It was a matter of time before Trumpy populists began splintering into different sects. By the time this fiasco is over, there’ll be an entire religious taxonomy associated with it. Democrats are heathens; Republicans who don’t buy Trump’s election-fraud claims are heretics and apostates; Republicans who *do* buy Trump’s election-fraud claims (or are least willing to go along with them) but feel obliged to vote in the Georgia Senate runoffs anyway are mainline MAGA; and Republicans who buy Trump’s election-fraud claims and think doing so requires boycotting Georgia elections until the “fraud” is undone are fundamentalist MAGA.
The problem the president’s created for himself with his “Georgia was rigged but you should vote in their next rigged election anyway” message is that it leaves him with a potential schism on his hands. The fundies have a point: If you believe fraud occurred, you should have the courage of your convictions and decline to participate in Georgia’s sham system until it’s reformed. Trump wants to get Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue elected, though, partly to show that he’s still a political force on his way out the door and partly to remain in the good graces of righties who want their party succeed even with Trump out of office. As usual, he’s putting his own interests first.
So he’s thrown in with the mainliners against the fundies. And that’s going to create tension. Click the images in the tweet for larger versions:
Breitbart and Gateway Pundit now divided on Lin Wood situation pic.twitter.com/uod8AFzdQP
— Jon Levine (@LevineJonathan) December 3, 2020
The piece Breitbart published yesterday smells like part of a coordinated effort by the White House to discredit Wood before he and Sidney Powell manage to talk Georgia Republicans into an election debacle. Ed already noted Newt Gingrich’s tweet to the same effect this morning…
Lin Wood and Sidney Powell are totally destructive. Every Georgia conservative who cares about America MUST vote in the runoff. Their dont vote strategy will cripple America
— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) December 3, 2020
…but, more significantly, Trump’s own campaign ended up tweeting out a link to the Breitbart piece:
Records: Lin Wood Has for Decades Voted for, Donated to Democrats Including Barack Obama and David Perdue’s 2014 Opponent https://t.co/Sbw5ZWnpar
— Trump War Room (@TrumpWarRoom) December 3, 2020
And here’s a new one of note out this afternoon from an unlikely figure, someone who probably wouldn’t risk alienating the fundie part of the base lest it jeopardize his future presidential chances unless the White House had made a request of him:
I don’t know who this clown is, but anyone saying America would be better off w/ Chuck Schumer as Majority Leader—producing huge tax increases, the Green New Deal, massive amnesty & a packed Supreme Court destroying the Bill of Rights—is trying to mislead the people of Georgia. https://t.co/jtEPT2UtzF
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) December 3, 2020
It’s strange to me that Wood is being pulverized for having donated to Democrats when the leader of this cult, Donald J. Trump, did so himself many times over the years and even boasted about it during the 2016 primaries. I was just playing the corrupt game that our corrupt system requires, Trump said at the time. If you want some influence with politicians, you have to take out your checkbook. Why are Wood’s donations to Democrats any sleazer or more disqualifying than Trump’s were, particularly considering that Wood’s donated to Republicans too (or so he says)?
It’s obvious what’s happening here. Just as Trump dumped Sidney Powell from his legal team once she started insinuating that Loeffler might have benefited from fraud to defeat Doug Collins, now he’s hammering Wood to counterprogram Wood’s and Powell’s call yesterday for Georgians to boycott the Senate runoff elections. Anything goes with respect to the big voter-fraud kabuki as far as Trump, Senate Republicans, and mainstream MAGA media are concerned — with one exception. You can make any claim of cheating you like, however wild and unsubstantiated; you can accuse anyone you like of having participated in it (except for Trump, Senate Republicans, and mainstream MAGA media, of course); you can even threaten and intimidate local election officials and no one will say sh*t beyond a perfunctory “threats are bad” written statement.
But you do not, not, not jeopardize the GOP’s chances of holding the Senate by discouraging Republicans from voting for Loeffler and Perdue. That’s the red line that Powell and then Wood crossed. Trump and his cronies don’t care who’s libeled, who gets death threats, or what sort of dangerous, borderline seditious garbage is pushed by populist influencers to feed the fantasy that widespread vote-rigging really did happen even though no one’s been able to prove it in court. All of that’s fine to these creatures. But threaten their power and you’re out. The hit pieces about your donations to Democrats will flow within hours.
I sure hope the president doesn’t come to find that the Frankenstein he’s created in Wood and Powell, enabled by his own reckless conspiracy theorizing, turns out to be more powerful and influential than he expected. There’s nothing set in stone anywhere that entitles him to be the head of the fundamentalist MAGA church in perpetuity.
The only interesting detail in all of this is the possibility that Mike Pence, Trump’s most loyal deputy, has hopped off the MAGA train now that it’s derailed and is running over American norms involving the peaceful transfer of power:
Since Nov. 25, not a single fundraising email from the Trump campaign or its Republican National Committee fundraising account has featured Pence’s name in the “from” field. And this week, that Republican National Committee joint fundraising committee, the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, made another subtle change: a handful of its emails swapped out the official Trump-Pence campaign logo for one featuring just the president’s name…
[S]everal high-level sources say that the graphics change, along with Pence’s disappearance from the headers of President Donald Trump’s increasingly frantic and conspiratorial pleas, are not actually coincidental. According to four people with knowledge of the matter, they reflect an effort by the vice president and his team to distance Pence from some of the president’s more outlandish claims about a conspiracy to undermine the election and illegally deny him a second term in office.
“It is an open secret [in Trumpworld] that Vice President Pence absolutely does not feel the same way about the legal effort as President Trump does,” said a senior administration official. “The vice president doesn’t want to go down with this ship… and believes much of the legal work has been unhelpful.”
Pence has barely tweeted about election irregularities, notes the Daily Beast. It’s strange to me to think of him backing away now when he more than anyone has always seemed to grasp that one’s loyalty to Trump is only as good as the next loyalty test. He’s bitten his tongue for more than four years and backed Trump every time he’s been pressed to do so because that’s simply what’s required when you work for the president. Ask Bill Barr. There’s no such thing as a “reservoir of goodwill” with Trump and his admirers. The moment you let him down, you’re a traitor or “compromised.” The deal between Pence and Trump, I always thought, was that Pence would serve him loyally until he left office and then, maybe, if Trump himself didn’t want to run for president again and his kids weren’t willing to do so for whatever reason, Trump might endorse Pence. Or, at the very least, Pence might convince him not to endorse anyone in the field and then count on his name recognition and Trump pedigree to make him the favorite of rank-and-file MAGA voters.
Conspicuously refusing to participate in the voter-fraud kabuki means Pence is now at risk of moving from the “mainline MAGA” category to “heretics and apostates.” Why would he do that? Has Trump at long last crossed a line that Pence can’t tolerate? That’s highly unlikely. Or did Pence realize that Trump and/or his kids are probably going to run for president in the next several cycles, making Pence unlikely to win the MAGA vote and even less likely to win Trump’s endorsement? If his presidential dreams have finally been dashed, he might as well finally, finally do the right thing. Except … he’s not really doing the right thing. He’s not speaking out to say that there was no fraud and that people should stop sending death threats to election officials, for fark’s sake. He’s nothing at all, as he’s wont to do.
Here’s a desperate-sounding Lindsey Graham begging the “elite strike force” of Trump’s legal team to put up some convincing evidence of systemic fraud in court already, for the love of God.
Lindsey Graham: To the Trump Legal Team, you’re making all these claims, you gotta prove it. Doing a video is not proof. pic.twitter.com/OROJVisnpO
— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) December 3, 2020