The One Sentence That Shatters the Trumpist Fantasy

By Paul Thomas Zenki

What Trump’s supporters refuse to understand …

We’ve been to this rodeo before. What should be a crystal clear case against Don Trump’s betrayal of American democracy gets lost in a fog of distraction — while the news media keep churning the air.

When the Mueller report was released in the spring of last year, one sentence from the “Constitutional Defenses”section should have been at the top of every home-page and front-page of every legitimate news outlet in the country. But it wasn’t.

That sentence was a clear and unambiguous condemnation of the sitting president of the United States.

The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.

The vast majority of Americans had no idea, and still have no idea, that the report explicitly cited “corrupt exercise of the powers of office” by the president, a phrase that should have been immortalized in headlines around the world. Yet it was often omitted entirely from reporting on the Mueller findings, and when it was mentioned it was almost always buried somewhere down below the lede. And while I cannot know why this bombshell was so widely ignored, my guess is that framing up a he-said-she-said between Mueller and Trump, between Republicans and Democrats, better fit the manner in which the news-tainment industry tends to set up stories to get eyeballs. Soap operas sell soap, after all.

Of course, nothing could have stopped Trump’s dead-ender supporters from denying everything, or the right-wing media from blatantly misleading them. But at the very least, broad public awareness of this finding, and this one phrase in particular, would have given the reality-based community a single, concise banner to rally around and a powerful sword with which to hack at the Gordian knots they were so skillfully tied into by the Trump-Putin disinformation machine.

Well, here we are again, with Judge Matthew Brann’s bare-knuckled TKO of Trump’s attempt to subvert the recent election. Buried within the tidal wave of news coverage on the decision against Trump’s attempt to disenfranchise a multitude of Pennsylvania voters is a singular fact that every Trumpist still clinging to the “stolen election” fantasy needs to hear, not just once, but every time they open their mouths to spout dangerous, anti-democratic conspiracy theories.

Surprsingly, I’m not talking about this one:

It is not in the power of this Court to violate the Constitution.

While that sentence, within a federal court ruling against a sitting president, is certainly eye-opening, not all violations of the Constitution are created equal. There have been many acts of Congress or presidential orders over the decades which have been found to be unconstitutional, and the ship of state has sailed on without foundering on the reefs.

No, I’m talking about this one:

Plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

Not as sexy a statement, I admit. But a much more powerful one.

Let’s dejargonize that sentence into everyday English. What it means is this: The president’s legal team didn’t actually claim that anything had happened which could potentially reverse the vote.

In other words, even if the Trump team had had any evidence that their claims were true, those claims still would have amounted to nothing. The court would still have dismissed the suit, because the claims themselves were empty!

This finding is the single fact that shatters the Trumpist fantasy of the stolen election.

In front of the cameras and on social media, Trump’s team and their fellow travelers spout a seemingly endless tirade of accusations, which they say add up to a subversion of democracy by Democrats and “the left”. And when you listen to Trump’s rank and file supporters, you often hear some version of “where there’s smoke, there’s fire”. When any one conspiracy is disproven, they say that although that story might not have panned out, there’s just “too much to ignore”.

But sometimes, where there’s smoke, there’s not fire, but a smoke machine. And Judge Brann’s ruling pulls down the curtain, nakedly exposing the little man pulling the levers behind it.

The difference between public statements in the media and statements made before a judge is that there are direct consequences for lying to the judge, including losing one’s job, fines, and possibly jail time. The fact that Trump’s attorneys refuse to actually claim in court what they are claiming on camera  —  that some sort of shenanigans “stole” the election  —  can mean only one thing: They are blatantly and knowingly lying when they say the election was stolen and that Trump won.

And that is what must be said to Trump fantasists. Again, and again, and again, as long as they keep repeating the fantasy. Trump refuses to claim in court that he did not lose the election.

Will it convince them? Nope. Will it stop OAN, Newsmax, and other right-wing media from keeping the fantasy alive? Of course not. Will it silence the conspiracy mongering on Parler? Not a chance.

But if it were repeated with firm consistency as long as they persist in their delusions, it would go a long way toward clearing the fog from the air. And maintaining that fog, let us not forget, is the entire reason why the fantasy is being spun in the first place.


Photo by Michael Vadon (Wikimedia Commons)