone who wanted it to stop.

This has been backed up by other reporting showing that Trump's inner circle is quite clear that he was over the moon about the insurrection. Nebraska's Republican Sen. Ben Sasse reported that he called the White House during the siege and not only was Trump "delighted" about the melee, but he was also "confused about why other people on his team weren't as excited as he was."

Last week, the New York Times reported that Trump only taped a video reluctantly conceding defeat after "he appeared to suddenly realize he could face legal risk for prodding the mob." This was after counsel from his lawyer, Pat Cipollone, and a statement from the D.C. federal prosecutor indicating that charging Trump was a possibility. He obviously didn't mean a word of it and was only trying to save himself from prison.

Trump's support for the insurrection and hatred of anyone who fought back continues to manifest in actions such as refusing to lower the flags for the Capitol police officer who was beaten to death by the mob and only giving in reluctantly after being badgered about it by his aides for days

And yet, the latest Washington Post story, while bristling with examples of how Trump acts out of malice and not ignorance, keeps framing his actions in a more innocent light, describing Trump as "a president paralyzed" and "more passive viewer than resolute leader".

This is flatly false. Trump was not being passive at all. He actively incited the mob and he willfully refused to do anything to call them off. He did this deliberately, having exhausted every other avenue he pursued to steal the election. These were not the actions of a man too stupid to act. These were the actions of a man knowingly trying to overthrow a legal election.

On the opinion page of the Washington Post, Greg Sargent describes the events recounted more accurately, describing it as "President Trump's depraved and malevolent response to the violent siege of the Capitol" and noting Trump's "solipsistic, even sadistic pleasure in watching a mob lay siege to our seat of government in his name."

On Wednesday, House Democratic leadership will almost certainly impeach Trump for "incitement of insurrection." Trump's state of mind and intentionality is crucial to making the case for impeachment and removal. In addition, if Trump is to be prosecuted when he leaves office — and he absolutely should be — it's important that the strong evidence he acted intentionally not be muddied by cowardly reporting.

The good news is that there's no real confusion about Trump's state of mind. He wanted this riot, he wallowed in it, and he lashed out like a whiny child to anyone who suggested that armed insurrection is a bad look.

The bad news is that there's a massive campaign, from right-wing pundits and Republican politicians, to muddy the waters and downplay the seriousness of what happened. And that campaign is directly aimed at the mainstream media, to discourage honesty about last week's events and bully journalists into using minimizing or excusing language. Language like "paralysis" and "failure," instead of more accurate descriptions capturing the intentionality of Trump's actions.

It is critical that outlets like the Washington Post not go further down this path of placating right-wing radicals — even if that term describes most Republicans these days — by swaddling the insurrection in euphemism and falsely ascribing innocent motives to Trump when his enmity is as obvious as his combover.

Holding firm to the truth is crucial if we want to save our democracy. Yes, even if that truth involves hurting the snowflake-delicate feelings of the American right.

Republicans are gaslighting America about Trump's coup -- and only impeachment can set the record straight

There is no doubt Donald Trump incited the insurrection on January 6. It happened largely in public and is recorded for posterity. Let's review the record:

Trump didn't add, "if you know what I mean," but he didn't have to — the people who stormed the U.S. Capitol armed with guns, pipe bombs and flex cuffs to take members of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence hostage understood Trump's wink-and-nudge style loud and clear.

None of this is subtle or confusing. Unsurprisingly, however, right-wing media figures — who want to continue to push conspiracy theories and agitate their audiences with insurrectionist talk, but don't want to face consequences for it — have already begun the process of gaslighting about Wednesday's event, insisting that it's being blown out of proportion and shouldn't be treated like the insurrection that it was.

Media Matters has a good round-up of the various strategies being employed by right wing media to spin Wednesday's events as something less serious than an attempted coup spurred on by Trump himself. Fox News' Tucker Carlson is reframing the insurrectionists as the real victims, subject to imaginary liberal incursions on vaguely defined "freedom." Laura Ingraham is working the "both sides do it" angle, falsely equating random and disorganized acts of vandalism during Black Lives Matter protests with the Trump crowd's direct attempt to overthrow the U.S. government and likely murder congressional leaders. Sean Hannity is still working the "antifa did it!" lie, even after the FBI announced no evidence linking anti-fascist activists to the Trump-motivated mob. And Rush Limbaugh is denying that the insurrection was violent, saying it was simply people taking "selfies," ignoring the fact that five people died, including a Capitol police officer who was beat to death by someone wielding a fire extinguisher. These tactics of deflection also ignore that the mob clearly intended more mayhem— rioters weren't carrying weapons and wearing armor for their health — and it was only a matter of luck that things didn't get worse.

Unfortunately, such right-wing media pressure campaigns have worked, going back at least to the 1990s, when a campaign by figures like Rush Limbaugh to downplay Timothy McVeigh's 1995 terrorist attack on a federal building in Oklahoma City effectively shut down needed discourse about the role that extremist rhetoric on the right played in the attack. Similarly, feigned outrage on the right over an FBI report in 2009 over the threat of domestic terrorism from returning veterans caused the Obama administration to buckle, withdrawing the report. Since then, there's been an air of heightened skepticism in mainstream media towards efforts by progressive activists to highlight the growing threat of domestic terrorism. Mainstream journalists have tended, all too often, to treat those warnings as hysterical, even in the face of terrorist attacks in El Paso and Pittsburgh.

Right-wing efforts to minimize right wing violence can work, so Democrats need to act swiftly to take control of the narrative. Republicans must not be allowed to rewrite history to minimize the seriousness of this situation. And the best possible tool that Democrats have right now to evade right wing gaslighting is impeachment.

The good news is that Democrats seem to understand this. After giving Vice President Mike Pence the whole weekend to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Trump from office, House Democrats announced that they would be introducing an article of impeachment on Monday, accusing Trump of "incitement of insurrection." Still, there still seems to be some desire on the part of House Democrats to give Pence another 24 hours, leading to a confusing timeline where the impeachment is likely not to be brought to the floor until Tuesday.

Pence will no doubt use this time to leak claims he's "thinking" about it, when he has no actual intention of doing so, in order to buy more time. Democrats should not be fooled and should not delay any further in the vain hope that Pence will abandon his lickspittle ways this late in life.

But understanding that Pence would rather let Trump send mobs after him to kill him than to invoke the 25th is not the only reason to move swiftly on impeachment. Even if Pence was to act — and he won't — impeachment is necessary to create a legal and historical record underscoring the truth: Trump incited a mob and sent them after Congress in an attempt to overthrow the U.S. government.

Articles of impeachment are the kind of official documentation that make it much harder for right wing forces to pressure mainstream media outlets to downplay what happened on Wednesday. It makes it a matter of public record that this was, indeed, an insurrection. That will help be a check against the impulse of cowardly editors and producers in mainstream media to give into the right wing gaslighting campaign. Impeachment will be a show of support from Congress for those who are willing to speak the truth, that we witnessed a coup, incited by Trump, against the leaders duly elected by the people of the United States.

It's a bummer that such a thing is necessary, of course. It would be nice if the truth was enough for the media, and right wing lies weren't so effective at shaping coverage. But it is what it is — bothsiderism has a remarkable gravitational pull, even in the face of an outrage as awful as Trump's attempted coup. Right now, the mainstream media is being refreshingly forthright about the violence of January 6. Impeachment will help stiffen their spines in the coming days and weeks, as the right wing media continues to insist the insurrection was merely a kerfuffle.

Don't be fooled — most Republicans still side with insurrectionists

Calling for "peace" was the word of the day on Capitol Hill Wednesday, after an insurrectionist mob overran the U.S. Capitol, in what was ultimately a failed attempt to prevent Congress from affirming Joe Biden's victory in November's presidential election. Some politicians — mostly Democrats, but a few clearly rattled Republicans — meant these words of peace. But some, most obviously Donald Trump himself, did not.

This article was originally published at Salon

In his repeated messages to supporters Wednesday and into Thursday, Trump made sure to sandwich every mealy-mouthed wish for peace in between carbo-loaded language inciting more violence by continuing to insist that he won "a sacred landslide election victory" and that it's being "unceremoniously & viciously stripped away."

Even after Twitter blocked his account for inciting violence, Trump kept talking out of both sides of his mouth. He released a statement with the words "orderly transition" in it — to please mainstream media headline writers — the bulk of it, however, continued with the violence-fomenting lies. "I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out," he insisted. Needless to say, the actual facts are that Biden won and there is no evidence whatsoever of widespread voter fraud.

Trump doesn't want peace.

Right now, those numbers are hard to gauge in the general public, though YouGov did a useful snap poll showing the majority of Republican voters — 68% — refused to describe an overt attempt to steal an election through violence as a threat to democracy. Forty-five percent of those Republicans went so far as to openly cheer the insurrection, but that 68% number is likely closer to the real support levels. It shows who is happy to go along with it, even if they make frowny faces and pretend that they don't like the more violent aspects of trying to overthrow a democratically elected government.

The other numbers that are relevant here are 121 and 138. Those are the House Republicans that voted to throw out the election results of Arizona and Pennsylvania, respectively. That means that 57% of House Republicans voted to void Arizona's election and a whopping 65% of House Republicans voted to void Pennsylvania's, which would disenfranchise millions of American voters.

The justification for this was false claims of voter fraud, and the justification for writing off the insurrectionists was even more conspiracy theories, as spouted by Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida.

Rep. Matt Gaetz and other GOP politicians baselessly suggest antifa is to blame for pro-Trump mob rioting into Capitol https://t.co/gM5sRjO77k
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) January 7, 2021

The real reason is, of course, that an increasing number of Republicans believe that elections cannot be legitimate if Democrats win them.

This is one of those classic situations where watching what people do matters a whole lot more than what they say, an aphorism that's particularly important when dealing with fascists, autocrats and others flavors of authoritarian, who have always been fond of playing peekaboo when it comes to their real beliefs. (Literally, philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote about this in the 1940s, when the authoritarian flavor of the day was actual Nazis.) There was lots of talk about desiring peace and civility on Capitol Hill yesterday, but when it came down to brass tacks, the majority of Republicans in the House sided with violent insurrectionists on the subject of whether or not a legitimate election should be overthrown and an illegal president installed into office.

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In his remarks yesterday, Biden said, "The scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect a true America, do not represent who we are. What we're seeing is a small number of extremists dedicated to lawlessness."

The first part of that statement is true, at least when it comes to America circa 2021. The majority of Americans are repulsed by the insurrection. The second part of that statement, however, is false. That was no small fringe of Americans, but people who represent the mainstream view of the Republican Party, most of whom support Trump's illegal efforts to hang onto power. That most don't have the physical courage to storm the capital — a group that includes Trump himself, who hid in the White House after falsely promising his supporters he would join them — doesn't change that fact. What matters is that they share the goals of the violent mob.

Granted, the GOP should be, based on sheer numbers, a minority party. Instead, it is wildly overrepresented in government, due to an outdated Constitution that gives more power to voters in sparsely populated areas than in dense urban areas. There should be no doubt that this disproportionate hold on power is one major reason Republicans are becoming increasingly radical. If they had to win over majorities of Americans, instead of just pandering to a right-wing minority that is concentrated in rural and suburban areas, Republicans would likely be more moderate.

But it's also true that 74 million Americans voted for Trump's reelection — while not the majority, is nearly 47% of the voters. That's a shockingly high number of people who backed a man who repeatedly signaled, before the election, that a violent coup was on the table should he lose.

No doubt some of those voters convinced themselves Trump was blowing hot air, and are not happy about how things are going right now. And that was almost certainly the case with some Republican members of Congress, who had been planning to vote in favor of throwing out the electoral college results but changed their mind after they were chased out of the congressional chambers by a violent mob of red hat idiots. In the Senate, most of the "sedition caucus" — 13 or so Republican Senators who were going to vote in favor of objections to counting ballots from some states Biden won — changed their minds, and voted down the objections.

But not all. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas put out a statement denouncing the insurrectionists, calling the riot "an act of terrorism." But then he went ahead and sided with the people he deemed terrorists, taking to the Senate floor in the hours after the assault to object to counting the votes from Arizona.

Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, on Wednesday afternoon, issued a similar smarmy statement declaring, "Violence is not how you achieve change." He then exposed his true allegiance to the insurrectionists by giving them exactly what they want: A motion to throw out the votes of the entire state of Pennsylvania.

Empty condemnations of violence are meaningless. What Hawley, Cruz, and the majority of House Republicans are standing for is a belief that elections should be voided if they don't like the results, and that it's okay to lie and cheat in order to steal elections. That kind of belief system inevitably leads to political violence, because it shares the same logic as political violence, which is that if you don't get what you want by playing fairly, you need to break the rules.

In many ways, Wednesday was a good day — two Democrats won Georgia's Senate run-off races, and, despite the chaos, Biden's victory was affirmed. But we cannot give in to pressure to shrug off Wednesday's events as some meaningless one-off event, not when the majority of Republicans support the aims of the insurrectionists.

Two things can be true at once. It can both be true that the wheels of democracy worked this week. It is also true our democracy is in serious danger, as long as the majority of Republicans keep down this path of authoritarianism. If we let Wednesday's victory lull us into a belief that everything is fine and the system is working, the next time Republicans try to overturn an election, they'll be able to pull it off.

Trump's ham-fisted extortion effort blows up in his face -- again

Donald Trump is clearly unhappy with having to sign the stimulus bill meant to relieve the massive economic pain from his bungled response to the coronavirus pandemic. Why else would he sign it abruptly, as he did late Sunday, to no fanfare? After all, this is a man who demands adulation at his every waking moment. Yet when it came to signing a bill that will send checks to millions of Americans, Trump was curiously camera-shy. Trump eschewing a camera is like a dog rejecting his favorite treat — clearly, the manbaby president isn't feeling so hot about how the stimulus standoff ended.

The reason is not particularly mysterious. Signing the bill, for Trump, was yet another massive failure in his long list of massive failures.

For six days, Trump has been threatening to tank this bill, possibly with a pocket veto. He was holding the economy hostage — and more specifically, holding hostage the chances of Republicans winning a Georgia Senate runoff or two — clearly hoping that doing so would be sufficient leverage to force Republican leadership on Capitol Hill into voiding his presidential election loss and illegally granting him a second term. But as often happens when Trump tries to live up to his own declarations of being a master negotiator, he face-planted— this time in a spectacularly humiliating style. So humiliating, that he approached signing the stimulus bill with the same attitude of a kid presenting himself for after school detention.

So what happened here? It's a little complicated, but ultimately, it's likely yet another one of Trump's failed schemes to steal the 2020 election from the real winner, former Vice President Joe Biden.

To recap: The $900 billion coronavirus legislation Trump signed was a compromise bill, passed through the Republican-controlled Senate only after many major concessions from the Democratic-controlled House, which passed its own much healthier $3 trillion package in May. Democrats wanted to cut checks to Americans for $1,200 a piece, along with more robust unemployment benefits and other major projects to reduce economic devastation from the pandemic. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who clearly didn't want to pass a second stimulus bill at all, only begrudgingly allowed a much smaller compromise — which includes $600 checks to Americans who made under $75,000 in 2019 — because he is worried that Georgia's GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue will lose their runoff elections to Democratic challengers on January 5.

But after the Senate bill passed, Trump suddenly declared he wasn't satisfied and declared he wanted a bill with $2,000 checks instead of the $600 his administration initially agreed to. He later upped the supposed ante by declaring he wanted to toss another two thousand dollars on for people with kids.

The whole thing was, despite the high hopes of some of the dimmer lights of social media punditry, never a sincere offer from Trump. As Helaine Olen of the Washington Post noted on Thursday, Trump "maintained a low profile in the months-long stimulus negotiations between Democrats and Republicans in Congress." If Trump wanted more money for Americans, he had months to push for it, but aside from a random tweet in the fall, as Olen points out, "he didn't bother" to push for more money in any "meaningful way."

No, as I argued last week, what Trump was up to was likely an extortion scheme, which is the only trick up his sleeve — and one he's not even particularly good at pulling. Trump believes, incorrectly, that McConnell and other Senate Republicans know how to steal the election, but are holding out on him. He hoped that by threatening McConnell's meager bill and therefore threatening the re-election of the two Georgia senators McConnell needs to hold onto his Senate majority Trump could shake the secrets to election theft out of McConnell. But, being bad at this, Trump didn't consider certain flaws in the plan, starting with the fact that McConnell simply has no way to steal the election for him and extortion will not change that fact. Nor did Trump consider that he would have to endure the humiliation of Democrats dunking on him non-stop.

The President must immediately call on Congressional Republicans to end their obstruction and to join him and Democrats in support of our stand-alone legislation to increase direct payment checks to $2,000, which will be brought to the Floor tomorrow. https://t.co/mMaMUNwRKR
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) December 28, 2020

Politico reports that Trump only signed the compromise bill "after days of being lobbied by allies," including Sen. Lindsey Graham, R.-S.C., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. What they said to him is not clear, especially since Trump, whose only interest is in himself, is unlikely to be interested in arguments about signing this bill for the good of the Republican party.

No, Trump likely only moved because it became evident that his extortion scheme had blown up spectacularly in his face, alienating the very people he (falsely) believes will be able to stop Biden's election certification on January 6.

But this should be no surprise. Trump's reputation as a skillful negotiator was always nonsense, the product of his only real talent, which is media manipulation. As Michael Kruse in Politico detailed in 2018, an examination of the evidence shows that Trump spent decades failing at even the easiest negotiations, blowing up a series of business deals and repeatedly incurring major bankruptcies. It's true that Trump did have some early successes in the late 70s and early 80s, but odds are that's because his lawyer/fixer Roy Cohn did the hard work for him. After Cohn's death, Trump's almost comical inability to negotiate became evident to anyone looking at the actual books and not listening to Trump's endless bragging.

So that's where Trump stands now: He didn't get anything he wanted, and, by making a pointless stink about all this, he's aggravated allies and invited his opponents to exploit him in embarrassing ways. He gave Democrats leverage to negotiate for a bigger bill, though it's still unlikely to pass Republicans, who didn't even really want the compromise bill. Ultimately, he exposed to Georgia voters what Mitch McConnell was trying to hide: Republicans are blocking their opportunity to get bigger checks.

The situation would be comical, except for the very real human cost to all of this.

By delaying the compromise bill with his little stunt, Trump allowed unemployment benefits to lapse and likely slowed the rollout of a vaccine. Losing even a couple of days like this can have a ripple effect through an already badly battered economy. But, of course, Trump never cared about that, just as he never really intended for anyone to get the $2,000 checks. He's not just playing games with people's lives. He's bad at playing them.

Here's why Trump supporters cling to their failed coup

For years, many liberals have been confused by why so many Donald Trump voters seem unperturbed by all his criming and cheating. To understand Trump's supporters, it's important to understand that they don't believe he's a good person. On the contrary, the appeal of Trump from the beginning was a belief that he's a liar, a cheat, and a crook — but one who would implement his evil-doing skills towards goals Republican voters support, with triggering the liberals and snagging all the government goodies for their tribe at the expense of other Americans at the top of the list.

This article was originally published at Salon

This wasn't exactly subtle. Trump repeatedly promised his supporters during the 2016 campaign that "Nobody knows the system better than I do." He often bragged about his supposed skills at buying off and working politicians.

"My whole life I've been greedy, greedy, greedy. I've grabbed all the money I could get. I'm so greedy," Trump crowed to an adoring crowd in early 2016. "But now I want to be greedy for the United States. I want to grab all that money. I'm going to be greedy for the United States."

The key is realizing that the typical Trump supporter, as I explained in the Standing Room Only newsletter, sees himself as in on the con. Indeed, the easiest way to hoodwink someone is to convince them that they're part of the conspiracy, that they're the ones getting one over on someone else. Trump's story for his supporters was that all of politics is a rigged game, but this time he was rigging it for them.

All of which explains why Trump supporters, like their idol, are losing their minds right now. They elected a man who assured them he knew all the tricks and could get away with breaking any rule. But despite all his efforts at stealing the election from Joe Biden — and all the money he's raised from them to do so — Trump is failing. Trump's voters never believed he was an honest man, yet they got snookered by the biggest lie of all: that he had almost god-like powers to cheat the system.

The result is a nationwide tantrum from Trump's devout followers, who are raging incoherently at every opportunity, stunned and mentally wrecked by the revelation that Trump does not, in fact, have some secret plan to undo the election he lost.

On Monday, state legislators in Oregon got together to discuss proposals to mitigate the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic, a session that was closed to the public for health reasons. But outside, an armed and delusional crowd of Trump supporters — about 300 in number — gathered, screaming conspiracy theories about a "stolen" election that Trump has floated to justify his attempted coup. They also denounced restrictions on public gatherings and mask requirements that have been passed to curb the pandemic.

The protesters weren't allowed in the capitol building so they decided to storm the place with guns. They were met with state troopers in riot gear, but the troopers were understandably spooked and hesitant at times since they were dealing with an armed mob in thrall to dangerous delusions.

To make it worse, inside the capitol building, some Republican legislators were egging the armed militants on. Republican state senator Dallas Heard, in particular, went on a rant about how it was an "illegitimate session" because of the crowd restrictions and threatened that the "adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces," clearly intending to conflate people who believe in science and democracy with "adversaries of the Lord".

On the same day, across the country in Georgia, the two incumbent Republicans trying to keep their Senate seats in January's run-off election were having a bad time at what was supposed to be a campaign rally.

Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue found it was hard to be heard over throngs of Republican voters chanting "stop the steal," which has become the rallying cry for people who support Trump's efforts to steal the election. (Confusing, I know, for pro-steal people to declare they're the victims of election theft, but psychological projection is the beating heart of modern conservatism.)

It's unlikely to hurt the electoral prospects of either Senator, to be clear — conservatives may be delusional, but they still know better than to give their power away by not voting. But the situation shows that Republican voters aren't ready to "move on", and are still angry and confused about why the president they voted for, the man who assured them he knew all the tricks to cheat the system, the man who claimed he had an "elite strike force" at his disposal, can't figure out how to nullify the election.

Meanwhile, a chorus of increasingly deranged voices are pushing Trump voters further and further towards the edge.

Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, keeps demanding that Trump declare martial law and threatening violence if the president fails to comply. The military coup plan is also being pushed by the Epoch Times, a far-right conspiracy theory-laden rag that has grown in popularity as irate conservative audiences reject Fox News for not being unhinged enough. The Family Research Council, which is an incredibly powerful lobbying force in the GOP, has also been putting out "prayers" (which are really press releases) asking God to "expose all election interference and voter fraud engineered by foreign enemies."

Tuesday morning, Axios released an article detailing how Trump has gone into berserker mode, accusing "everyone around him" of being "weak, stupid or disloyal" for not supporting a plan to use military or Department of Homeland Security powers to seize voting machines. (This wouldn't work anyway, since the votes have been tallied and the Electoral College has certified Biden's victory.)

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It's definitely fun to imagine the suffering of Trump and all the people who have enabled him all these years, of course. One can even hope Trump will never recover and will spend the rest of his life lost in a miserable black hole of rage and paranoia. Unfortunately, however, Trump is taking his supporters with him, and that's a problem.

We now have millions of Americans — nearly three-quarters of Republicans reject the legitimacy of the election — believing elections should only count if they win them. This is the mentality that led to the Civil War erupting in the wake of Abraham Lincoln's electoral win in 1860. But, as New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie pointed out in his newsletter, the different camps are no longer divided by geography, and "we are bound to each other, whether we like it or not."

Don't believe anyone who claims to know what will happen next, now that an entire political party — one that controls most state governments, the courts, and the Senate — has embraced an anti-democratic ideology. This is uncharted territory for the country. It may be that this is a temporary delusion and Trump voters will eventually chill out and start pretending they weren't flirting with a fascist coup. Or they could become more hardened and violent with time. Or it could be that some go one way and others become terrorists. The scariest thing of all is that we won't know how this Trump-induced delusion shakes out for months, or even years to come.

Trump's coup goes beyond a grift: The president is desperately seeking any path to stay in power

For weeks now, Donald Trump's hopes of stealing the 2020 presidential election from the winner, Joe Biden, have been fading. Nonetheless, the dumbest and worst president in American history continued sending out fundraising appeals to his endlessly gullible supporters, giving birth to the theory — to which I, personally, subscribed — that Trump's coup is little more than another one of his many schemes to defraud people. After all, the Trump campaign spent very little on the actual legal efforts to challenge the election and redirected most of the cash into what is likely going to be used as a slush fund for Trump and his family.

And yet, as Maggie Haberman and Zolan Kanno-Youngs reported in the New York Times on Saturday, Trump is deep in talks with an increasingly unhinged cast of characters, all of whom believe there must be a way to steal the election even though the Electoral College made Biden's win official last week. The president invited conspiracy theorists like his former lawyer Sidney Powell and former national security advisor Gen. Michael Flynn to the White House on Friday to discuss a potential declaration of martial law as a last-ditch effort to force a second vote in some swing states. That suggestion came from the disgraced Flynn, who has been involved in violently oppressive work on behalf of Turkey's authoritarian leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan

The group also discussed "an executive order to take control of voting machines to examine them," though it's unclear what that would accomplish. There's no reason to think the voting machines were hacked and it's unlikely that Trump's team has the technical know-how to alter the machines to generate vote tallies more pleasing to Trump.

The chattering politicos of Twitter responded to news of such a bizarre spectacle by arguing about the odd placement of the article on page A28 in the New York Times print edition, with one side arguing that the president considering a military coup is major news no matter what, and the other side arguing that because Trump isn't going to pull it off there's no reason to get fussed about it. The latter group is wrong, of course, as Trump is still incredibly successful at undermining democracy, even if he's failing to steal the White House.

The story isn't just alarming because Trump is flirting with violence, either. It's alarming because it's proof that Trump is continuing to push these idiotic conspiracy theories because he really, truly does think there's still a way for him to steal this election.

That isn't to say this coup is not a fundraising grift. Of course, it is. With Trump, everything is a cash grab. This one is apparently a desperate effort to stay one step ahead of the creditors he's quite likely up to a billion dollars in debt to. But the fact that he's actually taking meetings with wild-eyed conspiracy theorists like Sidney Powell, the head of his coup operations, and otherwise putting effort into this suggests that Trump really does think there's a "Get Out Of Democracy Free" card, and it's just a matter of finding the person who has it.

Similarly, Anita Kumar and Gabby Orr at Politico published a piece detailing Trump's weeks of making phone calls to various Republican officials, hoping they would just clear up this nagging "lost the election" problem for him, only to be rebuffed. (Not because these officials wanted to rebuff him, to be clear. It's just that there was no way for most of them to help him without opening themselves up to legal consequences.) Orr and Kumar document 31 different state and local officials Trump leaned on to steal the election for him — and that's not counting the House Republicans Trump pressured into signing an amicus brief supporting a petition to the Supreme Court to simply throw out the results in three swing states that went to Trump.

"There was always this feeling of supreme confidence that no matter how it looks it's all going to work out for him," Scott Jennings, a longtime GOP operative who is close to Trump's team, told Politico.

In particular, Trump's relentless abuse of Georgia's Republican governor, Brian Kemp, suggests he really does believe that it's just a matter of applying the right combination of bribes and blackmail before someone finally 'fesses up and admits that they actually do know how to make that nasty election just go away.

"Your governor could stop it very easily if he knew what the hell he was doing," Trump told the crowd at a Georgia rally. "So far we haven't been able to find the people in Georgia willing to do the right thing."

Where Trump got this idea that there's always a guy who knows his way around the rules isn't a mystery. Trump's mentor was the inarguably evil but definitely skilled lawyer/fixer Roy Cohn. Cohn really did have a talent for leveraging bribes and blackmailing anyone to help his clients, like Trump, evade the law or other obstacles. It's likely no coincidence that Trump's business went from successful to bankrupt after Cohn died. Cohn's influence is also seen in Trump's strategy to cheat in the election by leaning on the Ukrainian president for help using threats to withhold U.S. military aid.

But even Cohn didn't have the power to make an election just disappear with a few well-placed phone calls. Trump is just unburdened by Cohn's intelligence. He is not bright enough to see that this isn't one of those "I know a guy who can fix that for you" situations.

Of course, as neuroscientist Dr. Seth Norrholm told Salon's Chauncey DeVega, a huge part of the problem here is that Trump is surrounded by enablers. "The worst thing one can do for a malignant narcissist or an abuser like Donald Trump is to tell him or her that they are correct or to otherwise validate the lies and false persona," Norrholm explained.

It's clear from the reporting that Trump has a nice, soft cushion of people around him — such as Rudy Giuliani or Michael Flynn — feeding his lies and encouraging him to believe that the magic wand Trump can wave to stop Biden's presidency is out there, somewhere.

Why does it matter whether Trump actually believes he can win? Well, it makes him more dangerous. If this was just a grift, it would be enough for Trump to keep sending fundraising emails and tweeting, but otherwise retiring to the golf course. But he's still actively looking for buttons to push — and entertaining violence as a way to get his way — and he still has many weeks left in office in which he can use his existing power to continue undermining democracy.

Conservatives scramble to drum up fake scandals as it becomes clear that Trump is doomed

Needless to say, 2020 was quite the year — and not just for people who believe in preserving democracy and containing deadly pandemics.

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The GOP is dead -- but a crazy conspiracy cult is inhabiting its corpse

It's been happening for decades — but the transformation is now complete.

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Trump appointees protest politicization of the pandemic now — but the GOP has long distorted science

Wednesday morning, the New York Times published an exposé documenting the complaints of two Trump appointees at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) who witnessed "the White House's slow suffocation of the agency's voice, the meddling in its messages and the siphoning of its budget." It's an important and well-researched piece — but it's hard not to feel bad for the journalist, Noah Weiland, whose hard work will undoubtedly be met with a familiar chorus of "no duhs" from liberal readers and "fake news" from conservatives.

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Bill Barr gets the boot as Trump's long history of disloyalty strikes again

Attorney General Bill Barr, after much hinting from the palace intrigue press, has finally gotten the boot, er, resigned, a mere 36 days before the will of the voters forced him out the door. The announcement, released on Donald Trump's Twitter feed as usual, was a long time coming, as Trump has reportedly been furious at Barr for not doing more to falsify evidence of "voter fraud" that Trump can use to justify his ongoing and failing efforts to steal the election. Trump's pressure campaign on Barr to break the law got so out of control recently that Barr reportedly had to ban a White House liason from visiting the Department of Justice (DOJ) offices. But while Barr no doubts his good reputation on Capitol Hill can be restored by parachuting out of the burning plane at the 11th hour, no one should mistake this ending as a redemption tale for Barr.

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Right-wing anger is exploding because they know they're losing — and not just the election

In vino veritas, or perhaps more appropriately, in Bud Light veritas: These were the words that came to mind while I watched Saturday's Proud Boys riot in Washington, D.C.

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