A few weeks ago, I had to confront the fact that ignoring Donald Trump was no longer a viable course of action. The legitimate danger of giving oxygen to his antics, and the comfort taken from pretending he didn’t exist, has been overcome by the indisputable menace posed by his growing movement to burn what exists of U.S. democracy to the ground.
“The trick will be to approach this with critical consciousness,” I wrote at the time. “Don’t listen to what Trump bleats during his daily diatribes, and if you’re a media type, don’t spread it. No more ‘Can you believe he said this?!’ stories, please. No more free wall-to-wall coverage of his ‘Yay fascism!’ rallies, either. Instead, watch what he does, and more importantly, watch what his people do.”
So here I sit less than a month later, preparing to break my own rule because circumstances demand it. “Don’t listen to what Trump bleats,” I said. “Instead, watch what he does.” Well, the man has bleated again, but this particular gobbet of intellectual mush has enough political gravity to make the words themselves an act. To wit: Trump, with a single statement, has dumped a beach worth of sand into the gears of Republican election hopes in ‘22 and ‘24.
The statement, posted yesterday to Trump’s website, came out of absolutely nowhere: “If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented), Republicans will not be voting in ‘22 or ‘24. It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do.”
… and scene.
Trying to determine what Trump was thinking when he released this statement is like trying to read a dog’s mind while it is eating its own vomit. If there’s reason to the dog’s actions beyond the compulsion to simply DO SOMETHING VERY STRANGE, it is not visible to the naked eye… yet there sits the dog, tail wagging, munching away.
What would motivate him to order his own voters to stay home? I suspect there is an element of jumping the gun here; like a skittish racehorse, Trump is leaping out of the gate before the bell because being endlessly grabby is his essential nature.
While statements like this are clearly part of Trump’s overarching efforts to undermine democracy and faith in elections, the fact remains that he still needs his voters to gain the power he requires to get what he wants. He seeks to recreate the country into an authoritarian playground where voting is not a substantive part of the process, but he’s not there yet. We’re not there yet, and this specific attack on the election process could prove to be wildly counterproductive.
I had a feeling something like this was coming. Upon tuning back into Trumpworld, I discovered that my instincts for predicting his eruptions — honed over five long years of daily observation — remain keen. He has been growling at Facebook and Twitter again, demanding the social media behemoths free him from his electronic cell. More significantly, he has been dropping hints left and right about another run in ‘24.
Just a hunch here, but I also think he’s just plain old pissed. I think he’s dying to tell the world he is going to run again, because he needs the adulation the way sunflowers crave the dawn (and the immediate boost in fundraising would help him stave off imminent financial calamity)… but they won’t let him. “They,” in this instance, is a battalion of advisers who have been telling him such an announcement would detonate the GOP’s hopes for taking back the House and Senate next year.
Every midterm would immediately be about him — which he would love, of course, but which would also give Mitch McConnell an ulcer the size of a car battery — and the party would almost certainly lose seats they could either hold or take back. That’s the Trump-centric math from 2018 and 2020, and there’s no reason to believe it has substantially changed.
Donald Trump does not do “thwarted.” Over and over again during his administration, whenever he was forced to choke out a “qualification” for the latest rancid filth he’d uttered, a window of silence would open for 24 to 72 hours. Somewhere in that span, and never later than three days afterward, the man would go violently sideways and blow up everything he just tried to fix. It became as predictable as the tide, and this statement is prima facie evidence that the phenomenon lives on.
It’s possible I’m overstating things here. After all, it’s just another Trump statement, another dank fart in the midnight breeze, here and gone… except let’s not forget about Georgia. Mitch McConnell is the minority leader today because the Democrats won two seats in Georgia, and they won those seats in large part because Trump voters stayed home to protest the “stolen” election.
Now here he is, all but ordering the faithful to shun the ballot box again unless he is magically reinstated as president. Only a guess, but I’m betting the folks at Republican Party headquarters looked like Richard Sherman after the Butler interception when they heard about this. Everything seemed to be going so well, too.
From the tone of the statement, it sounds like Trump has the bit fully in his teeth with this one. I doubt this is the last time we will hear such proclamations/orders, and in any event, he got some attention out of it.
There are two lessons here. First, Trump is about Trump, forever and ever, amen. That will never change. If the Republican Party is burned down to the stumps because of his behavior, he won’t lose a wink of sleep over it.
Second, any pundit or columnist predicting certain doom for the Democrats next year with Trump in the mix like this is throwing darts into a tornado trying to hit the triple bull. Just stop. The man is an agent of chaos, and he cares as much for the fate of the GOP as he does for the last contractor he stiffed on the bill. So long as he is around chucking bombs like this, the next two elections are wide open.