Lost to Facts or Reason

Yesterday the Creature called on his culties to harass Steve Jobs’s widow.

It’s going to get worse. Trump supporters sincerely believe their guy cannot lose unless Democrats cheat, and they are preparing. See The Warning Signs of a Combustible Presidential Transition by Peter Nicholas at The Atlantic.

The weeks after the election could be “a very dangerous period” for the country, says Miles Taylor, a former senior official in the Homeland Security Department, whose agents were deployed to quell recent police-violence protests in Portland, Oregon, against the wishes of the state’s leadership. Taylor left the agency last year and has since emerged as an outspoken critic of the president. “I talk to law-enforcement officials all the time who I used to serve with, and they’re nervous about November and December,” he continued. “We’re seeing an historic spike in gun sales. There’s some of the worst polarization in United States history. This is beyond a powder keg. This is the Titanic with powder kegs filled all the way to the hull.” …

… “It’s absolutely terrifying,” says Rosa Brooks, a former Pentagon official in the Obama administration who’s been running war-games-style exercises about the election outcome. “People who study political violence have been warning for a long time that conditions that we’re seeing in the United States resemble those that you see in countries that slide all the way down into civil conflict. We’re only going further down that chute.”

We must assume the worst. Trump culties have been primed to take up arms to keep Trump in power, which is why I have been urging people to vote in person if you can. We need a Biden victory within hours of the poll closings, if not election night. If knowing the outcome depends on a slow count of mail-in ballots, Trump’s, um, people are likely to swarm election offices to destroy ballots.

See also Peter Wehmer, Why Trump Supporters Can’t Admit Who He Really Is, also at The Atlantic.

To understand the corruption, chaos, and general insanity that is continuing to engulf the Trump campaign and much of the Republican Party right now, it helps to understand the predicate embraced by many Trump supporters: If Joseph R. Biden Jr. wins the presidency, America dies.

During last week’s Republican National Convention, speaker after speaker insisted that life under a Biden presidency would be dystopian. Charlie Kirk, the young Trump acolyte who opened the proceedings, declared, “I am here tonight to tell you—to warn you—that this election is a decision between preserving America as we know it and eliminating everything that we love.” President Trump, who closed the proceedings, said, “Your vote will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans or whether we give free rein to violent anarchists and agitators and criminals who threaten our citizens. And this election will decide whether we will defend the American way of life or allow a radical movement to completely dismantle and destroy it.” And in between Americans were told that Democrats want to “disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home, and invite MS-13 to live next door” and that they “want to destroy this country and everything that we have fought for and hold dear.”

“They’re not satisfied with spreading the chaos and violence into our communities. They want to abolish the suburbs altogether,” a St. Louis couple who had brandished weapons against demonstrators outside their home, told viewers. “Make no mistake, no matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats’ America

One does not have to be a champion of the Democratic Party to know this chthonic portrait is absurd. But it is also essential, because it allows Trump and his followers to tolerate and justify pretty much anything in order to win. And “anything” turns out to be quite a lot.

See also What’s the Worst That Can Happen by Rosa Brooks at WaPo. Teams of “Republicans, Democrats, civil servants, media experts, pollsters and strategists” were asked to imagine what they would do in a range of election scenarios. A lot of what was imagined was pretty damn awful.

With the exception of the “big Biden win” scenario, each of our exercises reached the brink of catastrophe, with massive disinformation campaigns, violence in the streets and a constitutional impasse. In two scenarios (“Trump win” and “extended uncertainty”) there was still no agreement on the winner by Inauguration Day, and no consensus on which candidate should be assumed to have the ability to issue binding commands to the military or receive the nuclear codes. In the “narrow Biden win” scenario, Trump refused to leave office and was ultimately escorted out by the Secret Service — but only after pardoning himself and his family and burning incriminating documents. …

… In each scenario, Team Trump — the players assigned to simulate the Trump campaign and its elected and appointed allies — was ruthless and unconstrained right out of the gate, and Team Biden struggled to get out of reaction mode. In one exercise, for instance, Team Trump’s repeated allegations of fraudulent mail-in ballots led National Guard troop to destroy thousands of ballots in Democratic-leaning ZIP codes, to applause on social media from Trump supporters. Over and over, Team Biden urged calm, national unity and a fair vote count, while Team Trump issued barely disguised calls for violence and intimidation against ballot-counting officials and Biden electors.

We have to be prepared for the worst, including the fact that many police departments will side with Team Trump. I fear that a lot of the mail in ballots will be destroyed before they can be counted, which is why I keep urging people to vote in person if they can vote in person.

Going back to the Peter Wehmer article — at this point most of the vote may be set in stone. Trump supporters do not see Trump; they see a projection of what they want Trump to be, and they believe his absolutely absurd claims about Biden and the Democrats. I don’t see that changing before election day. Wehmer writes that Trump supporters are ruled by fear, however irrational, and they cling to Trump because they see him as their protector. His meanness and ruthlessness are virtues to them.

In my experience, if Trump supporters are asked to turn their gaze away from their perceived opponents, and instead to focus and reflect on him and on his failures, they respond in a couple of consistent ways. Many shift the topic immediately back to Democrats, because offering a vigorous moral defense of Donald Trump isn’t an easy task. It’s like asking people to stare directly into the sun; they might do it for an instant, but then they look away. But if you do succeed in keeping the topic on Trump, they often twist themselves into knots in order to defend him, and in some cases they simply deny reality.

“Motivation conditions cognition,” Jonathan Rauch, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a contributing writer at The Atlantic, wisely told me. Very few Trump supporters I know are able to offer an honest appraisal of the man. To do so creates too much cognitive dissonance.

All political partisans tend to suffer confirmation biases. But with Trump supporters, we’re looking at people living in a twisted, medieval myth in which their side represents absolute good and those other people are absolutely evil. This is more religion than politics. Policy doesn’t matter. Ideology doesn’t matter. And, since this is war, morality and decency don’t matter, either. There is just winning and losing, survival or death, with them. Whatever it takes to win and destroy the other is what at least a portion of them will do.

In other news: Here is an eyewitness account of the Trump boat parade on Lake Travis. Basically, the big, fast boats created wakes that swamped the small boats, and the owners of the big, fast boats didn’t care. They didn’t even slow down as rescue efforts were going on.

See Paul Waldman, Louis DeJoy could hardly be more emblematic of the Trump administration. The more we learn about DeJoy, the scummier he looks.