Since Trump’s defeat, the MAGA revolution has begun devouring its own. As it does, some conservatives are discovering the downsides of having a president who spreads malicious conspiracy theories, subverts faith in democracy and turns the denial of reality into a loyalty test. As the internet meme goes, people voted for the Leopards Eating People’s Faces Party, and now the leopards are turning on them.
Historically the American left, more than the right, was known for circular firing squads and excommunications. By turning the Republican Party into a cult of personality, Trump changed that. As the archconservative Jeff Sessions learned years ago, even a lifetime of ideological service is no defense when you’ve displeased Dear Leader.
People and institutions that get involved with Trump often end up diminished or disgraced. Since the election, this is happening faster than ever. The president is reportedly thinking of firing Attorney General Bill Barr because, for all Barr’s obsequious toadying, he has declined to repeat Trump’s fantasies about widespread electoral cheating. Much of the MAGA-verse has turned on Fox News, because its news programs aren’t pretending that Trump won.
Both Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia and Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona have been slavishly faithful to Trump, but stopped short of breaking the law by refusing to certify the vote in their states. For that, they’ve been at least temporarily cast out of Trump’s movement. “What is going on with @dougducey? Republicans will long remember!” Trump tweeted. At a berserk Georgia rally on Wednesday, the pro-Trump lawyer Lin Wood led the crowd in a “lock him up” chant against Kemp.
In concert with the recently ousted Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, Wood called on Georgians to boycott the Jan. 5 Senate election runoff unless state officials do more to help Trump cling to power. Speaking of Georgia’s senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, Wood said: “They have not earned your vote. Don’t you give it to them. Why would you go back and vote in another rigged election, for God’s sake!”
Naturally, Republicans who understand that Trump lost and are worried about Senate control in a Joe Biden presidency aren’t happy about these antics. But what disconcerts these Republicans isn’t, by and large, that Trumpist lawyers are spewing demented misinformation. It’s that this misinformation might, for once, work against Republican power.
“At best, Wood-Powell are distracting from the G.O.P. message in the races, and at worst, they are convincing persuadable Georgians that it is the Republican Party that needs to be checked, not Joe Biden,” wrote Rich Lowry in Politico. At worst! Republicans would almost certainly be fine with Wood and Powell eroding confidence in American democracy if it didn’t threaten members of their party.