Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;
All the King’s horses
And all the King’s men,
Couldn’t put Humpty together again. – Modern version of Humpty Dumpty, circa 1954
On November 3, 2020, Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States, was defeated in the Presidential election by former Vice President Joe Biden (D) after a grueling and bitter campaign that coincided with – and was affected by – a global pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19.
In some ways, this was the longest Presidential election in American history; Trump had not been President for more than a day when he filed to run for a second term with the Federal Election Committee, and he went on the campaign trail, so to speak, less than a month later when he went on his first re-election rally, which was held on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida.
Considering that Trump was in “permanent campaign” mode throughout his Presidency, it should not have been a surprise when he started acting like a toddler about the need for voting-by-mail in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic – a public health crisis that Trump and his closest advisers might have deliberately mishandled as a way to use people’s fears about being infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
I am only theorizing, but considering that Democrats and liberals tended to be more cautious about COVID-19 and backed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to “stop the spread” – social distancing, wearing masks in public spaces, and staying home – more than Republicans/conservatives, Trump and his campaign might have come up with this strategy in order to win:
- Downplay the seriousness of the pandemic to minimize public fear – and avoid criticism of the Trump Administration’s handling of the crisis
- Portray Democrats’ concern over the virus and their adherence to CDC guidelines as both signs of weakness and an a deliberate attempt to kill Trump’s “beautiful” economy
- Suppress the opposition’s ability to vote in the midst of a pandemic by making it harder for Americans to vote by mail and by insisting that the only ballots that would be valid – at least in the conservative world – were the ones cast in person at the polls and not sent to county Election Departments by mail
As I noted yesterday in After the Assault on the Capitol: The Saga of Trump-Supporting Texas Real Estate Agent Jenna Ryan Shows Why Donald Trump Should Be Impeached, Trump planted the seeds of doubt among his followers several months before the November 3 elections. Here are some of the things he said in the runup to Election Day 2020:
“MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS. IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!” – Donald Trump, in a June Twitter tweet quoted in Ignoring FBI And Fellow Republicans, Trump Continues Assault On Mail-In Voting (NPR, August 28, 2020).
In that same NPR article, written by Miles Park, Trump is quoted as saying “The fraud and abuse will be an embarrassment to our Country,” on Tuesday, August 25, less than three months before the November election.
The great masses of the people… will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one. – Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf.
It has been claimed – by Ivana Trump, no less – that one of Donald Trump’s favorite books is a book of speeches by Adolf Hitler. If that’s true, then it is consistent with Trump’s belief in the “Big Lie,” which is a technique the former President has used – to good effect – throughout his business and political career.
In an oft-cited Vanity Fair article from 1990, writer Marie Brenner wrote this observation about Trump’s use of propaganda as a tool for self-promotion.
“Donald is a believer in the big-lie theory,” his lawyer had told me. “If you say something again and again, people will believe you.”
“One of my lawyers said that?” Trump said when I asked him about it. “I think if one of my lawyers said that, I’d like to know who it is, because I’d fire his ass. I’d like to find out who the scumbag is!”
This is a facet of Donald Trump’s personality that has been known for many years – the article After the Gold Rush was published over 30 years ago, and although Trump has aged – he is now 74 – his basic personality has not changed over time. He is still a belligerent, self-promoting, dishonest, and easily distracted man, both in and out of the White House. Old habits are hard to give up, especially when some of them proved useful in his rise to power, especially the constant use of the Big Lie.
The Mindset of a Trump Supporter
All of this dissection of Trump’s psyche is necessary to contextualize his actions before, during, and – especially – after the November election. For if we are to understand why his followers were willing to go as far as to storm the U.S Capitol in a last-ditch effort to reverse the results of the 2020 Presidential election to keep Trump in the White House for another four years, we have to examine what Trump said about those election results.
Consider these three statements made by Trump the day after the election.
“Millions and millions of people voted for us tonight. And a very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise that group of people, and we won’t stand for it.” – Donald Trump, November 4, 2020
“This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election. So our goal now is to ensure the integrity.” – Donald Trump, November 4, 2020
“We’ll be going to the US Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop. We don’t want them to find any ballots at 4 o’clock in the morning and add them to the list, OK?” – Donald Trump, November 4, 2020
And, of course, here is one of the quotes that will be cited at Trump’s Senate trial next month:
All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened radical left Democrats, which is what they’re doing and stolen by the fake news media. That’s what they’ve done and what they’re doing. We will never give up. We will never concede, it doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved. – Donald J. Trump’s “Stop the Steal” Speech
And to prove how effective Trump’s use of the Big Lie has been among his loyalists, here are some quotes from Republicans or self-described “patriots” culled from social media.
On a Facebook post about the pending impeachment trial of the former President, C.H.D says:
73 million Americans disagree. These Republicans senators and congress represent the republican party. Are you aware what Trump said at the rally? Because I saw it live on TV. This is what he said, “I know that everyone soon will be marching over to the capital building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” Does this sound like someone trying to incite violence in rioting? No. The Democrats and the media, as usual, twist and interpret the words to fit their narrative. The Senate will not impeach him because the truth is on Trumps side.
B.M. another Trump supporter, says:
That’s pure BS! Are you unaware that the FBI in.Virginia for wing of plans to attack the Capital BEFORE Jan 6; and sent the information on the Washington DC FBI. They all were aware, but did they put more police on duty or call for the National Guard beforehand??? No , THEY DID NOT, instead they patiently waited and plotted as to how they could make it Trumps fault!!! ALL CROOKS AND TRAITORS
R.E. adds this bon mot:
Yes so impeached that He will be your 2024 president.
This blind adhesion to a cult of personality unlike any in American Presidential history – as far as I know, anyway – is one of the reasons why someone like a woman like Jennifer Leigh “Jenna” Ryan of Frisco, Texas would hop on a private plane with a party of like-minded Trump supporters, fly to Washington, DC, and participate in the violent breach of the U.S. Capitol – an event which resulted in five deaths, vandalism and theft of government property, and the arrest of hundreds of individuals, including Ryan herself.
Speaking of Ryan, here are some more samples of her worldview as expressed on her Twitter account:
Replying to @Qanon76 and @LeCadena1
We had to storm the ivory towers of the US Capital. We were very sweet about it, everyone saying excuse me, etc… But we had to do it. Pence let us down. Those cronies in there are stealing our country.
9:16 AM · Jan 7, 2021·Twitter Web App
PRESIDENT TRUMP!!! WE love you and we thank you for everything you and your family have sacrificed for our country. You opened our eyes. We are awake. We LOVE you. .@realDonaldTrump
1:13 AM · Jan 7, 2021·Twitter Web App
Ignoring FBI And Fellow Republicans, Trump Continues Assault On Mail-In Voting (NPR, August 28, 2020).
After the Gold Rush, Marie Brenner, Vanity Fair (September 1990 issue)
Facebook comment by Luis Gutierrez, January 25, 2021
 In an article in Vanity Fair (After the Gold Rush, September 1990), writer Marie Brenner wrote:
Last April, perhaps in a surge of Czech nationalism, Ivana Trump told her lawyer Michael Kennedy that from time to time her husband reads a book of Hitler’s collected speeches, My New Order, which he keeps in a cabinet by his bed. Kennedy now guards a copy of My New Order in a closet at his office, as if it were a grenade. Hitler’s speeches, from his earliest days up through the Phony War of 1939, reveal his extraordinary ability as a master propagandist.
“Did your cousin John give you the Hitler speeches?” I asked Trump.
Trump hesitated. “Who told you that?”
“I don’t remember,” I said.
“Actually, it was my friend Marty Davis from Paramount who gave me a copy of Mein Kampf, and he’s a Jew.” (“I did give him a book about Hitler,” Marty Davis said. “But it was My New Order, Hitler’s speeches, not Mein Kampf. I thought he would find it interesting. I am his friend, but I’m not Jewish.”)
 Per Wikipedia: A big lie (German: große Lüge) is a propaganda technique used for political purpose or, more formally, “a gross distortion or misrepresentation of the facts, especially when used as a propaganda device by a politician or official body”. The expression was coined by Adolf Hitler, when he dictated his 1925 book Mein Kampf, about the use of a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. (Wikipedia)
4 thoughts on “After the Assault on the Capitol: Trump, ‘The Big Lie’ & the MAGA Cult”
The problem is Republicans will do whatever mental gymnastics it takes to downplay what happened on January 6th, deny their involvement, as well as justify everything Trump did in his tenure. We can sit here and hash this over and over again – 70 million people will continue to deny it.
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It’s eerily like a cult of personality.
Nixon and Reagan have their GOP fans (look at Roger Stone, FFS), but I’ve never seen anything like Trumpism. I am too young to have been around for JFK (I was eight months old when he was shot, so I can’t say I remember my first President), FDR, or any of the great Presidents before my lifetime, but I hear that the closest to a populist pol like Trump were Sen. Joe McCarthy in the early Cold War era and Huey Long in the 30s.
There’s nothing more chilling than knowing that Trump still has a huge fan base. But he did destroy the GOP (like that idiot Lindsey Graham predicted) as it was before 2016.
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I don’t think Kennedy had this type of following. There is quite a train of thought that he wouldn’t have been re-elected. In death he became legendary, but, as you know, he had problems.
FDR might have been closer, but I think his following had more to do with his policies and leading us through WWII. Still, there’s never been anything like Trump. The forefathers were afraid of this and put checks and balances in there – they didn’t count on so many people in Congress becoming sycophants with a cult of personality. They expected them to stop it.
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I agree with you, Patti, in that none of the Presidents I mentioned in my list of modern Chief Executives had a cult-of-personality; even FDR, the best of them all (on my list, anyway) had (and still has) many detractors.
Trumpism is, in my view, the end-result of the post-Watergate radicalization of the GOP that gained momentum after the 1976 elections and escalated with Reagan’s election in 1980. It also might be the end of the old Republican Party as we knew it before 2016.
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