Nobody wants to believe what they are seeing: the conversion of one of America's two major political parties into a cult of personality actively conspiring to overturn democratic rule in the United States. And doing so in broad daylight.
Irish poet William Butler Yeats put it best in "The Second Coming," a poem written during the turmoil leading up to his country's civil war: "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."
I don't guess I need to stipulate which is which.
Given the magnitude of his 2020 defeat, there's little chance that Citizen Trump could come anywhere near an electoral majority in 2024 -- always assuming that he's still alive, minimally functional, and not in prison, that is.
Purging the GOP of noncultists like Rep. Liz Cheney and Sen. Mitt Romney would appear likely to weaken, not strengthen, its appeal to the independent voters who decide American elections. With Citizen Trump's approval ratings stuck in the low 30s, nominating him can only lead to certain defeat.
That's assuming that citizens do get to vote, and that their votes actually count, which is where the mischief starts.
Of course, the whole thing could simply be yet another grift: scamming supporters for millions in "political" donations to support the Trump lifestyle.
True Believers, however, have grasped that for the Trump restoration to be achieved, millions of voters either need to be disenfranchised, or, failing that, their votes overridden.
Purging voter rolls isn't likely to work. It's almost impossible to write laws removing Democratic voters without getting rid of Trump supporters, too. As Stacey Abrams has proved in Georgia, guiding her party to win first the presidential race and then two U.S. Senate runoffs, the surest way to stimulate Democratic voter turnout is to try to suppress it.
So Republican state legislators both in Georgia and at least 35 other states have come up with a plan to pursue the goals of Trump's failed Jan. 6 coup attempt by legalistic means: weakening the authority of local election officials to tabulate the vote, and replacing them with partisan legislators.
The same farcical Georgia law that made it illegal to give water to voters waiting in line to cast their ballots also gave its GOP legislature the power to remove and replace election officials in counties controlled by Democrats.
The legislature took authority to run Georgia elections away from Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger -- the honorable Republican who recorded Trump browbeating him to "find" enough votes to make him a winner -- and gave themselves the power to simply reject outcomes they don't like.
Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times has documented cookie-cutter efforts in 36 states: "Last year, for example, Trump asked several GOP governors to refuse to certify their states' results -- under the legal theory that if electoral votes for Biden weren't certified, they couldn't be counted.
"When Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp refused, Trump called him 'worse than a Democrat' and threatened him with a primary challenge."
McManus quotes Edward B. Foley, an election law expert at Ohio State University: "It's not too early to worry about Jan. 6, 2025. They are trying to lay the groundwork [for 2024] to make sure local officials will jump if Trump tells them to jump. They didn't jump last time, but they might the next time."
Remember, too, that on Jan. 6, with the odor of tear gas still redolent in the House chamber, 139 gutless GOP House members voted to reject the electoral votes of Arizona and Pennsylvania, which Biden won. Hence also the farcical, but no less dangerous, "audit" of Maricopa County, Arizona's presidential vote by the previously unknown Cyber Ninjas firm.
They're the geniuses searching 2.1 million ballots for traces of bamboo, supposedly to prove they originated in China. No theory is too crazy for Trump cultists to embrace.
Never mind that Republican county officials responsible for managing the election have unanimously condemned the effort. "I think a small mushroom cloud will go up over Maricopa County if the Cyber Ninjas report that Donald Trump really was the winner of the election," Republican county recorder Stephen Richer has said.
And you know that's going to happen.
The Arizona gong show has zero authority to change anything. But to give you some idea, last week, obscure Indiana Rep. Greg Pence voted against establishing a Jan. 6 commission on the grounds that "Hanging Judge Nancy Pelosi" was out to get Trump -- the guy who egged on a mob chanting "Hang Mike Pence!" in the halls of Congress.
Greg and Mike are brothers.
Democrats are kidding themselves if they think that this kind of cowardly groveling before the Trump Cult will simply go away.
Arkansas Times columnist Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of "The Hunting of the President" (St. Martin's Press, 2000). You can email Lyons at firstname.lastname@example.org