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When push came to shove and that New York minute

For a New York minute I was optimistic that the Republicans would join the Democrats in the formation of an independent Jan. 6 Commission, its mission to provide a full and impartial accounting of the root causes of one of the most serious assaults on American democracy in our history. But, of course, when push came to shove, the Repubs blocked its creation, and I couldn’t help wondering why.

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Why would Mitch McConnell et al. want to avoid an inquiry that would follow the Warren Report and the probe of the terrorist attack on 9/11? Was it simply the GOP once again bending a knee to Donald Trump, who, of course, did not want a deep dive investigation into his role in the insurrection? Or was it simply a political calculation, driven by the 2022 mid-term election and the known Republican complicity in the Jan. 6 insurrection?

But perhaps what such a reveal could prove that might be far more disturbing would be that the man now firmly in charge of the Republican Party, who will likely be their 2024 nominee for president, is lost in an unbalanced maze of demagogic delusion and magical thinking, all stemming from his entrenched belief that he won the 2020 election in a landslide.

I imagine him wandering the grounds of Mar-a-Lago, repeating to himself what was once called the Big Lie, but has now morphed into a fever dream that has become his reality, one still shared by millions of his followers. A May Reuters/Ipso poll found that a quarter of all Americans and 53% of Republicans believe that Trump is still the true president.

This delusion was once framed in absurdity, a claim made in bad faith, and expressed in his go-to words “rigged,” or “Stop the Steal,” and predicated on his victimhood. He was mugged by the corrupt Democrats.

It was once a constellation of counterfactual data, conspiracy-driven, that had at its core the word “distrust.” Meaning distrust the media (“fake”), but also distrust state and local officials, to include poll workers and ballot tabulators. And, of course, the “Deep State.” It was also an attempt to disenfranchise millions of voters, an effort now continuing across the nation as Republicans pass draconian laws that make it harder to vote, especially for people of color, the young and the disabled, and easier to overturn elections.

All of these efforts — call them voter suppression, which amounts to blatant cheating — are preparing the ground for the 2022 and 2024 elections. And the proffered rationale is the existence of voter fraud, which is a shameless lie.

This shared Big Lie delusion, free of any verifiable reality, now requires nothing more than for others to concur. And it is not only profoundly anti-democratic, but represents a contemporary expression of Jim Crow. There is also a through line from this entrenched fiction to the events of Jan. 6 and beyond.

And now (be prepared to suspend your disbelief) the most recent iteration, according to the National Review, of what was once the Big Lie is the conviction by Trump and his enablers that he will be reinstated to the presidency this August. Once the Arizona recount, also called, benignly, an “audit,” which is still ongoing, concludes, it will, predictably, reinforce what has become this metastasizing fantasy. Joe Biden will leave the White House and Trump will move back in, followed by a new inauguration date. It has also been reported that Trump has told people close to him that many “highly respected people” have been saying it’s possible.

Those referenced “people” wouldn’t be the hardcore angry white nationalists and faux patriots, or those Republicans who are now trying to reframe the Jan. 6 insurrection as a tourist visit — would it?

Chris Honoré is an Ashland Tidings columnist.