Amanda Marcotte

Trump came closer to stealing a 2nd term than many realize — here's what really stopped him

Last week, Donald Trump finally left the White House, after two and a half months of trying to steal the election — which culminated in Trump inciting a violent insurrection at the Capitol. Even before he sent a mob to violently interrupt the certification of Joe Biden's win on January 6, Trump's efforts to overturn the election were relentless to the point of being uncountable: Dozens of lawsuits (which were nearly all struck down), pressure campaigns on local election boards and state legislators, an extortion scheme against Senate Republicans, threats against state officials, demands that then-Vice President Mike Pence illegally invalidate the election, and even meetings to explore the possibility of a military coup.

In the face of all this, a narrative has shaped up: Trump's failure to pull off a coup was largely due to his own shortcomings.

It's a narrative that started early, with Max Boot of the Washington Post opining shortly after the election that he's "never been more grateful for President Trump's incompetence," because he "can't even organize a coup d'état properly." It culminated in Adam Serwer of the Atlantic arguing that Trump's "assault was most often futile, almost always buffoonish."

To be clear, no one is saying that Trump's efforts were inconsequential, just because he failed to steal the election. Even Ross Douthat, who was most devoted to the "incompetence" narrative, admitted in his New York Times column that it was bad that a violent mob had descended on the Capitol, killing a police officer and coming perilously close to getting their hands on the lawmakers they were threatening. As Ed Kilgore wrote last week at the New Yorker, the lesson we all learned is that there were "some moments of real peril," and Trump got distressingly close to pulling it off at times. Still, the focus on why Trump failed is largely on his own inadequacies and bad planning — Kilgore suggests he could have succeeded with "better timing and better lawyers" — and some lucky breaks, such as the quick thinking of some Capitol police who saved lawmakers from the insurrectionists.

Over the weekend, however, a piece by Alexander Burns of the New York Times highlighted how much the credit to ending Trump's coup should go to Democratic and progressive activists. Far from standing by idly while Trump bumbled his way towards failure, these groups never underestimated Trump's likelihood of winning. If not for these groups and their organized and devoted efforts, the odds are quite high that Trump could have stolen himself a second term.

Defeating Trump took a "long season of planning and coordination by progressives who anticipated Mr. Trump's postelection schemes, including his premature attempt to claim a victory he had not achieved, his pressure campaigns targeting Republican election administrators and county officials and his incitement of far-right violence," Burns writes. It took a remarkable "degree of collaboration among progressive groups that often struggle to work so closely together because of competition over political turf, funding and conflicting ideological priorities."

The Democracy Defense Coalition brought together over 200 groups, guided by the correct assumption that Trump would try to stage a coup after he lost the election. Their work was largely quiet, no doubt to keep Trump and his minions from finding out about it and interfering with it. But without this coordinated response, it's quite likely Trump would have been able to pull off at least one of his many plans to steal the election.

As I chronicled at Salon back in October, with help from activists doing this work, defeating Trump required an organized, calm, and persistent response from Democratic voters. For instance, activists recognized that Trump was going to use the partisan divergence on voting styles — coronavirus-concerned Democrats would vote by mail and COVID-denying Republicans would vote in person — as a wedge point, and try to get mail-in ballots thrown out in large numbers. The counteraction to that was to convince Democratic voters to vote as early as possible, on the theory that ballots that arrived before Election Day were easier to protect from Trump's legal assault.

The strategy was effective.

In Pennsylvania, so few mail-in ballots arrived after Election Day that even if Trump had been successful in arguing that they should be thrown out, it wouldn't have changed the outcome of the election. The result was swifter court decisions shutting down Trump's challenges, depriving him of the momentum needed for a successful coup. As Burns notes, the activists had a nearly impossible task, of striking a balance between taking the coup seriously but also projecting an air of confidence that Trump would fail. Defeating a coup is very much about convincing the public that your side will prevail. This balance was struck, but not by accident. It took lots of hard work by activists, often working quietly behind the scenes, to organize progressives in a way that showed concern-but-confidence. The result was events such as one night in Philadelphia when pro-democracy crowds ran off Rudy Giuliani and Eric Trump from the convention center, where the two men were trying to whip a right-wing crowd up to harass vote counters. After Giuliani and Trump took off, the protest broke out into a dance party.

It's important to learn from this recent history for a very simple reason: The effort to end democracy isn't over.

Trump may run again, and as he did in every election he's been in, he will cheat and encourage others to cheat on his behalf. But even if Trump doesn't run again, he's empowered a movement of anti-democracy Republicans who will look for every advantage they can to nullify the results of elections they lose. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is already doing this, with his plot to keep the Senate from even beginning business unless the Democratic majority simply relinquishes the power given to them by the voters.

To defeat the longer-term assault on democracy, it's critical for everyday voters to understand that they do have power, and that, by taking action, they can help preserve and restore democracy.

The reason why Republicans have gotten so far in their efforts to undermine democracy is that they've trained ordinary people into believing that efforts to stop them will all be in vain. The true story of how Trump was defeated, by regular people who fought for their democracy, is empowering. It can convince people to keep up the fight. So while no one should doubt Trump is an idiot, it's important to give credit where it's due for his defeat: On the progressives who fought him, every step of the way.

How the media is making a big mistake on Trump's role in the Capitol siege

After four years of nonstop abuse from Donald Trump, it should be beyond a shadow of a doubt that, while Trump is indeed an ignoramus, his ugly behavior is largely motivated by malice, not stupidity. Yet, as we've seen through the years of Trump's presidency, mainstream media outlets have continued to cast his actions as the choices of a man too numpty-headed to know right from wrong, instead of the behavior of a shameless villain who does vicious and cruel things out of a deeply felt sadism. Since Trump sent an unruly mob to ransack the Capitol, however, mainstream journalists have woken up, describing Trump's actions accurately as incitement, instead of using euphemisms or casting around for an "innocent" explanation.

They are now showing signs of slippage back to old habits.

On Monday night, the Washington Post published a report detailing Trump's refusal to do anything to discourage the insurrectionist mob after they penetrated the Capitol. The headline: "Six hours of paralysis: Inside Trump's failure to act after a mob stormed the Capitol."

This headline is wildly misleading. Trump did not suffer from "paralysis," nor was his inaction due to "failure." Both words imply that there was a desire to act, but that Trump was somehow incapable. The reality: Trump refused to act.

He had incited the mob and delighted in their actions. He may very well have believed it was going to work to keep Congress from certifying Joe Biden's win, especially if the insurrectionists had successfully captured or killed members of Congress or Vice President Mike Pence. But one thing that should be beyond all shadow of a doubt is that Trump refused to do anything to stop the riot because he was loving every minute of it.

This framing is all the more aggravating because the details provided by Washington Post reporters Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker make the ill will behind Trump's behavior crystal clear. They report that Trump refused to take calls from the various congressional members who called for help. They describe a situation where aides and family members pleaded with Trump for hours, yet he refused to listen, and instead was glued to his TV and soaking in every delicious moment of the chaos he caused. When he finally caved and released a message telling his followers to "go home in peace," he only did so "begrudgingly," the Post reporters write.

"Trump watched with interest, buoyed to see that his supporters were fighting so hard on his behalf, one close adviser said," they write.

The reporters describe a situation where aides are begging Trump to tell the insurrectionists to stand down, but he would only agree to ask for vague "support" for law enforcement, writing, "They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!"

But Trump "had not wanted to include the final instruction to 'stay peaceful,'" they report. Hours later, Trump reluctantly agreed to release a video telling rioters to go home, but only on the condition that he continue to tell lies about the election, resulting in a video that was less a call for peace and more further incitement. Even Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a reliable Trump sycophant, admitted, "The president saw these people as allies in his journey and sympathetic to the idea that the election was stolen."

These details matter because Trump's behavior is not ambiguous. He incited an insurrection, and once it was underway, he reacted with excitement and delight. His actions were purposeful and malevolent. He wanted all this to happen and got grumpy at anyone who wanted it to stop.

This has been backed up by other reporting showing that Trump's inner circle is quite clear that he was over the moon about the insurrection. Nebraska's Republican Sen. Ben Sasse reported that he called the White House during the siege and not only was Trump "delighted" about the melee, but he was also "confused about why other people on his team weren't as excited as he was."

Last week, the New York Times reported that Trump only taped a video reluctantly conceding defeat after "he appeared to suddenly realize he could face legal risk for prodding the mob." This was after counsel from his lawyer, Pat Cipollone, and a statement from the D.C. federal prosecutor indicating that charging Trump was a possibility. He obviously didn't mean a word of it and was only trying to save himself from prison.

Trump's support for the insurrection and hatred of anyone who fought back continues to manifest in actions such as refusing to lower the flags for the Capitol police officer who was beaten to death by the mob and only giving in reluctantly after being badgered about it by his aides for days.

And yet, the latest Washington Post story, while bristling with examples of how Trump acts out of malice and not ignorance, keeps framing his actions in a more innocent light, describing Trump as "a president paralyzed" and "more passive viewer than resolute leader".

This is flatly false. Trump was not being passive at all. He actively incited the mob and he willfully refused to do anything to call them off. He did this deliberately, having exhausted every other avenue he pursued to steal the election. These were not the actions of a man too stupid to act. These were the actions of a man knowingly trying to overthrow a legal election.

On the opinion page of the Washington Post, Greg Sargent describes the events recounted more accurately, describing it as "President Trump's depraved and malevolent response to the violent siege of the Capitol" and noting Trump's "solipsistic, even sadistic pleasure in watching a mob lay siege to our seat of government in his name."

On Wednesday, House Democratic leadership will almost certainly impeach Trump for "incitement of insurrection." Trump's state of mind and intentionality is crucial to making the case for impeachment and removal. In addition, if Trump is to be prosecuted when he leaves office — and he absolutely should be — it's important that the strong evidence he acted intentionally not be muddied by cowardly reporting.

The good news is that there's no real confusion about Trump's state of mind. He wanted this riot, he wallowed in it, and he lashed out like a whiny child to anyone who suggested that armed insurrection is a bad look.

The bad news is that there's a massive campaign, from right-wing pundits and Republican politicians, to muddy the waters and downplay the seriousness of what happened. And that campaign is directly aimed at the mainstream media, to discourage honesty about last week's events and bully journalists into using minimizing or excusing language. Language like "paralysis" and "failure," instead of more accurate descriptions capturing the intentionality of Trump's actions.

It is critical that outlets like the Washington Post not go further down this path of placating right-wing radicals — even if that term describes most Republicans these days — by swaddling the insurrection in euphemism and falsely ascribing innocent motives to Trump when his enmity is as obvious as his combover.

Holding firm to the truth is crucial if we want to save our democracy. Yes, even if that truth involves hurting the snowflake-delicate feelings of the American right.

Here's how right-wing media is already gaslighting us about the attack on the Capitol

There is no doubt Donald Trump incited the insurrection on January 6. It happened largely in public and is recorded for posterity. Let's review the record:

Trump didn't add, "if you know what I mean," but he didn't have to — the people who stormed the U.S. Capitol armed with guns, pipe bombs and flex cuffs to take members of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence hostage understood Trump's wink-and-nudge style loud and clear.
None of this is subtle or confusing. Unsurprisingly, however, right-wing media figures — who want to continue to push conspiracy theories and agitate their audiences with insurrectionist talk, but don't want to face consequences for it — have already begun the process of gaslighting about Wednesday's event, insisting that it's being blown out of proportion and shouldn't be treated like the insurrection that it was.

Media Matters has a good round-up of the various strategies being employed by right wing media to spin Wednesday's events as something less serious than an attempted coup spurred on by Trump himself. Fox News' Tucker Carlson is reframing the insurrectionists as the real victims, subject to imaginary liberal incursions on vaguely defined "freedom." Laura Ingraham is working the "both sides do it" angle, falsely equating random and disorganized acts of vandalism during Black Lives Matter protests with the Trump crowd's direct attempt to overthrow the U.S. government and likely murder congressional leaders. Sean Hannity is still working the "antifa did it!" lie, even after the FBI announced no evidence linking anti-fascist activists to the Trump-motivated mob. And Rush Limbaugh is denying that the insurrection was violent, saying it was simply people taking "selfies," ignoring the fact that five people died, including a Capitol police officer who was beat to death by someone wielding a fire extinguisher. These tactics of deflection also ignore that the mob clearly intended more mayhem— rioters weren't carrying weapons and wearing armor for their health — and it was only a matter of luck that things didn't get worse.

Unfortunately, such right-wing media pressure campaigns have worked, going back at least to the 1990s, when a campaign by figures like Rush Limbaugh to downplay Timothy McVeigh's 1995 terrorist attack on a federal building in Oklahoma City effectively shut down needed discourse about the role that extremist rhetoric on the right played in the attack. Similarly, feigned outrage on the right over an FBI report in 2009 over the threat of domestic terrorism from returning veterans caused the Obama administration to buckle, withdrawing the report. Since then, there's been an air of heightened skepticism in mainstream media towards efforts by progressive activists to highlight the growing threat of domestic terrorism. Mainstream journalists have tended, all too often, to treat those warnings as hysterical, even in the face of terrorist attacks in El Paso and Pittsburgh.

Right-wing efforts to minimize right-wing violence can work, so Democrats need to act swiftly to take control of the narrative. Republicans must not be allowed to rewrite history to minimize the seriousness of this situation. And the best possible tool that Democrats have right now to evade right-wing gaslighting is impeachment.

The good news is that Democrats seem to understand this. After giving Vice President Mike Pence the whole weekend to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Trump from office, House Democrats announced that they would be introducing an article of impeachment on Monday, accusing Trump of "incitement of insurrection." Still, there still seems to be some desire on the part of House Democrats to give Pence another 24 hours, leading to a confusing timeline where the impeachment is likely not to be brought to the floor until Tuesday.

Pence will no doubt use this time to leak claims he's "thinking" about it, when he has no actual intention of doing so, in order to buy more time. Democrats should not be fooled and should not delay any further in the vain hope that Pence will abandon his lickspittle ways this late in life.

But understanding that Pence would rather let Trump send mobs after him to kill him than to invoke the 25th is not the only reason to move swiftly on impeachment. Even if Pence was to act — and he won't — impeachment is necessary to create a legal and historical record underscoring the truth: Trump incited a mob and sent them after Congress in an attempt to overthrow the U.S. government.

Articles of impeachment are the kind of official documentation that make it much harder for right wing forces to pressure mainstream media outlets to downplay what happened on Wednesday. It makes it a matter of public record that this was, indeed, an insurrection. That will help be a check against the impulse of cowardly editors and producers in mainstream media to give into the right wing gaslighting campaign. Impeachment will be a show of support from Congress for those who are willing to speak the truth, that we witnessed a coup, incited by Trump, against the leaders duly elected by the people of the United States.

It's a bummer that such a thing is necessary, of course. It would be nice if the truth was enough for the media, and right wing lies weren't so effective at shaping coverage. But it is what it is — bothsiderism has a remarkable gravitational pull, even in the face of an outrage as awful as Trump's attempted coup. Right now, the mainstream media is being refreshingly forthright about the violence of January 6. Impeachment will help stiffen their spines in the coming days and weeks, as the right wing media continues to insist the insurrection was merely a kerfuffle.

Trump is trying to manipulate his way out of consequences — it can't be allowed to work

Thursday night, a clearly reluctant Donald Trump released a video, promising, "My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power."

Of course, his focus just the day before was on stoking a violent insurrection, making any hope of an "orderly" — much less a "seamless" — transition of power impossible. It was a little like throwing someone's pet off a balcony, and then promising that, from here on out, you're going to be the most responsible of dog sitters.

Still, there is no doubt many will be tempted to believe Trump, especially as it's only 10 days until the inauguration of Joe Biden removes him from office. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has threatened to impeach trump if Vice President Mike Pence doesn't remove him through the 25th Amendment procedure. The latter is doubtful to happen, the former likely, but in either case, it takes time. The promise that Trump is done acting out and will be a good little sociopathic narcissist is appealing, because any effort to hold him accountable in this short amount of time is a logistical nightmare. That, however, is what Trump is counting on.

Trump's video, was not an earnest promise to finally behave, at this late date in his presidency, like a responsible statesman. (Also, too late!) He made no mention of the president-elect nor uttered any variant of the word concession. It was yet another manipulation from Trump, who is trying to avoid paying the piper for inciting an insurrection. This is the political equivalent of the wife-beater pleading with his battered spouse to give him another chance, and promising never to do it again. But they always do it again. And Trump cannot be trusted to keep his word about "a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power."

There are many reasons that impeachment must go forward, of course, starting with the fact that it's important to take a stand, even if it's just symbolic, against politicians fomenting anti-democratic insurrections. The death of Brian Sicknick, a Capitol police officer who appears to have been murdered by an insurrectionist armed with a fire extinguisher, only heightens the moral necessity of impeachment.

Impeachment is also a matter of prevention.

Trump, as Pelosi said in her press conference Thursday, is "a very dangerous person" and "any day could be a horror show for America." As Biden's inauguration grows nearer and the fact that he really is going to have to leave becomes more real to Trump, he will grow more frantic. And his impulse — to lash out, to insist that he's the real winner, and to stoke more violence — will rear its head again.

We've been down this road countless times with Trump: He escalates and escalates until things get really bad enough to get politically dodgy for him. And then he pulls the wife-beater-brings-roses act, giving in to pressure from aides and other Republicans to at least pretend to be presidential and do the right thing. He then sits and stews in anger at the supposed humiliation for a few days, or even hours. Eventually, he lashes out, returning to his desire to push conspiracy theories or incite nonsense or otherwise be the same tedious asshole he was before the brief bout of acting "presidential."

How many variations on this theme did we get from the coronavirus pandemic alone? Trump would ride some hobbyhorse — suggesting it was being exaggerated to hurt him politically, denying that masks were effective, insisting that people should ignore stay-at-home recommendations, hyping hydroxychloroquine as a miracle cure. Eventually, the political heat would build-up and his aides would persuade him to pay some lip service to reality, by wearing a mask in public or reading a statement asking people to follow health recommendations. But it was only ever a temporary effort to manipulate the press into giving him good coverage — he always regressed right back to where he wanted to be, raving about how it's all a hoax and masks are unmanly.

He followed this predictable pattern even when he himself got COVID-19. After a brief bout of submitting to pressure to take it seriously, Trump went right back to his denialist antics, staging a White House event meant to imply that the disease, which resulted in his hospitalization and has killed 365,000 Americans so far, is no big deal.

Trump's statement must be assumed to be more of the same: An effort to lull the press, the public, and various D.C. officials into complacency. But there is no reason to believe a word of it. For one thing, he still refuses to admit he lost the election to Biden. For another, he is refusing to take responsibility for what he did. And for yet another reason, he told likely lies in the video, such as taking credit for calling the National Guard, when reports suggest that Pence was the one who did it, against Trump's wishes.

Indeed, the first signs of the predictable Trump backslide are emerging. Twitter, in an idiotic move, let Trump have his account back and sure enough, he's already raving about how many votes he got and how his voters "will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!" Less than 24 hours after he disingenuously acknowledged "this moment calls for healing and reconciliation," Trump tweeted that he would break with a centuries-old custom and not attend the inauguration.

Trump is, above all other things, a liar. His assurances he will oversee an orderly transition should not be believed. Indeed, when Trump says a thing, it's wise to assume that the opposite is true. He's just trying to buy time to avoid facing consequences. It's possible he's even anticipating some other stunt, even though his last one led to the deaths of five people, including a police officer guarding the Capitol. Nothing has changed. As Pelosi said on Wednesday, if Pence and Cabinet will not remove Trump, he must be impeached.

The Georgia runoffs reveal the bone-chilling depths of the GOP rot

In a mildly healthy society, Donald Trump should have been scared to death to set foot in Georgia Monday night. Just the night before, a tape was leaked of Trump calling up the Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, and demanding that he "find 11,780 votes" — Trump's mob speak for cooking the books — in order to steal the state's election from the true winner, president-elect Joe Biden. It's literally one of the worst scandals in American history, far worse than Watergate. This is a sitting president demanding that an entire state's election be illegally thrown out, all because he doesn't like the outcome.

Trump should have been afraid to face crowds of the very same people whose votes he wished to throw in the trash bin. Instead, he was greeted by an adoring mob that cheered repeatedly as Trump insulted their state for an hour, claiming it was a "rigged election" and encouraged them to boo and hiss state officials for being unwilling to risk prison time by committing election fraud for him. In fact, the audience at the Trump rally was so on board with his vitriolic attitude towards Georgians that they largely elected not to wear masks, voluntarily exposing themselves to a deadly pandemic to show their devotion to Trump.

This display was a suitable cap to the past two months, with Republican politicians competing with each other in a grotesque competition to be the most fascistic and sociopathic, all to honor their fallen leader, Trump. (Not that they'll admit he's fallen.) And no where has this been more evident than in Georgia, which is holding a Senate runoff election Tuesday between two incumbent Republicans, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, and their Democratic opponents, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

Whatever the election outcome is after the polls close on Tuesday, this election has demonstrated beyond all shadow of of a doubt that the rot that has infected the Republican Party has completely overtaken the organism. Every tendril of Republican politics, from the White House to the homes of ordinary voters, has putrefied and grown toxic with loathing for their fellow Americans and for democracy itself.

Loeffler and Perdue are definitely vibing the anti-democracy, pro-coup mentality among the voters who, ironically, they need in order to win a democratic election. Prior to Monday's rally, both candidates came out in favor of Republicans objecting to Congress certifying Biden's win on Wednesday. The stated reason for the objection is "concerns" about "fraud", but of course, no one bought that lie even before Trump was caught on tape begging Raffensperger to alter vote totals in Georgia. No, it's obvious that both candidates believe that earning the support of conservative voters means coming out against democracy. The reactions of the Trump rally crowd, which cheered for coup talk and grew bored of democracy talk, only confirms that Perdue and Loeffler are probably guessing right.

Not that anyone is surprised. Both Perdue and Loeffler are wholly loathsome individuals, giving Trump a run for his money in the contest of who can be the worst possible person in politics. Both candidates have been soundly accused of profiting off the coronavirus pandemic, using insider knowledge gained from their roles as senators, knowledge that allowed them to understand the severity of the pandemic before most Americans and subsequently make profitable stock trades on it. And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the sheer amount of insider trading both have been accused of engaging in. In addition, Loeffler has another layer of corruption, involving her and her husband's involvement in setting off offshore financial exchanges that look an awful lot like an effort to dodge both taxes and financial regulations in the U.S.

The campaigns, however, has made these two villains eviler, as they desperately pander to a conservative voting base that is assumed to favor candidates who show the most contempt for common decency.

On Monday, Salon's Roger Sollenberger exposed how Loeffler's campaign has been running Facebook ads darkening the skin of her opponent, Warnock, who is Black. This is just the latest move in a series of grotesquely racist gestures made by the Loeffler campaign. For instance, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, Loeffler gave an interview to a "TV pundit associated with white supremacy and Nazism" and supported the newly-elected Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene, a QAnon devotee with a long history of racist comments. Her campaign has run ads linking Warnock to footage of burning buildings, playing on racist tropes equating civil rights activists with rioters. Her race-baiting is so out of control that WNBA players, both on the Loeffler-owned Atlanta Dream and other teams, have been protesting Loeffler for her disparagement of Black Lives Matter protesters.

Perdue has gotten less attention but has been competitive in this race to the bottom, beginning with his refusal to even debate Ossoff. In recent days, his boot-licking of Trump has become almost comical. On Monday, Perdue went on Fox News to call Raffensperger "disgusting" for taping the phone call with Trump, treating as somehow self-evident that the bad guy is not the one trying to strong-arm election officials into committing crimes but the guy who blew the whistle. This makes sense, one supposes, if the prior assumption is that democracy is bad and that anyone who gets in the way of an authoritarian dictatorship is the enemy.

That Raffensperger looks good next to these clowns shows how thoroughly corrupt the Republican Party is. Raffensperger is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a good guy. He's as committed as any Republican official in the country to racist voter suppression and has advocated for laws to make it as hard as possible for people, especially Black people, to vote. He's so anti-voting that, just a few days ago, he put out a press release threatening criminal penalties to anyone who tries to make it more pleasant (usually with food and water) to stand in the long lines caused by Raffensperger's diligent voter suppression tactics. After all, boredom, hunger, and thirst are some of the weapons most valuable to Republicans like Raffensperger in their war on voting.

But such is the state of the current GOP that Raffensperger is the least bad of them because at least he's not interested in playing along with the lie that an election he ran was fraudulent. For that, Raffensperger is incredibly rare in his party.

It's tempting to see all this rot as a top-down phenomenon, the result of a few corrupt leaders, like Trump, imposing their corruption on the party. But the disturbing reality is that, while Trump is definitely leading the charge, this is only happening because everyday voting Republicans are themselves thoroughly corrupted, having turned against democracy out of a rage at having to share the franchise with people — especially people of color — they don't see as "real" Americans. Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel has been on the ground with Republican voters, and his observation about the situation is bone-chilling:

There's no point in being delicate about this: The belief that Trump is the "real" winner of the election depends on believing that the votes of Black people shouldn't count.

From the minute the polls closed in November, Trump and his allies have been targeting cities with large Black populations — such as Detroit, Atlanta, and Philadelphia — and declaring that those votes are "fraudulent" and should be thrown out. This isn't subtle, but it is effective. Racism is the beating heart of the modern Republican Party. It's what moves the voters and why the leaders have become so thoroughly corrupted.

It also means that there's no easy solution to the problem. Perdue and Loeffler are not well-liked by anyone. Even their own voters are grossed out by all the insider trading. But they may win anyway because white conservative Georgia voters simply cannot abide by the idea that candidates supported by the majority of Black voters might win. It really is as simple as that, and everything else — including the growing support for Trump's coup — flows from that. Because Republican voters don't want democracy if they have to share it. And the rancid smell wafting off the Georgia election is the direct result.

Susan Collins refuted: Trump never learned his lesson

One of the most soul-taxing aspects of the Donald Trump era is how much it's like living in a political version of "Groundhog Day." We endure variations of the same handful of scandals over and over again until we're numb and unable to tell what happened one day from the next. The result is a weird time dilation, where the past year feels like a dozen as if everything is happening both quickly and slowly all at once.

So it's probably no surprise that few pundits seem to have noticed how Trump's call to Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger demanding that he steal Georgia's election by falsifying votes is a direct sequel to the scheme that got Trump impeached. And like most sequels, this one attempted to be bigger and bolder — but only ended up being sloppier and more confusing.

Impeachment was a year ago, which is many eons in Trump Standard Time, so a quick recap of what Trump did to get impeached: He called the newly elected president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, and demanded that Zelensky abuse his powers to help Trump cheat in the American election. Trump wanted Zelensky to announce an "investigation" into Joe Biden, hoping to bolster a disproved conspiracy theory about Biden, and threatened to withdraw military aid to Ukraine if Zelensky didn't give in to his demands.

Further investigation by various House committees turned up evidence of an expansive conspiracy, run by Trump and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, aimed at manufacturing evidence for these lies about Biden. But it was the leaked phone call to Zelensky that broke open the whole thing. Here was the president of the United States using threats to blackmail a foreign leader into abusing his power, all to cheat in the 2020 election.

It's almost eerie how identical this latest extortion scheme aimed at Raffensperger is: A leaked phone call, the president demanding that a government official abuse his power or even commit crimes to help Trump stay in office and threatening that the leader does as he's told or else. Trump then unloads a series of preposterous conspiracy theories on the exasperated official, laying out his disingenuous excuses for why cheating and criming is justified.

In this case, the situation is even worse than Trump's plot against Zelensky. What Trump was asking of Zelensky was help in falsifying evidence for lies Trump thought would help him demonize Biden in the press. What he's asking of Raffensperger is an outright crime: To "find" (read: falsify) 11,000 votes for Trump. Not only is this illegal, it's almost certainly undoable — there's no mechanism for Raffensperger to generate such "votes," and especially not one that would shield Raffensperger from getting caught.

That Trump is resorting to the same trick — using threats to pressure government officials to abuse their power and/or commit crimes for him — should be no surprise. Trump portrays himself as a master negotiator, but in reality, extortion is the only strategy he has. Just last month, Trump was using the same extortion tactic against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, threatening to tank the coronavirus relief bill if McConnell didn't find some way to steal the election for Trump. In October, Trump was pulling the same trick on his FBI director, Christopher Wray, threatening to fire Wray unless Wray manufactured evidence for an anti-Biden conspiracy theory. This pattern goes all the way back to Trump's first days in office, when he extorted then-FBI director James Comey, demanding Comey disappear an investigation into the Trump campaign's collusion with a Russian conspiracy.

Trump is a one-trick pony, and he's not even good at that trick.

Most of these extortion schemes fail spectacularly. Comey got fired, but he did not break the law to shut down the Russia investigation. Wray did not give into Trump's demands and continues to hold his job. McConnell did not — could not, really — steal the election for Trump. And, of course, Zelensky did not announce phony investigations into Biden, if only because Trump's scheme was exposed before Zelensky had to give in to the threats.

Trump's extortion conspiracies are bad at getting him what he wants, but they are still incredibly dangerous. As Heather "Digby" Parton argued at Salon, "Trump is fomenting tremendous anger among his followers that may very well boil over." Plus, Trump's coup effort is now being backed by up to 140 House Republicans and 12 in the Senate.

Despite the claim from Maine's Republican Sen. Susan Collins that Trump "learned" a "pretty big lesson" from impeachment, what Trump clearly learned is that he can commit bigger crimes and make even more overt efforts to steal an election. Worse, he learned that Republicans will support his efforts. He's going to keep it up once he's out of office, seeking ways to abuse power to cheat in the 2024 election that he clearly intends to run in. And Republicans will continue to be empowered by Trump's blatant criminality, backing increasingly aggressive efforts to destroy American democracy.

The whole situation is a reminder that Trump not only intends to continue committing crimes in his endless quest for power but that he's escalating and Republicans will never step in. The only thing that can stop him is a full-throated federal prosecution for his many crimes, committed both in office and during his cheating-centric 2016 presidential run. Just as Democrats were forced, reluctantly in many cases, to impeach Trump for running an extortion scheme to cheat in the 2020 election, Biden's Department of Justice must do everything they can to hold Trump accountable, including prosecuting crimes committed during this latest attempt to steal the 2020 election.

Prosecuting Trump is the only way to stop this. It goes against Biden's every instinct, of course. Biden wants to make nice with Republicans and views unleashing the Department of Justice to deal with Trump's many crimes as unpleasantly political. But there simply is no choice if democracy is to be saved. Trump has shown he will keep going unless stopped.

Trump's ham-fisted and harmful extortion effort blows up in his face

Donald Trump is clearly unhappy with having to sign the stimulus bill meant to relieve the massive economic pain from his bungled response to the coronavirus pandemic. Why else would he sign it abruptly, as he did late Sunday, to no fanfare? After all, this is a man who demands adulation at his every waking moment. Yet when it came to signing a bill that will send checks to millions of Americans, Trump was curiously camera-shy. Trump eschewing a camera is like a dog rejecting his favorite treat — clearly, the manbaby president isn't feeling so hot about how the stimulus standoff ended.

The reason is not particularly mysterious. Signing the bill, for Trump, was yet another massive failure in his long list of massive failures.

For six days, Trump has been threatening to tank this bill, possibly with a pocket veto. He was holding the economy hostage — and more specifically, holding hostage the chances of Republicans winning a Georgia Senate runoff or two — clearly hoping that doing so would be sufficient leverage to force Republican leadership on Capitol Hill into voiding his presidential election loss and illegally granting him a second term. But as often happens when Trump tries to live up to his own declarations of being a master negotiator, he face-planted— this time in a spectacularly humiliating style. So humiliating, that he approached signing the stimulus bill with the same attitude of a kid presenting himself for after school detention.

So what happened here? It's a little complicated, but ultimately, it's likely yet another one of Trump's failed schemes to steal the 2020 election from the real winner, former Vice President Joe Biden.

To recap: The $900 billion coronavirus legislation Trump signed was a compromise bill, passed through the Republican-controlled Senate only after many major concessions from the Democratic-controlled House, which passed its own much healthier $3 trillion package in May. Democrats wanted to cut checks to Americans for $1,200 a piece, along with more robust unemployment benefits and other major projects to reduce economic devastation from the pandemic. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who clearly didn't want to pass a second stimulus bill at all, only begrudgingly allowed a much smaller compromise — which includes $600 checks to Americans who made under $75,000 in 2019 — because he is worried that Georgia's GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue will lose their runoff elections to Democratic challengers on January 5.

But after the Senate bill passed, Trump suddenly declared he wasn't satisfied and declared he wanted a bill with $2,000 checks instead of the $600 his administration initially agreed to. He later upped the supposed ante by declaring he wanted to toss another two thousand dollars on for people with kids.

The whole thing was, despite the high hopes of some of the dimmer lights of social media punditry, never a sincere offer from Trump. As Helaine Olen of the Washington Post noted on Thursday, Trump "maintained a low profile in the months-long stimulus negotiations between Democrats and Republicans in Congress." If Trump wanted more money for Americans, he had months to push for it, but aside from a random tweet in the fall, as Olen points out, "he didn't bother" to push for more money in any "meaningful way."'

No, as I argued last week, what Trump was up to was likely an extortion scheme, which is the only trick up his sleeve — and one he's not even particularly good at pulling. Trump believes, incorrectly, that McConnell and other Senate Republicans know how to steal the election, but are holding out on him. He hoped that by threatening McConnell's meager bill and therefore threatening the re-election of the two Georgia senators McConnell needs to hold onto his Senate majority Trump could shake the secrets to election theft out of McConnell. But, being bad at this, Trump didn't consider certain flaws in the plan, starting with the fact that McConnell simply has no way to steal the election for him and extortion will not change that fact. Nor did Trump consider that he would have to endure the humiliation of Democrats dunking on him non-stop.

Politico reports that Trump only signed the compromise bill "after days of being lobbied by allies," including Sen. Lindsey Graham, R.-S.C., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. What they said to him is not clear, especially since Trump, whose only interest is in himself, is unlikely to be interested in arguments about signing this bill for the good of the Republican party.

No, Trump likely only moved because it became evident that his extortion scheme had blown up spectacularly in his face, alienating the very people he (falsely) believes will be able to stop Biden's election certification on January 6.

But this should be no surprise. Trump's reputation as a skillful negotiator was always nonsense, the product of his only real talent, which is media manipulation. As Michael Kruse in Politico detailed in 2018, an examination of the evidence shows that Trump spent decades failing at even the easiest negotiations, blowing up a series of business deals and repeatedly incurring major bankruptcies. It's true that Trump did have some early successes in the late 70s and early 80s, but odds are that's because his lawyer/fixer Roy Cohn did the hard work for him. After Cohn's death, Trump's almost comical inability to negotiate became evident to anyone looking at the actual books and not listening to Trump's endless bragging.

So that's where Trump stands now: He didn't get anything he wanted, and, by making a pointless stink about all this, he's aggravated allies and invited his opponents to exploit him in embarrassing ways. He gave Democrats leverage to negotiate for a bigger bill, though it's still unlikely to pass Republicans, who didn't even really want the compromise bill. Ultimately, he exposed to Georgia voters what Mitch McConnell was trying to hide: Republicans are blocking their opportunity to get bigger checks.

The situation would be comical, except for the very real human cost to all of this.

By delaying the compromise bill with his little stunt, Trump allowed unemployment benefits to lapse and likely slowed the rollout of a vaccine. Losing even a couple of days like this can have a ripple effect through an already badly battered economy. But, of course, Trump never cared about that, just as he never really intended for anyone to get the $2,000 checks. He's not just playing games with people's lives. He's bad at playing them.

Here are the top 10 stupidest things Trump did as President (Yes, it is hard to pick)

We're tentatively starting to emerge from the four year-long national nightmare of Donald Trump's presidency, but the reckoning of what the nation endured will take years to really understand. Trump was terrible in so many ways that it's hard to catalog them all: His sociopathic lack of regard for others. His towering narcissism. His utter ease with lying. His cruelty and sadism. The glee he took in cheating and stomping on anything good and decent. His misogyny and racism. His love of encouraging violence, only equaled by his personal cowardice.

But of all the repulsive character traits in a man so wholly lacking in any redeemable qualities, perhaps the most perplexing to his opponents was Trump's incredible stupidity. On one hand, it was maddening that a man so painfully dumb, a man who clearly could barely read — even on those rare occasions when he deigned to wear glasses — still had the low cunning necessary to take over the Republican Party and then the White House.

On the other hand, it was the one aspect of Trump's personality that kept hope alive. Surely a man so stupid, his opponents believed, will one day blunder so badly he can't be saved, even by his most powerful sycophants. That has proved to be the case as Trump fumbles his way through a failed coup, unable and unwilling to see that stealing the election from Joe Biden is a lost cause.

Trump's unparalleled idiocy gave us a few laughs along the way, which we sorely needed in those troubled times. With that in mind, here's a list of the 10 most jaw-droppingly stupid moments of Trump's White House tenure.

1) That time Trump suggested injecting household cleaners into people's lungs to cure them of the coronavirus. Even for connoisseurs of Trumpian idiocy, it was a shocker when, after hearing that bleach and Lysol can kill the coronavirus on surfaces, got behind the podium in the White House briefing room and declared, "I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute. ... Is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning, because, you see, it gets in the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs?"

He then pointed at his head, and said, "I'm, like, a person who has a good you-know-what."

The situation was only made worse because this nitwit said this during the daily coronavirus "press briefing," during that surreal period of the spring and early summer in which he held forth daily, often for hours, presenting himself as not just a leader but an expert. Never has a man believed he knew so much while knowing so little.

2) That time he looked at a solar eclipse without eye protection — after everyone was repeatedly told not to look at the eclipse without eye protection.


It was at this moment that I realized that Trump voters must like it that he's an stone cold idiot, if only because they enjoy the way it triggers the liberals.

3) That time he couldn't admit he was wrong when he tweeted that Hurricane Dorian was going to hit Alabama, and so he drew on a weather map with a Sharpie to make it seem like he was right.


Again, what really elevates some of the best dumbass-Trump moments is when his stupidity combines with his massive ego to create a dunderhead singularity.

4) That time he threw paper towels at people in Puerto Rico who had just endured Hurricane Maria.


Trump's ego plus Trump's stupidity is just sublime. But when his stupidity combined with racism, the effect was often more chilling than funny.

5) That time he asked members of the National Security Council if they could nuke hurricanes rather than letting them hit the U.S.

Hurricanes drew out Trump's fatuousness like a good cheese draws out the notes in fine wine.

6) That time Trump was told to talk about Frederick Douglass at a Black History Month event, clearly had no idea who that was, and while trying to bullshit his way through the talk, implied that Douglass was still alive.

"Douglass is an example of somebody who's done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice," Trump said, using the same strategy that a sixth-grader who hasn't read the book might employ to bluff through a book report. There was a piece of paper in front of Trump that likely had more information about the author and abolitionist who was born enslaved and died in 1895 as one of the most famous Americans, but Trump, as ever too vain to wear his glasses in public, probably couldn't read it.

7) That time he suggested that his much-desired border wall could just maybe be buttressed with alligator moats.

This one was fondly remembered by the Salon staff as an iconic example of the way Trump's racism amplifies his imbecility in an almost exponential fashion.

8) That time he asked Canada's prime minister, Justin Trudeau, "Didn't you guys burn down the White House?"

At this point one almost wants to give him half-credit for remembering that the White House was burned down at one point — by the British in the War of 1812. But then one remembers that Trump has declared himself the protector and savior of American history, so much so that he's created the "1776 Commission" in a supposed effort to preserve what he considers the proper teaching of history. All he means by that, of course, is teaching kids that the blatant racism of the past was noble and just, and not so much actual facts, let alone actual history.

9) That time Trump "liked" a tweet praising Rihanna.

This is a deep cut, but a personal favorite of mine, mostly because Ashley Feinberg at Slate did a detailed exploration of this topic and demonstrated it was almost certainly the result of stupidity, horniness and Trump's short and stubby fingers. It started when Trump liked — and then unliked — a tweet by a woman named Heben Nigatu declaring, "Every new Rihanna interview makes me grow stronger. We stan a work/life balance queen!!!"

As Feinberg noted, Rihanna's name was trending on Twitter the night of the weird "like." If users clicked that trending topic, they saw a photo of Rihanna lounging on a couch in a see-through leotard. As "our president is furiously, pathologically horny," Feinberg concludes, he likely "clicked on this photo of Rihanna while making a series of steamboat noises and sweating profusely," which led him to a list of tweets mentioning Rihanna — including Nigatu's tweet. At which point his fingers, which are too small to be controlled with any grace, likely slid unconsciously over the "like" button.

As further evidence, Feinberg points out Trump had, in the past, done the same to a sexy photo of Katy Perry.

10) When he called the Second Epistle to the Corinthians "Two Corinthians."

This is another personal favorite, because, like many other of Trump's dumber moments — such as when he tried to put money on a communion platter, or when he held a Bible as if he were afraid it might bite him, or when he seemed confused by the idea that he should ask God for forgiveness — it was a fun reminder that Trump's professed Christianity is not just an act, but an act he can barely be bothered to keep going. It's delicious because it's a twofer, not just exposing Trump's stupidity, but the absolute shamelessness of the Christian right leaders who backed him. (For those who may be unclear: This book of the Bible is abbreviated as "2 Corinthians" but always called "Second Corinthians.")

Every time Trump fumbled in this way, and the Trump-friendly evangelists kept on acting like he was God's emissary on earth, it was further evidence that most of these supposedly devout Christians don't really care about faith or God or Jesus or any of that that stuff — they care about power. As with their beloved president, dramatic performance of public piety by so many right-wing Christian leaders is little more than a dog-and-pony show put on to sucker the rubes.

So there's your top 10, with the caveat that it was hard — perhaps impossible — to narrow down that number in a satisfying manner, since Trump has done unbelievably stupid crap virtually every single day for four years. But that's why the internet gods invented social media and comment sections, so you can add your own to the list!

Trump's 11th-hour betrayal: Republicans get what they deserve

Let's get one thing straight: Donald Trump does not care about the American people. Whatever Trump may say, he is not threatening to blow up the coronavirus stimulus bill Senate Republicans finally agreed to pass because the bill isn't generous enough. Trump could not care less if all Americans starve to death, and he certainly isn't breaking a sweat trying to get the COVID-19 vaccine out to the public. He was not defending working Americans when he released a video calling the GOP-endorsed coronavirus bill a "disgrace" and pushing for a Democrat-friendly plan to send out $2,000 checks instead of the $600 ones Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to.

No, what's likely going on is that Trump, the self-identified master negotiator, is turning to the only negotiation tactic he's ever really known: Extortion.

Trump likely thinks he's blackmailing McConnell into stealing the election for him. While we have no direct proof this is an extortion scheme, the circumstantial evidence is abundant and compelling. Here's what we know:

Trump really does believe that Republicans know some super secret method for nullifying the election he just lost, and that they're just not revealing it to him for some reason. In reality, Republicans probably would help him steal the election if they could, but they can't. But Trump refuses to accept this so he is constantly wheedling GOP officials to do more and whining publicly that they're holding out on him. He's even considering canceling a Mar-A-Lago trip and staying in D.C. for Christmas, probably because he's talked himself into believing he can strike a "deal" to nullify the election.

Trump is particularly incensed at McConnell right now for not doing more to make Trump's failed coup successful. On Monday, Trump's office sent out emails to congressional Republicans in which Trump took credit (falsely) for McConnell's successful re-election, and implied that McConnell should show his gratitude by doing more to steal the presidential election for Trump. Trump believes that Congress will have an opportunity to overturn the election on January 6, by refusing to certify the Electoral College vote. We know he believes this, even though it's false because he's been scheming with House Republicans on how to do it. We also know — because Trump keeps tweeting about it — that Trump believes Senate Republicans are, for whatever reason, not doing enough to help him and need so more threats to get motivated to back his coup.

McConnell believes that this $900 billion coronavirus bill is needed to help Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, the two Georgia Republicans trying to retain their Senate seats in the January 5 run-offs. McConnell told Senate Republicans last week that "Kelly and David are getting hammered" by their Democratic opponents for not passing a bill. This $900 billion package, which is only a fraction of the spending Democrats in the House passed months ago, is the smallest bill McConnell can get away with while still saving those two Senate seats he needs to keep his majority. Trump's most ardent supporters have singled out the Republicans' desire to win in Georgia as a leverage point, and keep threatening to tank that race if Republicans don't do more to help Trump steal the election.

To be clear, this isn't 11th level chess. It's actually Trump employing junior high school bully logic: McConnell wants a thing (this paltry coronavirus relief bill), and so Trump is threatening to take it away unless Trump gets what he wants (a successful coup). Trump, being very dumb, has not considered the possibility that McConnell couldn't give in to the extortion if he tried because there's actually no secret file in McConnell's office labeled "How To Steal Any Election." Nor has Trump apparently given much consideration to how Democrats might react to him threatening McConnell by pretending that he wants a more generous bill.

Democrats have called Trump's bluff.

Washington Post reporter Mike DeBonis confirmed that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is planning the unanimous consent vote Christmas Eve, which will force Republicans to go on the record against mailing $2,000 checks to Americans. Considering that McConnell is hoping $600 checks will be enough to buy off Georgia voters on January 5, a vote against a more generous bill is clearly something Republican politicians likely hope to avoid.

In no way does this theory require believing Trump is crafty, clever, or heaven forbid, intelligent. Trump is a moron who is employing what he thinks is a clever Roy Cohn-style scheme to blackmail McConnell. It is, however, an idiotic misfire, because he's trying to extort something McConnell simply doesn't have, that is some deeply buried secret method to steal the election.

The best part about this is that Democrats handed Republicans a chance to get rid of Trump a year ago, when the Democratic-controlled House impeached Trump for, yep, another one of Trump's many extortion schemes to keep himself in office. (As a refresher, Trump threatened to withdraw military aid from Ukraine if the Ukrainian president didn't help him cheat in the 2020 election.) But rather than accept this golden opportunity to rid themselves of an erratic and disloyal narcissist in favor of a more easily controlled President Mike Pence, Senate Republicans chose to acquit Trump and keep him around.

To thank them, Trump is now blowing up their spot on this coronavirus bill. Because Trump is loyal to no one and can only be failed. To him, you're only as good as the last illegal or unethical thing you did to help him.

And boy, it's hard not to wonder if McConnell isn't regretting his choice to acquit Trump. Because if he'd just taken the chance Democrats gave him back then, he'd have President Pence happily just doing what he's told. But no, like so many discarded lawyers, staffers, and other Trump enablers, McConnell made the mistake of thinking he could somehow protect and enable Trump without Trump screwing him over. But Trump will always betray his allies in the end. It's like the moral of the story Trump loved telling at campaign rallies: Republicans knew Trump was a snake when they picked him up.

The right-wing fake outrage generator is ramping up again — just in time for Biden

Needless to say, 2020 was quite the year — and not just for people who believe in preserving democracy and containing deadly pandemics.

For Republican politicians and right-wing media, whose careers are centered around feeding silly victimization narratives to the right-wing base, there was all manner of made-up nonsense to get the rubes riled up. For months, the right-wing narrative was focused on claims that the coronavirus pandemic and/or measures to contain it were all a giant conspiracy aimed at tanking Donald Trump's re-election chances. The fall was then consumed by similarly bonkers conspiracy theories about "voter fraud" and Joe Biden somehow "rigging" the election.

And while both narratives are still being pushed by right-wing media — and Trump himself is still raving like a madman on Twitter with his election conspiracy theories — it's becoming clear to many in the right-wing media that it's time to move on. There's going to be a Democrat in the White House, and it's time to put to bed the grievance narrative of "deep state trying to take a good man down!"

So the right is returning to the strategy of the Barack Obama years, churning out a steady stream of fake outrage over supposed Democratic transgressions — remember how angry they were that Obama wore a tan suit? — all to feed their metanarrative that Democratic governance is inherently illegitimate. And they know that the quickest way to stir the furies of right-wing America is to tell them stories about how all those Democratic women are out of control. Who do those b*tches think they are?

This past week saw a deeply unpleasant return to the long-standing Republican practice of firing up the base by bashing Democratic women for supposed sacrileges against ladylike behavior.

First, the Wall Street Journal threw out bait by running an op-ed by Joseph Epstein in which he addressed Dr. Jill Biden, the incoming first lady, as "kiddo" and argued that it's "fraudulent, not to say a touch comic," for her to use the title of "Dr.", even though, objectively, she has a doctorate. Epstein has been playing this game as far back as 1970, when he wrote in Harper's that "I would wish homosexuality off the face of the earth" and other grotesqueries about gay people.

The op-ed was dumb and misogynist, so of course, Tucker Carlson of Fox News was drawn to it like ants to a puked-up Long Island Ice Tea. For multiple nights this week, Carlson hosted unhinged segments full of maximum umbrage, screeching that Biden is "borderline illiterate," dismissing her career as a high school and community college English teacher. The rest of conservative media is following suit:

The purpose of these hysterics isn't mysterious. It's about triggering resentment in men who cannot accept the idea that women might not only be smart, but smarter than they are. It's also sexist policing, insisting that it's Biden's duty to hide her intelligence and achievements to preserve the tender feelings of insecure men. Barack Obama got the same kind of response from racists, including Trump, who spent years insisting that his many academic achievements (a bachelor's degree from Columbia and a law degree from Harvard) must be either fake or the result of cheating.

Also this week, another sexist storm of feigned offense swirled up after Jen O'Malley Dillon, Joe Biden's campaign manager and incoming White House deputy chief of staff, correctly described Republicans in Congress as "a bunch of f*ckers."

The quote was in a Glamour interview in which O'Malley Dillon actually defends her boss' promise to make efforts towards bipartisan cooperation, but Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida nonetheless erupted in feigned outrage, whining about the name-calling. While Trump is still actively pouring out lies and accusing not just all Democrats but a big chunk of Republicans of stealing the election from him, causing material harm — such as in Houston, where a deranged conspiracy theorist held up an air conditioning repairman with a gun to accuse him of smuggling fake ballots — the fake indignation from Republicans is just further proof that O'Malley Dillon was, if anything, understated in her assessment of their collective characters.

Obviously, none of this faux pique was actually about the use of curse words or insults, both of which flow like a river from Trump. It's just sexism. Tantrum-throwing over women behaving in ways that would be treated as unremarkable from men is a way to signal that women don't really belong in politics, that they are only being barely tolerated and can be ejected for the slightest, or in this case made up, offense.

Unfortunately, O'Malley Dillon gave into the pressure and apologized for her word choice. That's because, as it was when Hillary Clinton was being held up to these same ridiculous and impossible standards in 2016, the media is still controlled by sexist men. Many of the worst offenders in 2016 — Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Mark Halperin — lost their jobs because their sexist coverage on-air was reportedly being matched by sexual harassing behaviors behind closed doors. But we're still saddled with the likes of Jonathan Swan and Hans Nichols at Axios, who were so eager to tame themselves a shrew that they shook the branches until they found some anonymous "Democratic donors" who they claimed wanted an apology.

Note that over 4 million Americans donated to Biden's campaign in 2020. Getting a couple of those four million people to say they don't like ladies cursing isn't exactly hard to do. But that's why these sexist fake scandals have so much power — there are still so many men in high powered positions in the media who are willing to run with sexist narratives, even if the cost of doing so is wildly distorting the political realities. They are the same types, after all, who made "Hillary's emails" a major scandal, even though the emails showed no real wrongdoing, and even though her opponent was an admitted sexual predator and serial fraudster who attempted to openly collude, on camera, with a Russian conspiracy to interfere with the election.

This is what we have to look forward to for the next four years: One fake "scandal" after another about women in Biden's orbit who transgress against 19th-century ideas of what constitutes ladylike behavior. As with everything else they do, Republicans and the media enablers are focused on finding any way they can to distract from their unpopular policies. Male resentment over women's growing power is and will remain a favorite go-to, because apparently that well isn't close to running dry yet.

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