There's nothing I love more than when those with power use the legal system to throw an entire group under the bus, and those being tossed not even feeling the breeze of flight. As horrific as it may be in a conventional moral sense, it takes skill, cunning, and a whole lot of people not paying attention.
Written By: Anton Sawyer
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Thanks to ex-President Trump, all congressional GOP members involved in the second impeachment hearing, and a plucky attorney named Sidney Powell, we are witnessing the intellectual dismantling of an entire political party without so much as a blink by those being scapegoated. There will be some who ask why I don't mention Rudy Giuliani, and there's a definite reason. Though he has been one of the first to join the chorus of those certain that the Dominion Voting Machines were hacked or frauded in some way, what he says changes too rapidly. From one day to the next the core of his message never changes ("I did not commit defamation"), but his defense strategies do. Powell has been incredibly consistent from day one.
If you don't know who Sidney Powell is, she's currently being sued by Dominion Voting Systems for her claims of hacking and fraud. She assisted the Trump team when it came to bringing many different lawsuits to many different municipalities over this matter, and has been staunchly pro-Republican throughout. After the myriad of lawsuits about the voting machines and fraud were tossed out of court, Dominion went on the offensive and has named Powell as a defendant in the suit. In March of 2021, Powell released her official defense which found its way to all media outlets. Her primary defense is that "no reasonable person would conclude that the statements [by Powell about the 2020 election] were truly statements of fact," continuing with “it was clear to reasonable persons that Powell’s claims were her opinions and legal theories," and "she believed the allegations then and she believes them now." Because I don't want to offend any members of the GOP and their delicate sensibilities, I refuse to call them "stupid" or "dumb." Instead, I used the terminology presented in the court case of "reasonable person" and then took an antonym from Thesaurus.com and concocted "Mindless Individuals" or MIs. If this offends you, please take it up with the Thesaurus people.
Some people will recall that during the second Trump impeachment, these statements about voter fraud were included. Stating “In the months preceding the Joint Session, President Trump repeatedly issued false statements asserting that the presidential election results were the product of widespread fraud and should not be accepted by the American people or certified by State or Federal officials.” But during the impeachment, this was really glossed over. Most of the trial focused on whether the statements made by Trump incited the insurrection on January 6th in Washington, D.C. The leaders were also brilliant in setting the crux of the argument to a jurisdictional one—i.e. you can't charge someone for a crime committed in office when they no longer are serving. By framing these two elements in the way they did, it made the need to address his statements of fraud incredibly minimal. The GOP knew the absolute worst defense that could be used by The President is that his electoral base were MIs who would know to not listen to the ramblings of their party leader. The heart of the system would have taken too much of a blow. With almost 50 years of experience in expert-level subterfuge, the GOP knew how to navigate the narrative to be the least damaging possible.
Using the examples laid by the Southern Strategy in the era of Nixon, it has been ingrained in the conservative movement to mold, adapt, assimilate to any area they can exploit. In the 1991 book, "One of Us: Richard Nixon and the American Dream," New York Times columnist Tom Wicker captures the political two-step that Nixon danced as he sought to govern and carry out a strategy to turn the South into a Republican-dominated region as it had been a “solid Democratic South’’ for much of the twentieth century. Wicker gave Nixon credit for “a spectacular advance in desegregation’’ in 1970. “Perhaps the most significant achievement of his administration’s domestic actions,” Wicker wrote, came as “the Nixon administration had appeared in retreat from desegregation, while actively courting the white vote.” Nixon used coded language, political symbolism, and court interventions as signals to southern white voters. This began when Nixon said he was for “law and order" in the aftermath of city riots in 1967 and 1968, as well as Vietnam War protests. It’s this positioning that they have become so comfortable with over the last half-century.
When you look at how blatant the GOP's actions have been in regards to the "Southern Strategy" and other elements of misdirection, you have to wonder how have they been so successful? One of the key factors in this ability to perpetuate deception resides in the fact that humans aren't very accurate at it. A 2016 paper by the American Psychology Association states, "research has consistently shown that people's ability to detect lies is no more accurate than chance, or flipping a coin. This finding holds across all types of people—students, psychologists, judges, job interviewers, and law enforcement personnel." People assume that if someone is the leader of a nation, state, or municipality of some kind then they are somehow "smarter." Or that they have abilities of perception other people don't have because, clearly if they can have that kind of success, they must have some special ability in reading people. Statistically speaking, they don't.
It's going to be interesting to see how the defamation case against Powell is going to go. As we saw during the Trump administration, there have been many levels of the judicial system that have swerved into lanes nobody saw coming. Rulings and their consequences have been turned on their ears collectively. I have no idea how this is going to play out. As I am want to do, I'm going to look at history for the possible answers. Given her success with such cases as the giant Enron scandal of the early 2000s—she lost—I'm thinking that her bank account might end up a bit lighter than it once was. Then again, there is a part of me that wants to see a judge go off-script and rule in such a way as to make it legal text that the Republican base is filled with people who are unable to utilize reason ... or Mindless Individuals.