Charlatans, Conspiracists And The Trump Boys Seize On Iowa Debacle

US businessmen and sons of the US president Donald Trump Jr. (L) and Eric Trump attend a French-US ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, northwestern France, on June... US businessmen and sons of the US president Donald Trump Jr. (L) and Eric Trump attend a French-US ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, northwestern France, on June 6, 2019, as part of D-Day commemorations marking the 75th anniversary of the World War II Allied landings in Normandy. (Photo by Ian LANGSDON / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read IAN LANGSDON/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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February 4, 2020 12:09 p.m.

The debacle over delayed results in the Iowa Democratic caucus Monday night has created an opening for conspiracy theorists and Trumpworld bigwigs alike to foment discord.

And it’s not that the failure in Iowa itself didn’t tend towards accomplishing that, or that it’s somehow beyond the pale for political adversaries to seize on the failings of their opponents.

Rather, the tenor and focus of some of the critique amid the ongoing failure to deliver results in Iowa has gone more towards promoting mistrust of the democratic system itself, as opposed to damaging members of the opposite part.

The President’s sons led the charge on this, accusing the Democrats of “rigging this thing.”

Unlike Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr. took it a step further and drew a comparison with the 2000 Florida recount. It’s a typically nonsensical comparison, but it has its own logic: neither election, regardless of outcome, can be legitimate; it’s only a contest of whose side is the craftier manipulator.

Others in the infrastructure of right-wing messaging took a similar tack, but honed towards the problem of foreign interference in U.S. elections. That’s become a serious matter of discussion since 2016, when the Russian government undertook a meddling campaign for Trump’s benefit in 2016.

Experts say that the issue has broadened since then with various foreign actors beyond the Russian perceiving a vulnerability in the U.S. via interfering in its elections.

So Benny Johnson, the disgraced Buzzfeed reporter who is now chief creative officer at Turning Points USA, a right-wing nonprofit, tapped into this thread in a bid to suggest that the Democratic National Committee is incapable of running fair elections.

Johnson’s focus is on Bernie Sanders, whose supporters walked away from the 2016 primary feeling cheated by a DNC that supposedly tipped the scale in favor of Hillary Clinton. That perception was boosted in part by internal DNC emails obtained by Russian hackers and released by Wikileaks.

It’s also an incredibly useful narrative for those interested in discrediting the Democratic primary process. As Trump 2020 campaign manager said at a Monday press conference, “I can see Bernie trying to get messed with the same way the president got messed with back in our caucus.”

Parscale’s statement refers to the allegations of DNC disfavoring Bernie, but also suggests that Trump’s loss in the 2016 Iowa caucuses was illegitimate.

Charlie Kirk, the head of Turning Point USA, homed in on a conspiracy theory that Clinton 2020 campaign manager Robby Mook managed the app which is reportedly the root cause of the delay in reporting.

Kirk’s comments suggest that the results are part of a grander conspiracy, perhaps connected to the Clintons.

In reality, Mook’s involvement was tenuous at best. The false reports of his involvement stem from an apparent misreading of a Jan. 29 article in the Des Moines Register.

That article stated that both the Democratic and Republican parties and their tech vendors had reached out to a group that Mook runs called Defending Digital Democracy in order “to develop strategies and systems to protect results and deal with any misinformation that’s reported on caucus night.”

That’s a far cry from Kirk’s statement.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) chimed in, darkly hinting at another version of a DNC conspiracy.

But possibly the clearest distillation of the opportunistic tendency to allege that elections involving the Democratic Party are fundamentally illegitimate is that delivered by Sean Davis, co-founder of The Federalist.

“It’s abundantly clear that Democrats are the single greatest threat to election security and integrity in this country,” Davis tweeted. “Not Trump, not Russia, not Ukraine. Democrats.”

 

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