How is there a dictionary word for being so hungry you get angry but not one for laughing while absolutely furious?
After four years of President Donald Trump, one would think such a word exists by now—furlarious?—but that is not the case.
Probably because the funny aspects of Trump’s presidency have often hijacked the fury around whatever undemocratic boondoggle he’s just attempted.
In fact, it’s still happening right now, even though the stakes may be higher than ever.
On Thursday, November 19, what remains of Trump’s crack legal team staged a press conference that was equal parts cunning coup attempt and rejected Veep set piece. As the clock rapidly ticks on certifying election results in key states, these legal eagles reiterated all the alleged voter fraud they are convinced swayed the election, despite having failed to produce any convincing evidence in 31 failed instances of litigation to date.
It was both horrifying and hilarious, like seeing two clown cars crash into each other at high speed . . . which is exactly what made it all too easy for observers to laugh off.
Borat 2 breakout star Rudy Giuliani butchered a memorable scene from My Cousin Vinny before sweating hair dye down both sides of his face, while Trump’s latest lawyer alleged a vast international conspiracy that reads like a lobotomized John le Carré novel.
rudy giuliani, citing that key election law case, "my cousin vinny" pic.twitter.com/OVhxnUIvAB
— Oliver Willis (@owillis) November 19, 2020
It appears that Rudy Giuliani is sweating through his hair dye. pic.twitter.com/OY3dGL1BtX
— The Recount (@therecount) November 19, 2020
Sidney Powell, Mike Flynn's lawyer now working for Trump, says the election was rigged by "communist money" and a scheme devised by the late Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuala. pic.twitter.com/8XTnRHCzAM
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) November 19, 2020
It was such a ridiculous, disgraceful display that you almost had to laugh about it.
The problem is that laughing at the spectacle surrounding the current occupant of the White House, rather than treating him as a serious threat, has been the most constant leitmotif in American culture and politics of the last five years.
Donald Trump has not been good for comedy, but comedy has certainly been good for Donald Trump. It’s allowed him to get away with murder—metaphorically speaking, if you don’t count preventable COVID deaths—either by dismissing some of his more fascist statements as jokes, or by the way some of his many inept stabs at corruption make his administration look like Goofy Goodfellas.
Trump’s farcical façade, though, has produced a cascade of unlikely successes as critics laughed at his every blundering step. Surely, a buffoon of this magnitude couldn’t actually get elected president. Okay, he’s the president, but surely someone this oafish couldn’t actually get away with hiding his taxes even as everyone in his inner circle gets indicted or worse for financial crimes.
And so forth.
Now, here we are, with a majority of voters having roundly rejected Trump following his catastrophic pandemic response, and far too many people still, at this late date, find his efforts to overturn the election too silly to take seriously.
After Thursday’s press conference, several mainstream publications published posts about the shoe polish mascara sluicing down Rudy Giuliani’s face. Meanwhile, here is what the official Twitter account of the Republican Party tweeted about the press conference, which Fox News aired on live TV.
"We will not be intimidated…We are going to clean this mess up now. President Trump won by a landslide. We are going to prove it. And we are going to reclaim the United States of America for the people who vote for freedom."—Sidney Powell pic.twitter.com/8KCEOGuL7w
— GOP (@GOP) November 19, 2020
The GOP is taking even this three-ring circus press conference at face value. Not only that, but this clip further emphasizes just how thoroughly the Party has internalized Trump’s self-aggrandizing exaggerations. Not only did Trump win, if one doesn’t count all the unprovable voter fraud, he won by a landslide. I would describe such an arch lie as “Orwellian,” if Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany weren’t lately trying to upcycle that term into something Republicans can say about anything they don’t care for.
Beyond the official Twitter account, there’s the GOP leadership, like Senator Josh Hawley, who found the press conference entirely credible. Those who haven’t defended it, have remained silent about it, save for Mitt Romney, who has nothing to lose by calling out Trump at this point—especially since he’s not going to do anything but release concerned statements. The silence here echoes the near-unanimous lack of acknowledgement among Congressional Republicans around who won the general election. (Only 16 of them so far have recognized Joe Biden as president-elect.)
It gets even worse when surveying Republican politicians at a mayoral level.
The president's false claims that the election he lost was rigged and stolen have real consequences. "As far as the civil war goes, I don’t think it’s off the table," the Mayor of Sundown, Texas told @Reuters.
— Brad Heath (@bradheath) November 20, 2020
The shenanigans on the Rudy Giuliani variety show are like a propeller hat on top of a very serious general commanding an invasion. The general may look like a real bozo, but he means business. And with its unmistakable complicity in Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, the GOP means business, too. At every level.
Prominent conservative pundits ate up Thursday’s press conference.
The evidence just laid out by Trump's legal team is overwhelming. Where is the FBI?
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) November 19, 2020
Trump’s favorite show, Fox & Friends, was slightly more skeptical on Friday morning, but credulous nonetheless.
Fox's Jonathan Turley says that if Giuliani & friends can prove that several communist countries conspired to steal the 2020 election from Donald Trump, "then they should definitely prove that," but he would rather hear more about the other claims they've totally failed to prove. pic.twitter.com/AuljDlEiyw
— Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) November 20, 2020
Tucker Carlson seemed at first to have a similar skepticism about the event but took more issue with how the media portrayed it, for some reason.
Tucker Carlson says Rudy Giuliani's batshit press conference with batshit claims actually hurt the credibility of The Media pic.twitter.com/OqUQwdbqj9
— Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) November 20, 2020
Meanwhile, Sean Hannity hosted Rudy Giuliani on his show on Thursday night, where he called out Democrats for not being on board with, uh, transparency and integrity.
Hannity: Transparency, integrity at the heart of Team Trump's legal fight https://t.co/DNxBXCcbzJ
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) November 20, 2020
At least the front-page headlines on mainstream media are starting to use more stark terms.
Callin it like they see it. “assault to overturn election” “ploy to subvert vote” pic.twitter.com/7bNq9DdKeT
— Tom Jackman (@TomJackmanWP) November 20, 2020
Unfortunately, it may already be too late.
According to an Economist poll taken between November 15 and 17, just an astonishing number of Trump voters believe the election was stolen. Every day that the GOP leadership and right-wing media ecosystem continues to back him up or remain silent, those voters will believe it that much more. It doesn’t matter that, on the surface, this appears to be the most bumbling, Keystone Cops-ass coup ever; what matters is that so many Republicans are on board for it. That should be alarming to everybody.
There isn’t much chance that all the effort will pay off in a second Trump term. Biden’s victory margin is just too large, even if barely so. But even if it doesn’t work, Trump’s half-baked coup attempt is setting a precedent that elections are just an opening bid. From that point, the loser can simply negotiate—a few ballots thrown away here, some questionable affidavits there—and either overturn the results, or at the very least invalidate them in the eyes of half the electorate.
We are heading down a dark path, and laughing all the way about the shoddy paving.