Trump now wants his voters to commit voter fraud in 2022 and 2024

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As noted by Marshall, Trump lead into this new tack by reiterating what his followers now generally accept as gospel: that his 2020 loss was due to some unspecified “cheating” by Democratic voters (the clear implication that those doing this cheating were of a darker shade of skin than his audience):

“We have more people than they do, but they know politics and they know cheating,” he said to cheers. “I sometimes say, ‘Well, would the Republicans ever do what they did?’”

Trump then invented a story about his “aides” telling him that Republicans would never do such a thing. And with this phony premise in hand, he then exhorted his followers to abandon whatever moral reservations they might have about committing electoral fraud themselves:

“I say if it’s good for [Democrats], why aren’t the Republicans doing the same kind of thing with the ballots? You know, the [mail-in] ballots they used COVID as another method of cheating.”

As Marshall points out, the people who populate Trump rallies and social media follow Trump’s whims unreservedly, even if benumbed major media outlets tend to treat Trump’s rallies as exercises in hyperbole, eschewing coverage—as Marshall observes—to avoid “amplifying” his message.

His millions of followers don’t see it that way, however. Starved for a glimpse of guidance among Trump’s relatively truncated media appearances since his banishment from Twitter, they now hang on to his every word.

As Marshall observes:

Trump has edged up to this line before. But now there’s no line. He’s demanding Republicans falsify, refuse to count or otherwise manufacture election returns in 2022 and 2024. And because there’s an elite journalist agreement not to foreground things Trump says no one has even heard about this – except of course Trump’s supporters who hear everything he says on conservative media, Facebook and all the other channels where his message comes through loud and clear.

Suffice it to say there has never been a political candidate in modern history—let alone a former president and potential future candidate—who has so directly told his base of supporters they should falsify votes, miscount votes, and stuff ballot boxes: In a word, cheat to get him elected. That’s a first. In September 2020 Trump had skated close to this line by urging his supporters to vote by mail and in person. When called out for advocating what in many states is a felony, Trump’s campaign issued a “clarifying” statement, much as Trump typically does when his criminal nature becomes too obvious to ignore. As reported at the time by James Oliphant for Reuters, that statement was (of course) ignored by his followers, while Trump continued to tweet the same thing to them uninterrupted. His statements were ultimately flagged on social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

But this goes well beyond that. Trump likely isn’t expecting his individual base voters to have the wherewithal to commit widespread fraud sufficient to sway an election in his favor; rather, this is a signal to all those whom he and the GOP have placed in a position of supervising the counting (or miscounting) of ballots that committing such fraud is not only okay, it’s now an expectation.

As Masha Gessen observed in her now iconic 2016 essay Autocracy: Rules For Survival, rule No. 1 is paramount:

Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization. This will happen often: humans seem to have evolved to practice denial when confronted publicly with the unacceptable.

If Democrats and the independent media that continues to exist in this country should have learned one thing by now, it’s that there is no bottom with this individual; no low to which he will not stoop; no attack on the country’s institutions that he will not countenance. Nor, increasingly, is there any  such thing among those who have pledged him their support.

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