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Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Opinion | Who’s going to tell the GOP base that they’re being scammed?

Who’s going to tell the GOP base that they’re being scammed?

Trump supporters rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington to protest the election results. (Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post)

The message of the scam is this: Trump can still win — but only if you stay angry enough, keep tuning in to our network and keep sending those donations. He’s counting on you!

All the people making this pitch — Trump himself, his White House staff, his campaign, Republican elected officials, party leaders and conservative media figures — know that it’s a lie. But it’s also the basis of their business model.

And every once in a while, the mask slips, which is what produced an utterly fascinating exchange Monday night between Fox Business host Lou Dobbs and White House policy adviser Stephen Miller. Give these two minutes a watch:

The background here is that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) offered to argue the Trump campaign’s case before the Supreme Court; this is an obvious play for attention on Cruz’s part, but for some reason Dobbs seems to think it’s a stunning development that will transform the entire conflict and give Trump an excellent chance of being declared the winner of the election.

When Miller goes into his little “Where’s the outrage?” riff, you can that he’s just playacting, and a little tired of it at that. He probably figured he’d go on Dobbs’s show to do some rhetorical fist-shaking for a few minutes, do his part to keep the base riled up, and that would be that. What he didn’t count on was that somebody forgot to tell Dobbs it’s just an act.

In case you don’t know (which you probably don’t, unless you’re one of the few dozen people who watches his show), Dobbs’s program has attained a level of sycophancy toward Trump that would put North Korean state television to shame. He makes Sean Hannity look like Edward R. Murrow.

And Dobbs is so committed to Trump that he forgot that it’s all just a con. You don’t challenge the White House on why they aren’t doing more to keep up the fight, because that might show that the White House knows perfectly well that the fight is lost.

Here’s what the landscape on the right looks like at the moment. First, you have tens of millions of Trump supporters who are convinced not only that the election was stolen from Trump (one recent poll found 52 percent of Republicans said Trump “rightfully won”) but also that there are still means by which the conspiracy can be exposed and Trump returned to office.

Then you have the activists, officials and media figures who have committed themselves to promoting these lies, knowing that when it comes to the currency that sustains them — money or ratings — the story of the stolen election is absolute gold.

Finally, you have the slightly more responsible elected officials who have reached the limit of what they’re willing or able to do to help Trump, such as the Georgia secretary of state who refuses to say he presided over a fraudulent election or the Michigan legislators turning back Trump’s demand that they hand him the state’s electoral votes. And in state after state, the second group is attacking the third group for insufficient commitment to keeping the fiction of a stolen election alive.

When you watch someone like Dobbs or Rudy Giuliani get so worked up about the stolen election myth that their hair dye starts streaming down their face, you might ask, “Do they really believe this?” It’s hard to know for sure, but the truth is that all the farcical lawsuits are essentially a fundraising expense.

According to the most recent FEC report, Trump has spent $8.8 million on legal efforts to overturn the election but has used that effort to raise more than $200 million, sending hundreds of email pitches to donors begging them to contribute to his quest to save the election from being stolen by dastardly Democrats.

Much of that money will go to a leadership PAC that Trump can use for all kinds of other purposes, including steps that would help him mount a 2024 campaign. He could also easily funnel the money into his own pocket, by having the PAC spend it at his properties.

Meanwhile, as Trump’s loss becomes harder and harder to deny, those committed to the myth of the stolen election grow increasingly desperate — a desperation that threatens to turn to violence. We saw how a group of angry and well-armed Trump supporters surrounded the home of Michigan’s secretary of state. Here’s the Arizona Republican Party telling people they should literally be willing to die to keep Trump in office:

He’s not the only one fantasizing about giving his life in the battle to secure Trump’s reelection. But how exactly do they imagine their martyrdom will be accomplished?

As long as those millions of suckers keep sending in their contributions and tuning in to their favorite shows, the people perpetrating the con will keep winding them up to greater heights of outrage. But what happens when President-elect Joe Biden actually takes office? Will they finally realize they got scammed? That their leaders knew all along that Trump lost but kept milking them for money anyway?

Don’t bet on it. The GOP base’s eagerness to fall for every new iteration of this con is limitless, and nobody knows that better than the party’s leaders."

Opinion | Who’s going to tell the GOP base that they’re being scammed?

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