Quantifying the staggering gullibility of the average Trump supporter has become increasingly tough to do.
The events leading up to the January 6 attack on the Capitol building were instructive. After the election was called for Joe Biden, Trump’s people kept deploying laughably inept raids on the legal system in state after state. Girded with arguments that amounted to, “Your Honor, this sack of red bliss potatoes proves the election must be overturned because spiders,” they were giggled and gaveled out of virtually every courtroom they appeared in.
More to the point, keen observers — and even the average bystander — could not fail to notice the brazenly unserious nature of the arguments being proffered. The idea that any respectable attorney actually expected to overturn a national election using arguments woven from belly button lint was, for many, a bridge too far.
“But hypocrisy aside, the suit is also a perfect microcosm for so many of the other cases we’ve seen filed in the past month,” University of Texas Law School professor Steve Vladeck wrote at the time. “It is lacking in actual evidence; it is deeply cynical; it evinces stunning disrespect for both the role of the courts in our constitutional system and of the states in our elections; and it is doomed to fail.”
So, what was it all for, then? The grift, of course.
Trump and his post-election PAC, Save America, raised hundreds of millions of dollars imploring supporters to pony up and pay for his vividly doomed courtroom fights… except the fine print on the donation page stated that he can use that money however he wishes. If Trump is eating a burger right now, odds are someone in his base inadvertently paid for it back in December. Some 40 percent of those Save America donations went to the Republican National Convention to cover “expenses,” and the rest went right into his hip pocket.
You have to figure that’s OK with most of that base, right? They’d be honored to buy a meal for the Fearless Leader, and since everything he says and does is being simultaneously carved onto stone tablets for posterity, who are they to judge how a successful man like that uses his (their) cash? The purpose of a cult is to stay in line, maintain that glassy look in the eye, and elevate all as being in service to the Cause.
This, however, is something else entirely:
Facing a cash crunch and getting badly outspent by the Democrats, the [Trump] campaign had begun last September to set up recurring donations by default for online donors, for every week until the election. Contributors had to wade through a fine-print disclaimer and manually uncheck a box to opt out.
As the election neared, the Trump team made that disclaimer increasingly opaque, an investigation by The New York Times showed. It introduced a second prechecked box, known internally as a “money bomb,” that doubled a person’s contribution. Eventually its solicitations featured lines of text in bold and capital letters that overwhelmed the opt-out language.
The tactic ensnared scores of unsuspecting Trump loyalists — retirees, military veterans, nurses and even experienced political operatives. Soon, banks and credit card companies were inundated with fraud complaints from the president’s own supporters about donations they had not intended to make, sometimes for thousands of dollars.
By the final months of the campaign, the donation scam — known as WinRed — had been required to make 530,000 refunds worth about $64.3 million to Trump donors who fell for the gag. Biden’s campaign, by comparison, issued refunds to 37,000 donors that came out to around $5.6 million. “Officials at multiple financial institutions who dealt with complaints estimated WinRed was, at peak, 1-3 percent of volume — a figure confirmed by one of the nation’s larger credit-card issuers,” Shane Goldmacher, author of the Times piece, explained on Twitter. “That’s huge, considering size of U.S. credit card economy.”
Why do this if they had to eventually return the money? Because in the time frame when they first raked it in, they could declare their campaign war chest full and avoid looking like the also-rans they were. “In effect, the money that Mr. Trump eventually had to refund amounted to an interest-free loan from unwitting supporters at the most important juncture of the 2020 race,” explains Goldmacher.
I have come to envision Trump’s most devoted followers as a flock of magic sheep. Shear their wool down to the skin, close your eyes and count to 10, and poof! All the wool has grown back, ready and waiting to be sheared again. And again. And again.
This is the peril of life in an information bubble when the boss is a brigand. Most of these folks probably never heard the details on the courtroom-fundraising scam on Fox News. For sure, they never heard how Sidney Powell, author of many of those courtroom scams, recently told a court that “no reasonable person” would believe the bullshit she’s been peddling. Do you think they’ve heard about this latest one? Don’t hold your breath.
God help Trump and his pals if these sheep ever get together and compare notes. Don’t hold your breath for that, either. It is far more edifying to believe you are a warrior fighting an end-times battle against the evils of socialist communist terrorist liberalism. I suppose the thought warms you even as your wool keeps mysteriously disappearing. Meanwhile, Trump is laughing all the way to the bank, shears swinging insouciantly from his belt. T’was ever thus.