Hello from Battleground Wisconsin. What a fucking week! As I mentioned on Facebook, I ran myself pretty hard all of October– promoting my book American Madness, a Milwaukee Paranormal Conference, socially distanced ghost tours, freelance writing, plotting, planning. I was busy and it was great, but by Election Day I was ready to wrap up in blankets, drink a lot of whiskey, and see where this batshit crazy year would take us next. And what a day to drink copious amounts of whiskey it was! As of this writing, nothing is official yet and in 2020 anything can happen, but here’s my early takeaways from the election.
The Good: It looks like Trump will be voted out of office–unless he pulls off some crazy dirty trick (and we know if nothing else, he’s masterful at dirty tricks). And of course angels might intervene. That’s the case Trump’s spiritual adviser Paula White makes here:
Trump out of office is good news, a start, but there’s is a lot of damage to repair. We’ll talk about that in a moment. First, more good news– progressive candidates representing marginalized people won campaigns across the country. These include Cori Bush, the first black woman to represent Missouri in the House, and the reelection of all 4 members of “The Squad.” Several LGBT candidates made historic victories, including Sarah McBride of Delaware, the first transgender state senator, and Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones, the first gay latinx/black congressmen.
The Bad: 68,943,879 (and counting) million people voted for Trump. Here in my home, Wisconsin Biden won 1,632,542 to Trump’s 1,610,007 (as of this writing), less than 20,000 votes. I just can’t wrap my head around this. Anything less than Trump losing in a major landslide is a failure of our society, in my opinion.
The aftereffect of Trump will be long-lasting– you’ll see some immediate examples when we get to “The Ugly” section of this post. The Trump presidency will be studied for generations. Most puzzling will be how such a large population stuck to this terrible person so loyally and so willingly voted against their own interests. Why did 69 million Americans vote for a racist, sexist, conspiracy theorist conman reality star goof? After everything that happened over the last four years, how can they still see him in a positive light? I will never understand.
Here’s what I mean, visualized. This is Trump supporter Jon McNaughton’s latest masterpiece, “2020 Ride.” I wrote about McNaughton’s art in a column from February titled “Laughing My Ass Off at These Bonkers Trump Paintings.” Here McNaughton says he is showing Trump as a cowboy hero, successfully taming all of the issues of 2020.
I don’t see that in this painting, though. I see a sad, hateful man dressed like a clown, riding a beast that he himself created in the sunset of his presidency. But I guess art is subjective.
The cognitive dissonance in Trump supporters is just staggering. As just one example, compare Pro-Trumpers at a polling station in Detroit chanting “stop the vote!” while Pro-Trumpers in Phoenix are chanting “count the vote!”
Well, which is it? It depends, of course, on what favors Trump, democracy be damned. Conspiracy theories about election fraud, stoked by Trump himself, are in full swing. No, there isn’t hundreds of thousands of dead people voting. That’s easily fact checked: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/11/04/fact-check-no-fraud-wisconsin-overnight-vote-spike/6167188002/
The Ugly: Along with new progressive candidates, we also elected the fringest of the fringe right-wingers, like QAnon believers. The most major of these is Marjorie Greene, a QAnon believer from Georgia who won a House seat. I wrote more about her here: “Well, it Happened-Meet Your First QAnon Represenative.”
But she wasn’t alone– Lauren Boebert also won a House seat in Colorado. Boebert has made comments supporting QAnon in the past, saying QAnon was “motivating and encouraging and bringing people together, stronger,” but has since disavowed the conspiracy cult. She owns a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, called Shooters Grill, where the staff are encouraged to open-carry.
Another QAnon believer who ran successfully is MMA fighter Tito Ortiz, who won a seat on Huntington Beach, California’s City Council. Ortiz sold QAnon themed athletic wear on his website and ran on the campaign slogan “Make Huntington Beach Safe Again.” MMA site Bloody Elbow has the disturbing details here: https://www.bloodyelbow.com/2020/11/4/21549515/ufc-pioneer-qanon-supporter-tito-ortiz-elected-huntington-beach-city-council-mma-politics
Also heading to Congress is Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina. He’s disavowed QAnon, but takes talking points from their playbook, talking about a cabal of sex slave traffickers. As the Charlotte Observer notes:
“Cawthorn’s rise to prominence has already been mired in scandal, as he’s faced accusations of ties to white supremacy, sexual misconduct, racism and lying about his record.”
Even if Trump is gone, an orange stain will remain.
Read more about how we got to this crazy time in my book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness.
* I discussed American Madness on the CripesCast, with the very funny Charlie Berens (Manitowoc Minute): https://cripescast.podbean.com/e/episode-19-tea-krulos
* I joined the guys on Lumpen Radio’s Eye 94 book show, which includes some American Madness excerpts read by Shanna Van Volt, giving it a nice conspiracy jazz lounge tone: https://www.mixcloud.com/lumpenradio/eye-94-10-29-2020-tea-kroulos-conspiracies-and-qanon/
* I was part of a written roundtable discussion on misinformation for LitHub with authors Renata Salecl and Jonathan Berman. You can read it here: https://lithub.com/the-misinformation-superhighway-a-roundtable-on-the-rise-of-the-great-american-conspiracy/