And there are plenty of people who are eager to keep telling him what he wants to hear. Arizona Republicans are using their “audit” filled with security breaches and errors essentially as a grift, raising money for the party and its candidates by undermining faith in the last election. MyPillow guy Mike Lindell is telling anyone who will listen—including Steve Bannon’s podcast, repeatedly—that he thinks Trump will be reinstated, possibly in August, a date Trump has reportedly seized on. One America News host Christina Bobb, who has raised money to fund the Arizona “audit,” is in contact with Trump.
”He can simply be reinstated, but a new inauguration date is set, and Biden is told to move out of the White House, and President Trump should be moved back in,” lawyer Sidney Powell told a QAnon conference recently. This is, it has to be said, completely false.
Driven by a toxic blend of grifting, sucking up to Trump at all costs, and conspiracy theories, Republicans in Arizona and elsewhere are leading their supporters to believe that Trump should have won, that he did win, even when in fact he lost by a significant margin in both the popular vote and the Electoral College. Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a Republican who has opposed the “audit,” told The Washington Post he thinks Republican leaders know their claims of fraud are “facially laughable.” But, he said, “ordinary people, the ones who are showing up on a Wednesday night at a political meeting, I believe they really believe it. And that’s super sad.”
It’s not just sad, though. It’s dangerous. Republicans, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have for years been willing to shatter norms and twist the truth to gain or maintain power. But now, Donald Trump’s sore-loserdom is helping pull the Republican Party even further away from the basic tenets of democracy. It’s like a pyramid scheme with Trump at the top, Republican-elected officials pulling in money and endorsements and power by selling Trump’s lies—most of them knowing what they’re doing—and Republican voters at the bottom believing the lies and believing it will pay off for them in the end. But the stakes are so much higher than the people at the bottom losing their savings.
And this is what’s been happening with Trump camped out at Mar-a-Lago or Bedminster, golfing and giving rambling, fuming speeches to whatever groups happen to be holding events there, communicating with the world at large mostly via his failed blog. Now he’s getting ready to hit the road, with a speech in North Carolina coming this weekend and rallies to follow over the summer. Next weekend he’ll appear by Jumbotron at a Wisconsin event being held by Lindell. One optimistic scenario is that his appearances fizzle and flop like his blog, but the most likely scenario is he continues to feed the belief of Republican voters that he was robbed and that the answer is to try to rig elections in favor of Republicans and overturn elections where Democrats win them.
Another possibility—with a distinct upside, but a definite tinge of danger, is: “He’s going to spray friendly fire on other Republicans and settle scores under the auspices of endorsing people in Republican primaries for 2022,” as Republican donor Dan Eberhart, a former Trump backer, told the Post. “This back-to-the-future style is putting the Republican Party in a 2020 straitjacket, preventing it from learning from our 2020 losses and adapting to the most recent voter concerns.”
However Trump’s summer tour plays out, though, this is still a fight for the very basic question of whether the will of the voters will be allowed to prevail in 2022 and 2024, or whether Republicans will cast it aside.