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Are the Republican “audits” [sic] of the 2020 vote works or shoots?

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Yesterday a bunch of GOP members of the Pennsylvania state Congress got a behind the scenes glimpse of the ongoing “audit” of the 2020 vote in Arizona. Several of them are pushing to start a similar process in their own state. Meanwhile, a similar effort is trying to get off the ground in Michigan.

Even as all this is percolating, the Former Guy is about to start campaigning again:

Defeated presidents usually go away — at least for a long while. Not Donald Trump.

Trump returns to the electoral battlefield Saturday as the marquee speaker at the North Carolina Republican Party’s state convention. He plans to follow up with several more rallies in June and July to keep his unique political base engaged in the 2022 midterms and give him the option of seeking the presidency again in 2024.

“If the president feels like he’s in a good position, I think there’s a good chance that he does it,” Trump adviser Jason Miller said in a telephone interview. “For the more immediate impact, there’s the issue of turning out Trump voters for the midterm elections.”

And, Miller added, “President Trump is the leader of the Republican Party.”

Trump is reportedly more obsessed than ever with the idea that the election was stolen from him. Asking whether he really believes that is a category mistake: Donald Trump doesn’t have “beliefs” about those sorts of things in anything like the normal sense of the word. He just says whatever he wants to say with literally no regard for truth, evidence, plausibility, or anything else. As many people have pointed out he’s not so much a liar as a bullshitter in Harry Frankfurt’s classic formulation (TL;DR version: a liar has to care about the truth in order to lie about it; a bullshitter is not even interested in the truth to the limited logically necessary sense that a liar must be).

ETA: Hard right National Review Trump supporter Charles C. W. Cooke confirms Maggie Haberman’s reporting about all this:

Two days ago, the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman reported that Donald Trump “has been telling a number of people he’s in contact with that he expects he will get reinstated by August.” In response, many figures on the right inserted their fingers into their ears and started screaming about fake news.

Instead, they should have listened — because Haberman’s reporting was correct. I can attest, from speaking to an array of different sources, that Donald Trump does indeed believe quite genuinely that he — along with former senators David Perdue and Martha McSally — will be “reinstated” to office this summer after “audits” of the 2020 elections in Arizona, Georgia, and a handful of other states have been completed. I can attest, too, that Trump is trying hard to recruit journalists, politicians, and other influential figures to promulgate this belief — not as a fundraising tool or an infantile bit of trolling or a trial balloon, but as a fact.

H/t commenter CaptServo. Also, yikes.

But what about everybody else in the GOP clown car? (Miller’s claim about Trump being the leader of the Republican party is at the moment incontestably true).

Here I’ll refer again to a frame offered up back in November by pro wrestling aficionado Jared Yates Sexton, who in the days immediately after the election argued that Republican claims of election fraud were a “work” that was mutating into a “shoot.” A “work” is a scripted drama engaged in by wrestlers who pretend to be engaged in competitive athletic performances, in various feuds and intrigues with each other outside of the ring, etc. A “shoot” is what happens when a work starts to inadvertently get real: A fake scripted feud becomes a real-life unscripted one, and so forth. “Works become shoots in a real hurry as the performers are consumed by their own performance,” Sexton argued at the time, in what now seems like a prophetic prediction.

Again this doesn’t really apply directly to Trump himself, who is such a decadent and depraved creature of postmodernity that the distinction between the real and the fake means nothing to him in any aspect of his life. But what about everybody else, from Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy down to that nice lady poll watcher who helps out with bake sales at the Antioch Baptist Church when she’s not reading the latest QAnon revelations on Facebook and Instagram?

Turning again to wrestling terminology, I suggest that everybody else can be sorted into smarts, marks, and smarks.

Smarts are the straightforward cynics who realize that Republican claims of election fraud are pure kayfabe, but only care about gaining and holding power by any means, licit or illicit.

Marks are people who are both dumb enough and naive enough to believe that those claims are literally true.

Smarks make up the most interesting category: These are the Republicans who know that in a literal sense the claims are false, but who believe that in a deeper, more ideologically complex sense they are true, or “true.” The deeper, esoteric Straussian or Jesuitical or Leninist truth here is that Democrats steal elections by getting people who have no right to run the country, since it’s not theirs — white women and racial, ethnic, and religious minorities — to vote for them via various forms of economic and ideological manipulation (Key terms here: identity politics, vote harvesting, welfare culture, radical feminism, secularism, globalism, woke corporations, Big Tech, leftist professors, Berkeley, vegan, drag queens, Hillary Clinton).

For what it’s worth I think this category is pretty much where all conservative intellectuals who still support the Republican party are today. This basketful of adorable puppies also includes many of the smarter prominent Republican politicians: Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz are prime examples. It also contains various class not race leftists and pseudo-leftists, especially those who just aren’t that into girls for one reason or another.

As to where all this is going to go over the next few months and years, my view is that the Republican party in anything like its present form has gone completely around the bend, and it’s never coming back, whether Trump remains its leader or not. One day America, if it survives long enough, will have a relatively sane center-right major party, in the style of those who have belonged to various traditional Western European political coalitions, but right now that day is far off.

The question of the moment is how to get from here to there, and the answer, complex as it no doubt is, does not involve “working” with people who at bottom would prefer to shoot you than lose elections to you — something which they have no plans of doing again at any time in the foreseeable future.

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