Ruth Marcus felt compelled to condemn Donald Trump for demanding the “termination” of the Constitution so he could be “declare[d] the Rightful Winner” of the 2020 presidential election.” She explained that she grew weary of writing about Trump in the latter years of his presidency but is making an exception now because his “willingness to entertain and encourage extra-constitutional action is alarming coming from a man who is seeking to return to office.” It’s an odd demarcation line since Trump has already attempted the coup Marcus warns us about.
This is insurrectionism by social media. Nothing — and certainly not imaginary “Fraud,” capitalized or not — “allows for the termination” of constitutional guarantees. Trump is laying the groundwork for a coup.
She should have said “another coup.” He’s been declaring himself the rightful winner of the 2020 contest since he went on television in the wee hours of election night and said, “We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election.” Everything he did from that day until January 6, 2021 was a failed effort at terminating the Constitution. He was forced out of office, nonetheless, but he’s never wavered or changed his tune. The only thing that is different now is that he’s been explicit about what it will take for him to get what he wants.
It’s admittedly unique for a declared candidate for president to focus on being declared the winner of the past election rather than the next one, especially since there’s no mechanism, constitutional or otherwise, to make that happen aside from armed insurrection. And maybe that’s the implication that struck Marcus’s funny bone and activated a defensive reflex. But the threat from Trump has been constant and deadly serious from the very beginning, and his latest statement isn’t in any way an escalation. It’s literally par for the course.
Still, Marcus might have a least spent one sentence on what Trump was referring to in his statement. I mean, she did quote Trump in full.
“So, with the revelation of MASSIVE & WIDESPREAD FRAUD & DECEPTION in working closely with Big Tech Companies, the DNC & the Democrat Party, do you throw the Presidential election results of 2020 OUT and declare the Rightful Winner, or do you have a new election,” Trump posted. “A massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution. Our great Founders did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!”
And, he followed up, “UNPRECEDENTED FRAUD REQUIRES UNPRECEDENTED CURE!”
Here Trump says something is new. Something has changed. There’s been a revelation and it vindicates him. It proves there was massive and widespread fraud and deception that caused the wrong candidate to win the 2020 election.
In explaining why she stopped writing about Trump, Marcus wrote, “Why bother? Shaming targets and convincing readers are the columnist’s goals. With Trump, no minds will be changed, and neither will his behavior.” Maybe it’s because she doesn’t believe she can change anyone’s opinion about Trump’s new allegation, but she somehow never described it in this column. He isn’t saying that there’s now proof that the election was hacked or that the results were manipulated in some way. He’s saying that there’s now proof that Big Tech companies worked closely with the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Party to deceive and defraud the electorate.
Let me state something obvious here.
If this statement is dangerous, as Marcus insists, then it’s dangerous because if enough people believe it and believe it with enough fervor, Trump might be able to inspire a new insurrection (“an unprecedented cure”). So, to address such a threat, the first goal should be to do what you can to limit how many people believe it. I don’t think you can throw up your hands and say, “With Trump, no minds will be changed.”
But that’s Marcus’s approach. Her focus on the Constitution misses the point.
So, let’s get to the point. As Michael Grynbaum reports for the New York Times, something actually happened on Friday to inspire Trump’s statement.
The tempest began when Mr. [Elon] Musk teased the release of internal documents that he said would reveal the story behind Twitter’s 2020 decision to restrict posts linking to a report in the New York Post about Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son, Hunter…
…The so-called Twitter Files, released Friday evening by the independent journalist Matt Taibbi, set off a firestorm among pundits, media ethicists and lawmakers in both parties.
Yes, Trump is arguing that because Twitter, in the last days of the 2020 election, restricted posts to a New York Post story about Hunter Biden’s laptop, he was wrongfully denied a second term in office. And because new internal Twitter documents reveal something allegedly nefarious about coordination on this issue between decision-making executives at “Big Tech” and the Democratic Party, this isn’t in the same category of Hillary Clinton getting fucked over by a last second statement from FBI director James Comey. In that case, the unlucky Clinton had a right to complain, maybe, but not to be declared the rightful winner. But here, in Trump’s telling, is something more serious.
But what’s more serious?
He throws out the word “fraud” but he knows the Twitter laptop story provides no basis or avenue for overturning the last election. There’s nothing constitutionally that can or will be done. That’s why he says that he can’t rely on the Constitution and it’s why he says he can’t rely on “rules, regulations, and articles” either.
But if we’re getting real for a moment, what Trump was really doing with his unhinged comment was trying to get more people to look at the Taibbi story, and then for them to take it for more seriously than is warranted.
And why does he want that?
Well, first, it’s an opportunity for him to pretend that he’s been proven correct that he in some way was the actual winner of the 2020 election and should still be president. He gets to pretend he isn’t a loser. That there’s no logical or legal thread to that argument is why he tosses those types of argument aside. This is probably the entire psychological explanation for his remarks. He cannot accept being the loser.
But there are deeper and more dangerous implications to his remarks, as Marcus noted, in that they undermine the rule of law and might inspire political violence. Is that Trump’s goal here? Suffice to say, he doesn’t care about the rule of law and if political violence might benefit him in some way, he’s all for political violence.
But we knew that already.
So, the real story here is whether the Taibbi “revelations” have the power to create political violence, and that depends on what people believe about those revelations. We can see what Trump wants them to believe. Maybe Marcus could have spent one second on explaining why they should believe nothing of the sort.
After all, the story is a nothingburger.