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Denialism: Power, Profit, and Psychosis

You probably have heard about the election denier who was chosen by Michigan’s Republican Party to be the head of that party in the state. Her name is Kristina Karamo.

Ms. Karamo said in 2020 that she witnessed fraud when she was a poll challenger during the Presidential election. She said that Trump won the state of Michigan. Then she ran for Secretary of State for Michigan, and lost to incumbent Jocelyn Benson by fourteen points. She refused to concede that she lost. Following that, the Michigan Republican Party chose her as leader of the state party. Trump called her “a fearless election denier.”

Karamo had previously called herself an “anti-vaxxer,” on her personal websire. She has called abortion “child sacrifice.” Very unfortunately, she does not even stand out in her opinions or agenda, in this Republican Party. Or maybe she has the positions so that she has a chance to rise in the frightening cult that the Republican Party is.

Kari Lake of Arizona rose to prominence as host on right-wing media. She then ran for governor. She was a vocal election denier regarding the presidential election. Trump supported her in the governor’s race, which she was widely expected to win. When asked whether, if she lost, she would concede the race, she would always scornfully reply that she would win. She lost. As the early results came in, and she was slightly behind, she accused election officials of “slow rolling the count,” i.e., they knew she would win, but were counting votes for Democrat Katie Hobbs first, to make her look bad, or not let her claim her victory right away.

When the final count was finished, showing that she had been defeated, the first thing she did is to say on social media, “Arizonans know b.s. when they see it.” Of course she did not concede, and never has. She filed a variety of lawsuits which have gotten nowhere. Now she is preparing to run for the Senate seat in Arizona next year.

There will only be two results in the world of Kari Lake, if she runs. She will either win, or she will have been cheated. She can never lose. Just like Trump. This is the world that they, and increasingly others, have projected into existence, in this country which calls itself a democracy. You win, you always win. If the count says that you lost, you demand recounts, over and over. I think that in Arizona, they had four recounts of the presidential election, with the Ninja election deniers. And if somehow you are not able to get the results overturned, or have a revote, you send your armed supporters out to storm the Capitol, and install you through violent means.

That is not an overstatement, that is where the Republican Party is now. Karamo and Lake are just two of the many Republicans who still claim that Trump won. And of course that means that they won, too. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Republicans who are planning to run for office, as true believers in the infallibility and undefeatability of Trump, and with the certainty that either they will be elected, or will be cheated out of their victory by corrupt election officials.

Do you remember the so-called “Brooks Brothers riot” of 2000? Those were Republicans who feared, or likely knew, that Al Gore had won Florida over George W. Bush, and that the only way to avoid it, was to shut down the recount by any means. And it worked. And the Supreme Court finally shut it down by writing a decision which had no logic other than that they had the power to make Bush President, and they were going to do it. Then they finished by saying that anything they wrote in their opinion had no legal or precedential import whatsoever, it was limited to this one case. “We win, you lose, we call the game over right now.”

In retrospect, Gore and the Democrats should never have accepted that. Not just because it was terribly wrong to have the Florida Secretary of State stall and delay the legal recount, until the Supreme Court could step in and say that it was too late to finish the recount, so Bush wins. But because it was another step in the “might makes right” progression of the Republican Party toward an end-game of absolute totalitarianism. Does a dictator ever lose an election? Never. That is what they are shooting for here. Trump and his followers’ refusal to not only accept, but even perceive, a result where they don’t win, is near to their final goal.

One can speculate about and try to analyze why they are that way. Different reasons, if it matters. For many, it is the ultimate in megalomania; they are invincible, they never lose. They may have been brought up that way by psychotic parents, and then become psychotic themselves. Or they are just utterly amoral sociopaths, who cannot even conceive of any result but the one where they win. Those people have some dim sense that they lose from time to time, but simply believe that they can manipulate or force others to submit to them, so that they have “won” again.

I suppose that there is a more pedestrian but just as scary third type: those who know that they are lying; that they lost, but they don’t want to admit it because it would cost them money or fame or influence or power. “Fox News” top brass are showing clearly, in the evidence put forth by Dominion, that they deliberately withhold information and news, and lie about what they know are facts. The lies are put forth to their credulous viewers, who then turn them into their votes and violence.

Can you imagine endlessly lying, when you know that others will believe you, and be like automatons that you are controlling, even to the extent of seeking to kidnap and kill officials whom you tell them, or strongly suggest, heh, heh, are evil, and should be destroyed? They do it every day, like certain kids or adolescents might do. Lessons about being decent, being empathic; the Golden Rule, are never learned, or contemptuously rejected. And as we all know, most of them love to preach and declaim about how spiritual they are, how they can quote Biblical verses to fit any need.

I remember encountering a few boys on the playground or even playing board games, who simply refused to ever concede a defeat. Endless calls for do-overs; balls claimed to be foul or out of bounds; they weren’t ready, they called timeout; you didn’t play fair. I wondered even back then how they became that way. Did some of them grow out of it, or were they the Nixons and Alitos and Trumps and Lakes of tomorrow?

This is such a small thing, but I remember a summer where I helped around the Recreation Center in the neighborhood where we lived; and one of the best parts was playing a lot of ping-pong with the Recreation Director. We were very even in ability, and had great games; and we always yelled out, “good shot,” when the other person made one. We wanted to win, but we never argued about a call, in or out. If we won, it was because we earned it.

I realize that it is far easier to admit that you lost a ping-pong match, than that you lost an election, or that the real news story was unfavorable to your side, so you refuse to tell it. But I think that we all have known people, children or adults, who could not even accept the loss in the game.

The recourse that you have is not to play with the other person any more. In a sphere of life where you can’t escape so easily, you are forced to keep interacting with the other person or people, how do you manage to contend with those who not only are determined never to lose to you, but will simply deny any part of reality that will show them losing? And when the people who decide who won and lost are not just the people who played, but a large group of observers whom the other person and his supporters relentlessly try to convince not to believe anything they see or hear, but to just believe him, or her, and inevitably them, what must you do to surmount that?

At the very least, I would hope that Democrats constantly call out directly as liars, those many Republicans who are, without trying to dilute it. Everything is not debatable, or shades of gray. Blatant lies are blatant lies, no matter if the people who tell them are after money, or power, or are mentally and morally twisted. Doesn’t it really ultimately come down to variations of the same thing?