It’s upsetting to think that there’s potentially a wide readership for this New Yorker piece by Susan Glasser, or that a person can be shocked the way Glasser is shocked and still hold a job as a political reporter at an extremely high-profile national magazine:
I understand and sympathize with the impulse to believe that Trump is done and over with, even if he has refused to go off into the largely silent retirement from public life embraced by his predecessors. Time marches on; he’s already seventy-five years old. He’s talking about running again, but maybe—probably, hopefully—he won’t. (And loser Presidents, Grover Cleveland aside, never actually succeed in coming back.) …
You can dismiss Trump as a joke, a poor sport, a clown, and a fool. “The former guy,” as President Biden memorably described him some months back, is undoubtedly all of those things. What he is not, however, is irrelevant.
… look at where our politics are, nine months after the insurrection…. Trump is, per Pew and other recent polls, both the overwhelming favorite among Republicans for 2024 and their continuing spiritual leader. (Two-thirds of the Republicans and Republican-leaning independents that Pew surveyed wanted Trump to continue to be a major national figure, a total that’s gone up by ten points since January. Yes, that’s not a typo—it’s gone up.)
Omigod! Support from Trump has gone up among Republicans! All summer in the Hamptons, I saw no sign of this! And yet it’s true!
How is it even possible? He’s not getting media validation!
… Trump is banned from Twitter and rarely on TV, except for a few reunions now and then with friends from Fox, such as … Sean Hannity…. Even his wildest pronouncements are rarely covered on the front pages of the Times or the Washington Post or, for that matter, on the home pages of Breitbart or the Drudge Report. Trump is being written about less, and thus talked about less on social media—fifty per cent less since March, according to Axios.
Imagine thinking the right-wing electorate cares what’s on the front pages of The New York Times or The Washington Post, or even, in 2021, the Drudge Report. And Breitbart isn’t the center of the right-wing media universe anymore — it hasn’t been for years.
At this point, it doesn’t even matter how much media attention Trump gets. When he gives interviews to Sean Hannity, they’re inevitably the highest-rated cable shows of the week. Trump is a pop star, the kind who, like Adele, can go silent and then reignite the fan base’s excitement by breaking that silence.
Consider one metric I’ve been obsessed with: the increase in the percentage of Republicans who believe Trump’s falsehoods about the election. In January, a CNN poll found that seventy-five per cent of Republicans said that Biden was not legitimately elected President. In April, that number declined to seventy per cent, but now, according to the most recent CNN survey, it has risen to seventy-eight per cent. Yes, more Republicans believe that the 2020 election was stolen now than did when the pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol.
Muffy, that can’t possibly be true, can it?
Maybe you can be gobsmacked by all of this if you never speak to Trump voters, if you don’t regularly expose yourself to right-wing media, and if yourknowledge of how right-wing voters think comes from New York Times diner articles. In fact, right-wing voters believe this message because the right-wing press has told them for years that Democrats are evil elitist supervillains who cheat in every election and engage in every depravity imaginable, a message echoed, if sometimes in code, by most pre-Trump GOP politicians, and now shouted out loud by those same politicians. Trump, a Fox addict for years, repeated the Fox message without filtration throughout his 2016 campaign and presidency, added touches of his own, and now nearly every Republican says all the quiet parts out loud. The message doesn’t even depend on Trump, but he’s seen as the wellspring of all this wisdom. Unfortunately, people like Glasser have no idea what the GOP voter base thinks, so they’re shocked that this messaging remains potent.
On January 7th, it was still possible to anticipate a different outcome. But, on October 7th, we have to acknowledge that this didn’t happen. Nine months ago, in the immediate aftermath of the insurrection, enough Republican leaders and Trump White House officials viewed the Trump-inspired attack on the democratic transition of power as an event of such horrifying excess that it was difficult to imagine them normalizing, justifying, and rationalizing it as they had the Trumpian excesses of the previous four years.
Sure, you might have thought that Republicans would abandon Trump — but you should have at least realized that they might not. Literally hours after the invasion of the Capitol, high-profile right-wingers were muttering that the whole operation was a false flag cooked up by the left:
Do not be surprised if we learn in the days ahead that the Trump rioters were infiltrated by leftist extremists. Note: this is not to excuse any of them.
— Brit Hume (@brithume) January 7, 2021
Sarah Palin on Fox just now begins by blasting “fake patriot” protestors, then blames the media and suggests Antifa was behind the mob
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) January 7, 2021
They were never going to admit error. Republicans simply don’t do that.
“Republicans initially started down the road to a post-Trump party, as opposed to a Trump party … and they backed up in record time,” Larry Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told me, on Thursday. “They have missed the historic opportunity to put Trump in the past.” The result is that the political crisis today is worse than it was, not better. The unacceptable has been accepted by a shockingly large part of the population and its political leadership.
And guess what? It’s widely conceded that Republicans will win back one or both houses of Congress next year and have an excellent chance of winning the presidency in 2024, even with Trump at the top of the ticket. If you’re shocked at this, Susan, you need to get out more.
This is who Republican voters are. This is what their media and pre-Trump politicians turned them into. And then Trump made them worse, which they enjoyed more than anything in their lives. Of course he’s still relevant.
Published with permission from No More Mr. Nice Blog