Republicans need a new mission. [As heard on Rush Limbaugh.]
The Disillusionment of the Deplorables
How Trump voters formed an ugly—and accurate—view of America’s ruling regime.
I’ve had discussions at this point with a wide range of Trump supporters who believe the 2020 election was fraudulent. I think I can extract a general theory about their perspective. It is also the perspective of most of the people who were at the Capitol on January 6, and probably even that of Trump himself.
Most of these people believe some or all of the various theories involving midnight ballots, voting machines, etc. But what you find when you talk to them is that, while they’ll defend those positions with information they got from Hannity or Breitbart or various other sources, they’re not particularly attached to them. If the theories were disproven, it wouldn’t disprove the fraud for them. That’s because there are far more important facts—actual, confirmed facts—that shape their perspective. Here they are:
A Glimpse Behind the Curtain
To begin with, the FBI and other intelligence agencies spied on the 2016 Trump campaign using evidence manufactured by the Clinton campaign. We now know that all involved knew this evidence was fake from Day One (see just for one example: this memo from July of 2016 by former CIA director John Brennan).
Many of the people who believe in fraud are Tea Party people. The types who give their kids a pocket Constitution for their birthday and have Founding Fathers memes in their bios. To them, the intel community spying on a presidential campaign using fake evidence (including falsified documents) is a big deal. Everyone involved lied about their involvement as long as they could. This was true with everyone, from Brennan and Representative Adam Schiff—who were on TV saying they’d seen clear evidence of collusion with Russia, while admitting under oath behind closed doors that they hadn’t—all the way down the line. In the end we learned that it was all fake. But we only learned key information—including that the DNC paid for the manufactured evidence—because of a court order. James Comey denied on TV knowing the DNC paid for it, when we have emails from a year earlier proving that he knew.
At first, many Trump supporters were worried there must be some collusion, because every media and intelligence agency wouldn’t make it up out of nothing. When it was clear that they had made it up, people expected a reckoning. When that didn’t happen, they shed many illusions about their government.
We also know, as fact:
- That the fraudulent Steele Dossier was the sole evidence used to justify spying on the Trump campaign,
- That the FBI knew the Steele dossier was a DNC op,
- That Steele’s source told the FBI the info was unserious, and
- That they did not inform the court of any of this and kept spying.
Trump supporters know this collusion case front and back. They went from worrying the collusion must be real, to suspecting it might be fake, to realizing it was a scam. Then they watched as every institution—agencies, the press, Congress, academia—gaslit them for another year.
Worse, collusion was used to scare people away from working in the administration. They knew their entire lives would be investigated. Many quit because they were being bankrupted by legal fees. The Department of Justice, press, & government destroyed lives and actively subverted an elected administration throughout the whole affair.
This is where people whose political identity was largely defined by a naïve belief in what they learned in Civics class began to see the outline of a Regime that crossed all institutional boundaries. Because it had stepped out of the shadows to unite against an interloper.
GOP propaganda still has many of these Trump supporters thinking in terms of partisan binaries. But a whole lot of them see that the Regime is not partisan. They all know that the same institutions would have taken opposite sides if it was a Tulsi Gabbard vs. Jeb Bush election. It’s hard to describe to people on the Left, who are used to thinking of the American government as a conspiracy (see for example, Watergate, COINTELPRO, the Weapons of Mass Destruction, etc.) how shocking and disillusioning this was for people who encourage their sons to enlist in the Army, and who are appalled when others don’t stand for the Anthem.
They could have managed that shock if it only involved the government. But the behavior of the corporate press is really what radicalized them. They hate journalists more than they hate any politician or government official, because they feel most betrayed by them. The idea that the press is driven by ratings and sensationalism became untenable. If that were true, they’d be all over the Jeffrey Epstein story. The corporate press is the propaganda arm of the Regime they now see in outline. Nothing anyone says will ever make them unsee that, period.
This is profoundly disorienting. Many of them don’t know for certain whether ballots were faked in November 2020, but they know for absolute certain that the press, the FBI, etc., would lie to them if there was. They have every reason to believe that, and it’s probably true. They watched the press behave like animals for four years. Tens of millions of people will always see Brett Kavanaugh as a gang rapist, based on nothing, because of CNN. And CNN seems proud of that. They led a lynch mob against a high school kid. They cheered on a summer of riots.
Trump supporters always claimed the media had liberal bias. Fine, whatever: they still thought the press would admit truth if they were cornered. They don’t think that anymore. It’s a different thing to watch them invent stories whole cloth in order to destroy regular lives and spark mass violence. Time magazine told us that during the 2020 riots, there were weekly conference calls involving—among others—leaders of the protests, the local officials who refused to stop them, and media people who framed them for political effect. In Ukraine we call that a color revolution.
Then, throughout the summer, establishment governors took advantage of COVID to change voting procedures. It wasn’t just the mail-ins: they also lowered signature matching standards, got rid of voter ID and notarization requirements, and much more. Forget the ballot conspiracies. It’s a fact that governors used COVID to unconstitutionally alter election procedures (the Constitution states that only legislatures can do so) and help Biden to make up for a massive enthusiasm gap by gaming the mail-in ballot system.
At this point Trump people had lived through not only the collusion scam but also a fake impeachment. We now know that Trump’s request for Ukraine to cooperate with the Department of Justice regarding Biden’s financial activities in Ukraine was in support of an active investigation being pursued by the FBI and Ukraine Attorney General at the time, and so a completely legitimate request. So Trump people expected shenanigans by now.
Then you get the Hunter Biden laptop scandal. Big Tech ran a full-on censorship campaign against a major newspaper to protect a political candidate. Period. Everyone knows it, all of the Tech companies now admit it was a “mistake“—but, ya know, the election’s over, so who cares? It hardly needs saying that if the New York Times had Don, Jr.’s laptop, full of pics of him smoking crack and engaging in group sex, lots of lurid family drama, emails describing direct corruption and backed up by the CEO of the company they were using, the New York Times would not have been banned.
So now think back: Stories about Trump being pissed on by Russian prostitutes and blackmailed by Putin were promoted as fact, and the only evidence was a document paid for by his opposition and disavowed by its source. And then the New York Post was banned for reporting on true information.
The reaction of Trump people to all this was not, “no fair!” That’s how they felt about Romney’s “binders of women” in 2012. This is different. Now they see, correctly, that every institution is captured by ppl who will use any means to exclude them from the political process. And yet they showed up in record numbers to vote. He got 13 million more votes than in 2016—10 million more than Hillary Clinton. As election night dragged on, Trump supporters allowed themselves some hope.
But when the four critical swing states (and only those states) went dark at midnight, they knew.
Over the ensuing weeks, they got shuffled around by grifters and media scam artists selling them conspiracy theories. They latched onto one, then another increasingly absurd theory as they tried to put a concrete name on something very real. Media and Tech did everything to make things worse. Everything about the election was strange—the changes to procedure, unprecedented mail-in voting, the delays, etc.—but rather than admit that and make everything transparent, they banned discussion of it (even in DMs!).
Everyone knows that, just as Don, Jr.’s laptop would’ve been the story of the century, if everything about the election dispute was the same, except the parties were reversed, suspicions about the outcome would’ve been Taken Very Seriously. See 2016 for proof.
Even the courts’ refusal to hear the fraud case gets nowhere with those who have seen these truths, because the opposition embraced mass political violence. Trump supporters say, with good reason: What judge will stick his neck out for Trump knowing he’ll be destroyed in the media as a violent mob burns down his house?
It’s a fact, according to Time, that mass riots were planned in cities across the country if Trump won. Sure, they were “protests,” but they were planned by the same people as during the summer, and everyone knows what it would have meant. Judges have families, too.
Trump voters knew the changes to election law were unconstitutional, it’s right there in plain English. But they knew the cases wouldn’t see court until after the election. And what judge will toss millions of ballots because a governor broke the rules? The threat of mass riots wasn’t implied, it was direct.
The entrenched bureaucracy and security state subverted Trump from Day One. The press was part of the operation. Election rules were changed. Big Tech censored opposition. Political violence was legitimized and encouraged. And Trump was banned from social media. People are putting these things together into a very ugly—and quite accurate—account of how their country works.
Trump voters were led down some rabbit holes. But they are absolutely right that their government is monopolized by a Regime that believes they are beneath representation, and will observe no limits to keep them getting it. Trump fans should be happy he lost. It might’ve kept him alive.
The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.