40 seconds from Trump's mess of a campaign launch speech that stuck with me
Also: Ari Berman on the political failure of election deniers.
By Aaron Rupar
Most of this newsletter consists of a Q&A with Ari Berman about election deniers’ midterm failures, but considering all the years I’ve spent covering Trump, I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t begin with a few words about the long, rambling speech that officially launched his third presidential bid.
There was something slightly off about it. The speech was basically the same one he’s been delivering at his rallies for years, but the response to it from the Mar-a-Lago faithful seemed oddly low energy. A reporter who was there filmed a particularly brutal scene for Trump of people trying to leave the ballroom while he was still speaking but being prevented from doing so.
CNN and Fox News initially carried Trump’s speech live — an editorial choice that reportedly “disgusted” a former CNN producer — but even Fox News bailed as he ranted and raved for more than an hour.
The whole thing felt mailed in, as though Trump didn’t put any thought into actually coming up with a coherent message beyond lying about his first term being some sort of American golden age that Biden ruined. But the fragments of a message that emerged were remarkably bleak.
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The part of the speech where Trump talked hyperbolically about “the blood-soaked streets of our once-great cities" was basically American Carnage 2.0. But something Trump said shortly after that is what’s sticking with me. In an effort both to explain his terrible midterm showing and provide a rationale for why he’s running again, Trump essentially made a case that Americans just don’t understand how bad things are and how much worse they will soon get.
"The total effect of the suffering is just starting to take hold,” he said. “They don’t quite feel it yet, but they will very soon. I have no doubt that by 2024 it will sadly be much worse."
Trump 2024: It Will Get Worse (with some help from the new House GOP majority).
It’s hard to imagine a message that negative resonating with an electorate that has rejected Trumpism for three straight election cycles. But it boggles the mind that a conman like Trump ever won elected office in the first place.
Given the sorry state of the GOP, I’m more convinced than ever that Trump will face a tough battle to win the Republican primary. But that didn’t make it less disconcerting to hear him dehumanize people and talk about how he wants to execute drug dealers.
I’ll have more to say about Trump’s campaign in Friday’s edition of the newsletter. In the meantime, if you have thoughts about the speech he delivered Tuesday or his presidential bid in general, I’d love to talk about them in the comments.
“They blew a lot of races they should have won”: Ari Berman on election deniers
By Thor Benson and Aaron Rupar
The midterms were bad for Republicans in general, but in particular they were terrible for election deniers. That’s good news for American democracy.
This election cycle was the first to take place since Trump’s lies about his 2020 loss and subsequent attempt to overthrow the government turned election denial into a mainstream part of GOP politics. If the results are any indication, it might not be a part of the Republican brand for long.
That’s because in competitive states, candidates who pushed election denial mostly got their clocks cleaned. Every single election denier running for secretary of state in a swing state lost. Every single one running for governor who wasn’t an incumbent lost. Some election deniers did win high-profile elections, such as JD Vance in Ohio and Ted Budd in North Carolina, but even then they mostly played it down once they got through primaries and had to appeal to mainstream voters.
This tidbit from the Washington Post tells the story:
The Washington Post’s tracker lists 46 competitive races featuring an election denier. The deniers have lost 31 of those races and won just seven, with eight races outstanding.
The failure of election deniers is obviously a heartening development for those of us who dread every cycle being an existential threat for democracy itself. President Biden highlighted this during a speech he delivered Monday from Indonesia, noting that the results were “a strong rejection of election deniers at every level from those seeking to lead our states and those seeking to serve in Congress, and also those who seek to oversee the elections.”
Pro-democracy forces unequivocally won this round, but the war isn’t over. While the election deniers who lost their races mostly just took the L and didn’t resort to trying to overturn the results, Donald Trump has been spreading all sorts of nonsense on Truth Social about massive fraud.
It’s quite clear that if Trump is the 2024 Republican nominee for president, election denial will again be a live issue. And with Trump on the ballot, it may prove to be more galvanizing for Republicans than it was this cycle, even if his star seems to be fading.
To get some expert insight into how democracy held up during the midterms, Thor talked late last week with Ari Berman, Mother Jones’s national voting rights correspondent. Berman explained how he thinks election denial hurt the GOP.
“A majority of Republicans are supportive of it, but a majority of Republicans is not enough to elect you in a place like Michigan or Pennsylvania,” he said. “That’s the problem for the party. A majority of Americans don’t like election denialism.”
A transcript of their conversation, lightly edited for clarity and length, follows.
Some races still haven’t been called as we talk, but how did the election deniers do in the midterms?
Not very well. Not nearly as well as they could have.