In 2020 Trump switched the emphasis in his campaign from telling Americans that they should feat the Mexican rapists at the border to a message of black anarchists and Antifa left wing radicals in American cities. In each the real message was “America needs a strong man and I Donald Trump can save you.” This is a strategy of authoritarian leaders forever. It is the default strategy. As amazing as it sounds that is an attractive message to millions of people. More than 70 million American voters bought it.
This was the message of white nationalism or white supremacy in 2020. It may not have won the presidential election for Trump but it is still a powerful message.
It does not matter in the world of resentment and lies. These go together like love and marriage. Or as my good friend says, like pee and porcelain. All of his was enabled by a prolonged attack on truth and it allowed Trump to spew out outrageous lies on election night with complete impunity.
I listened to two very engaging thinkers on Amanpour and Co recently. One of them was Jason Stanley the author of How Fascism Works: the Politics of US vs. Them.
Stanley pointed out for weeks before the election Trump was tweeting about voter fraud and things like that to discredit the election before it even happened, so that if he lost Americans would believe the election was “corrupt” or a “fraud” or a “hoax.” Then sure enough Trump pulled out this card on the evening of the election (well really the morning after). Trump did not take the high road that Al Gore did after the final Supreme Court decision when he lost to George Bush. For the good of the country Gore said he would let it be and support President elect Bush. Trump never takes the high road. It is not in his nature.
Trump asserted, as always without any evidence, “I have won the election. I got more legal votes than Joe Biden.” Stanley pointed out,
“This is typical authoritarian behavior. Trump had been warning the world for a couple of months before the election that it would be “rigged” or “corrupt” or “fraudulent” so no one should be surprised. Secondly it shows remarkable long term planning. Months ago the president announced an attack on the post office. He claimed there was “voter fraud” when there wasn’t. The Covid denialism he spread made his voters more likely to appear on the same day as the election to cast their vote. So we always knew he would have a lead among same day in-person voters. So this has been the strategy all along, to declare victory that night before the votes were all in so he could later announce the others were fraudulent. It was a clear strategy to undermine the election process. This is exactly what he did repeatedly leading up to the November 4th election day.”
Clearly some voters bought this narrative. Many of us saw this rabid Trump supporter the day after the election in Nevada try to interrupt an TV interviewer talking to a poll worker who was explaining how thorough they were in counting all the legal votes and discarding the illegal ones. The Trump fan kept shrieking to the cameraman, “Joe Biden and evil crime family are trying to steal the election.” The fan was livid, but like his hero, offered no evidence only shrieks. But the interesting thing is that the leader of “his side” saw it before it happened. A month before the election he “knew” it would be fraudulent. So of course the fan believed it. As did many other Trump fans.
Since the election the streets of American cities have seen a number of “rallies” by Trump supporters demonstrating their undying faith in Trump. Like any good faith, it is strong in the absence of evidence. That is what faith is all about.
Truth may be dead but faith is alive and well.
But can they live long without each other?