Donald Trump’s raison d’ȇtre for his 2024 presidential campaign—and by extension, the substance of the 2024 Republican platform should he be its nominee—became even clearer this week, even though it apparently involves time travel.
As countless news stories had already reported, Trump remains obsessed with overturning his defeat in the 2020 election. Yesterday, however, we learned just how obsessed, when he withdrew his endorsement of Rep. Mo Brooks, as faithful a Trump acolyte as ever encouraged the January 6th insurrection, for an open Senate seat in Alabama. Brooks was the first member of Congress to suggest using the January 6th congressional recording of the electoral vote to nullify and overturn the outcome, and, anticipating that the day’s events could involve violence, wore body armor that day as he addressed Trump’s rally.
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What would lead Trump to withdraw his support from so fervid a numbskull? According to Brooks, beginning last September—eight months after Joe Biden had taken office—Trump repeatedly asked Brooks to lead a charge to “rescind” the election by removing Biden from office and mandating a special election to replace him. Brooks said that Trump has repeatedly requested this of him, and that at each such occasion, he told Trump that there was simply no way to do it—that nothing in American constitutional law allowed this course of action.
These refusals so irked the Donald that he withdrew his Brooks endorsement yesterday, noting that even this uber-loyalist had succumbed to wokeness. To which Brooks responded by revealing his “rescind” discussions with Trump.
Have we learned anything new from this deeply nutsy tale? I’m anything but a trained psychoanalyst, so I can’t say at what point Trump’s obsession tips over into psychosis. What I can say is that if Trump runs in 2024, disputing the 2020 outcome will be his chief focus. And with that as his starting point, he may well argue that all bills signed into law by Biden and all his executive actions are ipso facto null and void.
What I can also say is that if Trump wins the Republican nomination that year, the party will embrace his obsession as its own, as it has always done. Besides, Republicans have long campaigned on the myth of voter fraud, well before Trump appeared on the scene, so it’s really not that much of a leap to go full batshit crazy on this score.
That said, no one has ever sought the presidency before—at least, since popular voting became the norm during Andrew Jackson’s presidency—on a platform of literally overturning the previous election and its consequences. Should Trump win, I suppose, it would set a precedent that could enable Democrats to declare all the laws enacted during the presidency of George W. Bush to be null and void. American politics could become entirely about erasing the past, and not just in the way the Republicans would like us to do by, say, stopping teaching about slavery.
Ever since the ascent of Barry Goldwater in 1964, Republicans have been a fundamentally reactionary party, but Trump ’24 affords them the opportunity to take that to a whole new level.