It’s trendy these days for people who didn’t vote for Donald Trump to describe his supporters as members of a cult. To be sure, the movement has a lot of the classic signs, from the constant cup-rattling for donations to “I alone can fix it.” They may not wear saffron robes or prairie dresses, but the red MAGA caps are pretty clear identifiers. For those of us who remember when you could spot a Republican by their Brooks Brothers neckties, it’s a little jarring.
But here’s the thing about cults: Their fervency is like the erotic trance new lovers fall into, in that eventually, it wears off. One day you wake up and ask yourself, “Why am I spending my days in airports, hectoring people for donations? Why am I no longer welcome at my family’s Thanksgiving? What am I getting out of this?” For most, or many, the answer is, “not enough.” And they move on.
Late last month, the GOP-dominated Michigan Senate Oversight Committee released its report on the months of investigation of the November 2020 election. This wasn’t the same committee that allowed Rudy Giuliani, newly suspended member of the New York State Bar, to call his parade of witnesses to make claim after claim about the “fraud” they claim they saw on and around Election Day last year – that was the House Oversight Committee. But Ed McBroom, the Senate committee chairman, is an Upper Peninsula conservative and hardly what you’d call a pinko.
And the report found: No fraud. They picked some nits, made recommendations for what they’d consider improvements in election processes, and of course they’re continuing to push the bills they claim would do it. But Mellissa Carone’s vocal-fried drawl about seeing stacks of ballots at the TCF Center being run through tabulators over and over, presumably running up the score for Democrats? It happened, but not like she said. From Page 26:
Investigation does show it is possible to cycle a completed stack through the tabulator multiple times as long as no errors occur. Bundles of ballots go through the tabulator so quickly that a simple jam or other error necessitates the entire bundle being restarted. Workers cannot restart the stack unless they first clear the partial count and start from zero by pressing a button.
The committee also looked at the infamous Antrim County incident, and found the reasonable explanation, offered by the county clerk almost immediately afterward, held up, and was confirmed by a hand recount.
The reaction to this has been about what you’d expect. Lots of poorly done memes about “RINO hunting” and so on, as well as a great deal of howling, led by the howler-in-chief, who targeted McBroom and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and accused them of being part of a “coverup.” I suspect what triggered Trump was this part, which McBroom rendered in boldface:
The Committee recommends the attorney general consider investigating those who have been utilizing misleading and false information about Antrim County to raise money or publicity for their own ends. The Committee finds those promoting Antrim County as the prime evidence of a nationwide conspiracy to steal the election place all other statements and actions they make in a position of zero credibility.
He also inserts “so-called” before “forensic audit.” That must have really chapped their asses.
So far, all of this is predictable, but also worrisome. When will the fever break? It’s showing no signs of doing so.
The committee spent eight months hearing from witnesses, “28 hours of testimony from almost 90 individuals spanning nine committee hearings, the review of thousands of pages of subpoenaed documents from multiple government entities, hundreds of hours of Senate staff investigation, and countless reviews of claims and concerns from Michigan residents,” as the report states. They found no evidence of a stolen election. And still, Trumpers believe the Big Lie.
In April 2019, Deadline Detroit went to the We Build the Wall Town Hall, in Detroit. Steve Bannon and a cast of right-wing D-listers pledged to use the money given by the faithful to build a southern border wall. A year and a half later, Bannon was arrested – on a yacht, no less – and charged with using that money to fund his luxurious lifestyle. And still, they believe.
Rudy Giuliani, who once led the most prestigious U.S. Attorney’s office in the country, was suspended from the practice of law in New York and Washington D.C., over his promulgation of election lies. And still, they believe.
So? you’re thinking. There’s a sucker born every minute. If they’re picking pockets, it’s mainly those of one another, so let them. But these people are our fellow countrymen. Many of them hold powerful positions. Also, psst: They have guns.
I can’t be so sanguine. I think of them as termites, chewing away at the foundations of American life, which is under enormous stress now, and shows no signs of letting up. True, a few state legislators, previously believed to be invertebrates for Trump, show early signs of evolving spines, but I’m confident these mutations will collapse if the heat turns up.
Think of them as family members (which some of them are), lost to the Children of God or Hare Krishnas or Scientology. Prodigal sons and daughters. They may need some tough love, but they need to come home. The health of the country depends on it.
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