In addition to building a damning case that Donald Trump and his co-conspirators hatched a premeditated scheme to steal a presidential election they knew he’d lost, the Jan. 6 committee has exposed the latest chapter in a story that’s at least half a century old.
We’re talking about the sordid, ongoing phenomenon otherwise known as the right-wing grift machine. For decades, the peddling of hallucinatory tales of impending doom aimed at conservatives has overlapped with the crassest of money-grabbing schemes.
The Jan. 6 committee has documented in vivid new detail how Trump and his allies wielded the stolen election lie to raise up to $250 million from Republican and conservative voters. Yet the “Official Election Defense Fund” that was supposed to be the repository of these funds appears not to exist. Much of that money, the committee says, was channeled back to political outfits run by top Trump allies.
Historian Rick Perlstein, who has written many books about the American right, is uniquely suited to place this story in the larger context of the modern conservative movement’s predilection for such grift.
At least since the 1960s, Perlstein argues, conservative elites have seen extremist tendencies on the right as a ripe target for manipulation, for the purposes of mobilizing mass political movements. That has often shaded into money-raising schemes that smack of outright grift.
In 2016, a Republican ratfucker/monkey’s paw demonstrated how profitable claims of election fraud can be, as devasted losers are particularly vulnerable. Trump both perfected the idea and wanted to steal the election while ALSO making sure he cleared a nice profit either way. It’s a hell of a racket.