While President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the will of the electorate in the 2020 election have grown more desperate and bizarre,
Republican operatives — several of whom shared their true feelings by text with Intelligencer over the weekend — are relatively blasé about what’s happening. It’s not that they agree with Trump’s conspiracy theories or think he has much of a legal case. It just doesn’t really matter to them. As one former administration official told Intelligencer, “The whole government is proceeding toward the transition, and there is one guy who is angrily tweeting about it.”
In fact, the former administration official pointed to the abject failure of Trump’s efforts to reverse his defeat in the November election as a sign of the strength of the political system. “I’m very happy our institutions are doing what they are supposed to. The Supreme Court, for all its flaws — Trump got three appointments and they shot his arguments down. Bill Barr, supposedly a total Trump apparatchik, did the right thing and continues to do the right thing.”
Trump isn’t behaving any differently than he always has, and while 126 incumbent Republican members of Congress signing a legal brief supporting the president’s efforts to overturn the election has raised some eyebrows, it’s not hard to understand why that happened, either. “I don’t know what people expect from GOP congressmen,” the former administration official argued. “You’re supposed to stand up and yell at your own voters?”
“People are acting like the letter is [the] end of the republic. You’re endorsing the leader of your party in a stupid lawsuit. It’s a stupid and ridiculous novel legal theory, but it’s not treasonous to move through the court system to advance your crackpot theory as long as you accept the result when you lose,” the official added.
Another Republican operative agreed in dismissing the impact of the amicus brief. “We’re seeing a lot of GOP lawmakers scared shitless of a base that they don’t understand. They were scared shitless before Trump, scared shitless during Trump, and [will remain] scared long after he goes away.” The operative didn’t believe the post-election drama would have much staying power. “I don’t actually think there is a whole lot of energy behind stopping the steal,” said the operative only hours after a collection of D-list MAGA personalities gathered in Washington, D.C., to insist that Trump actually won while hawking pillows and mattress toppers.
The operative noted that the political incentives on both sides reward politicians who indulge their base’s “delusions.” After all, for eight years, “conservative elites did a lot to tamp down conspiracy theories, and even Rush Limbaugh tamped down on birtherism, and the reward for that was a birther as the Republican nominee.” In contrast, “literally every Democratic elected [official] believed Stacey Abrams won the 2018 gubernatorial election, many endorsed the pee tape, and Adam Schiff has faced zero adverse consequences for lying to people [about the Russian investigation.]”
Another Republican operative was ready to throw in the towel: “This has been my entire adult life and my career. I see all the people who are completely bought into the idea that the election was stolen from Trump and the republic is on the precipice … people who know better and know that all of these lawsuits are theater with no chance of being successful … If this is what being a Republican is, I’m not a Republican.”
The operative was disturbed by the elected officials embracing Trump’s last-ditch efforts. “These people surely know this was doomed to failure and that’s why they’re doing it, and signing on to something that’s going to be a humiliating defeat just to prove loyalty to Trump.”
In the meantime, the Republican was left waffling about whether the party was salvageable — though they thought it was at least necessary to try. “If we have a two-party system, it’s important that one of our parties is not insane.”