Trump Into the Briar Patch

In the rugby scrum that we like to call our presidential politics, I would like to point out that some of the candidates have had their shorts pulled down around their ankles, and a few of the others appear to be slashing wildly with their switchblades. I mean, the refs totally should have flagged that, but two of them appear to be dead, and the remaining two appear to be somewhat cowed. And so all of this seems to call for a different sort of political. analysis than what is usually provided.

What sort of analysis, you ask? I will tell you. Trenchant. Insightful. Surprising. Weird. Unsparing. Focused. Mordant.

Even during times when presidential politics are somewhat normal, it is not possible for any of us to understand fully what is going on. So many millions of people are involved, and that means multiple variables multiplied—even though the fact of two stable parties does mean that you are only dealing with two basic vectors. But in times of chaos, crisis, and consternation, like ours, then you have multiple variables and multiple vectors, and so attempts at analysis necessarily resemble the efforts of a sophomore philosophy major, stoned out of his gourd, trying to write an essay for some art appreciation course, wrestling with a question assigned by a woke TA, a question that asks for a treatment of marginalized voices in the light of the painting Convergence by Jackson Pollock. So bear with me.

A Separate Section with Just One Pull Quote—a Teaser, If You Will.

You cannot bring about a return to normal presidential politics by nominating a normal candidate.

Rube Tarbox

Trump Fatigue

Lots of people are just tired of all the drama, but they are also sick of the demented nature of our times, which this is why a conservative candidate like DeSantis is so attractive to them. Let’s just nominate someone like DeSantis, and not someone like Scott, or Haley, or Hutchinson. Let’s be done with the squishes and voices of moderation, the argument goes, but we can still nominate someone who, as the glossy brochures put it, “will fight for conservative values.” But he is also a regular guy, meaning that the prospect of him winning won’t get the Left whipped up into a meringue topping.

But how are we going to do this now that the Left has discovered that getting whipped up into a meringue topping works so well for them? Mark it well. Whoever gets nominated by the Republicans will be the next designated Nazi. Whoever gets nominated will be “dangerous enough to democracy” to justify a bit of jiggering with the ballots we have in the trunk here.

The challenge in all of this is that having elections that are not brazenly rigged is also one of those conservative values that everybody says they want to fight for. But if there are any monkeyshines in the 2024 election—and given how well it worked for the bad guys in 2020, why wouldn’t there be?—what would happen if any Republican candidate other than Trump complained that there was massive cheating? If it was close, and if he contested the results, there would be a collective eye roll over the Trump Redux. So if you want to fight for clean elections, or elections that look clean, that are above reproach, then you have plenty of material from 2020 to work with. You don’t have to make promises about a hypothetical election in 2024.

These problems, meaning the questions about the 2020 election, have to be cleaned up before there can be any return to normal presidential politics. Pretending that the previous eight years didn’t happen to us will not accomplish anything. Nominating a normal candidate will not return everything to normal. Nominating a normal candidate will simply make that poor sap, whoever he is, a punching bag that Homer himself couldn’t do justice to, however epic the simile.

The Obligatory Proviso, Which Critics Will Ignore Anyhow

None of this constitutes a declaration of what I intend to do at the polls in the fall of 2024. I don’t know yet. I can tell you what I will do if, or how I will act provided that, and you might glean some of that thinking from what I am writing here. Again, bear with me.

But whatever you think about Trump the man—crude, boorish, his own worst enemy, whatever—it has to be acknowledged by all sober wits that his deep state enemies in official Washington have been a thousand times worse. His adversaries have proven themselves proficient in dirty politics at dumpster-scraping levels.

We can all see it too. The play they are currently running is to ensure that anyone who is actively concerned about saving America from the commies has no other viable choice than that of voting for Donald Trump in the general election. I call all of this a naked attempt by the powers that be to manipulate an election, which someone recently told me is bad. It is election interference. They are seeking to steer, by means of bogus legal indictments, the primary selection process of the Republican Party so that the opponent preferred by the Left, Donald Trump, secures the nomination. These indictments put the sham back into shambolic.

They believe that their corrupt persecution of him can make him wildly popular with his base, thus securing him the nomination, while at the same time putting numerous dents in his electability for the general election. And that electability in the general election is already starting from a pronounced negative position, given all the mud-gobbing of the last six years. Perfectly cynical, and all they had to do to achieve this was to turn Merrick Garland’s office into a nest of goons. Or so they thought.

These indictments put the sham back into shambolic.

It should go without saying, but I will say it anyhow. This is not a legitimate use of the justice system. It is breathtakingly vile.

The J6 Briar Patch Indictment

This indictment brought by Jack Smith has to do with the former president’s behavior on J6. Criminal charges have been brought against him for seeking to interfere with the results of the 2020 election. He is being charged with conspiring to obstruct the official government function of “collecting, counting, and certifying” the results of the election, along with various other related things. All pretty serious, at least until you think about it for a minute.

Does Trump have the right to think that there was massive election fraud in key battleground states? If he thinks that, is he allowed to say it? The First Amendment says that he does. If he believes that Congress is about to do something egregiously bad, does he have the right to petition Congress for a redress of his grievances? Why yes, the First Amendment gives him that right as well.

Does the First Amendment give Trump the right to send Buffalo Man into the Capitol to block Congress in the course of their duties? Well, of course not. But Trump didn’t do that. He said that the people he was speaking to were going to head over to the Capitol after his speech in order “to peacefully and patriotically make [their] voices heard.” The rioting part—which was Certainly Bad—was somebody else’s idea. Maybe it was cooked up by Ray Epps, or some of those other FBI cats. Or maybe it was the Oathkeepers and the FBI working in tandem. We’ll get back to them in a minute.  

So here’s the briar patch part. Given these charges, the Trump defense team is now in what is called “discovery.” In building Trump’s defense, they now have subpoena power, and they also have a courtroom in which the whole question of the legitimacy of the 2020 election will be the central point at issue. In the aftermath of the election itself, you will remember there were multiple legal challenges of the results, and those cases all went against Trump. But they went against Trump overwhelmingly without the evidence itself being heard. They were slapped down on “standing” issues. The cases were not heard, in other words.So this indictment by Jack Smith has given Trump everything he ever wanted in this controversy.

The charge is that Trump fraudulently tried to prevent Congress from certifying the election. His defense will be that he tried to prevent Congress from certifying a fraud. And in pursuit of that defense, he needs to be allowed to marshal as much evidence to that effect as he can.

So who might be subpoenaed? Let’s have some fun with this, shall we? Ray Epps. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Three or four officials from Maricopa County. Fifteen of Dinesh D’Souza’s 2,000 mules. The fifty intelligence officials who signed the letter saying that Hunter’s laptop was Russian disinformation. The director of the FBI, or whoever at the agency knows how many agents were in the crowd that day, and what they were up to. The head of the Capitol Police. Nancy Pelosi, to be asked why she turned down National Guard protection. The Capitol surveillance tapes. And the list will no doubt be way longer than this. With everybody concerned under oath, and with the cameras running.

And remember that the airing of all this evidence doesn’t have to prove the illegitimacy of the election (though I think it probably will). All it has to show is that Trump was not out of his mind to think so. It was a reasonable thing to believe. Everything about it looked fishy. And if he believed it, and he told some people to peacefully and patriotically protest it, the charges against him start to look to everyone what they look like to many of us now. They start to look as though his crime was not so much sedition as it was being the principal rival to and opponent of an incumbent president.

Banana republic stuff, in other words.

That Riggediest of Elections

Someone might protest, and they might even be sputtering by this point. They will object that I seem to be assuming, and somewhat serenely, that there is a prima facie case for believing the election was fraudulent. I will even bet that they could come up with 50 top intelligence officials who would testify that the election was as clean as a hound’s tooth.

Apart from the very different policies advocated by the different parties, and by the different candidates within those parties, we also have a sharp divide between the normal people and the conspiracy theorists. The normal people are all those who grant that many aspects of 2020 presidential election were extraordinarily dirty, and that it was 48% rigged, and the conspiracy theorists would be those who believe it was at least 63% rigged. Those 15 percentage points are the difference between George Will, bow tie and all, and Alex Jones.

Everybody grants, in various and sundry ways, that there was egregious election interference in 2020. I am not talking about disputed ballot drops in the middle of the night, or the Dominion voting machines—that stuff is in the fifteen percent—but rather about things like the fake Russian collusion story, and the FBI’s handling of Hunter’s laptop, and about 58 other things, stories that are now universally acknowledged to be as false as Cardi B’s eyelashes. “Yes, Hunter’s laptop is real. No, it was not Russian disinformation. Yes, we knew that all along. But it is high time for us to be moving on. Let the healing begin!”

We have been talking about the kind of election interference that is currently being thrown at the 2024 election.

What else can you call the serial indictments of the leading candidate of the opposition party? I am not talking about the kind of election interference that might have happened at 2 am election night in Georgia. I am talking about the kind that is being conducted in broad daylight, even as we speak, and which is the subject of every other headline on all of your news feeds. If you cannot see that having your principal opponent indicted in the middle of a campaign—especially when your own record is not all that hound’s toothy, and rhymes with Burisma—then the only thing I have to say is that you are as typhlotic as a . . . as a . . . as a bat.

70% Is No Trivial Number

To resort to the native language of evangelicals, the 2020 election does not have a good testimony. We already have huge questions of legitimacy—the last thing any government should want. If things continue to proceed as they are currently going, we are going to have a crisis of legitimacy.

Consider the compelling case made by Mollie Hemingway’s Rigged. And reflect also on how a recent CNN poll indicated that around 70% of Republicans believe that the 2020 election was not legitimate. Whatever else this is, including the prospect of being completely wrong, it is no longer a fringe belief. Completely independent of whether it is correct or not, that number represents a crisis of confidence, which is the same thing as a crisis of legitimacy. Like it or not, we are two steps away from the fighting starting.

Think about it for ten minutes. Work it into a thought experiment. Suppose that Trump secures the nomination. Suppose further that he manages to win the general election. Would there be riots in major cities across America? And will those riots be election interference? Would they be bad? Or would they be democracy in action?

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