Won't Have To Have An Insurrection If You Let The Trumpists Count All The Votes
ProPublica reports that Donald Trump has given his official blessing to a plan for Trump supporters to take control of the Republican Party from the bottom up, by getting thousands and thousands of true believers to volunteer at the lowest levels of the party, and thereby shape the direction of both the GOP and, in many cases, elections themselves. Also, just to add a frisson of authoritarianism, the whole scheme was dreamed up by a guy who identifies strongly with the anti-government Oath Keepers militia. Fun stuff, huh?
Here's ProPublica's summary of how that would work:
The plan, known as the “precinct strategy,” has been repeatedly promoted on Steve Bannon’s popular podcast. As ProPublica detailed last year, it has already inspired thousands of people to fill positions at the lowest rung of the party ladder. Though these positions are low-profile and often vacant, they hold critical powers: They help elect higher-ranking party officers, influence which candidates appear on the ballot, turn out voters on Election Day and even staff the polling precincts where people vote and the election boards that certify the results.
The precinct strategy is the brainchild of one Dan Schultz, a lawyer and GOP local official in Arizona, who's been pushing his grand idea for years, including in a 2014 message on "an internal forum for the Oath Keepers militia group, according to hacked records obtained by ProPublica."
“Why don’t you all join me and the other Oath Keepers who are ‘inside’ the Party already,” Schultz wrote under a screen name. “If we conservatives were to do that, we’d OWN the Party.”
Then, presumably, he sang "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" and everyone cheered.
An intensive effort by Schultz and other proponents of the precinct strategy to get the idea in front of Trump finally paid off last Sunday, when the Great Man signed off on the idea in an email sent to his fan club:
Just heard about an incredible effort underway that will strengthen the Republican Party. If members of our Great movement start getting involved (that means YOU becoming a precinct committeeman for your voting precinct), we can take back our great Country from the ground up.
And as ProPublica notes, Schultz actually has framed his plan to take over the GOP (and, where applicable, the machinery of democracy) as a beautiful alternative to violence, so real American Patriots won't have to resort to a lot of shoving and putsching.
“I don’t ever want to be pulling the trigger on an AR-15 in my neighborhood,” Schultz said in a 2015 conference call with fellow organizers. [...] “Oath Keepers, I love them for instilling the oath. But what they need to do also, I think, is spread the message that hey, we can do stuff politically so we never get to the cartridge box.”
In a June 2021 interview with David Clements, one of the many rightwing Trumpfluffers on the internets, Schultz said maybe the next presidential election might not be quite as "peaceful" as the last, which is a hell of a comparison following the January 6 takeover of the Capitol by ordinary tourists in full battle rattle. (ProPublica scrupulously notes that while Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and 10 others have been charged with seditious conspiracy in the takeover, there's "no indication that Schultz had any involvement in the Capitol riot." Hooray for not actually trying to overthrow the government, guy! You're one of the good'uns!)
And by golly, Schultz explained, elections oughta stay peaceful, too, and "the way to ensure that it will be is we’ve got to get enough of these good decent Americans to take over one of the two major political parties.” No need for an insurrection when you've got enough operatives in place already, after all.
It sounds a bit like Trump's marveling at the brilliance of Vladimir Putin: No need for an invasion when you're simply sending peacekeepers to territory you've declared independent.
After Trump's email endorsement last week, Bannon had Schultz on his podcast to promote the plan.
“I know the president’s very jacked up about it,” Bannon said. [...] “Help MAGA, help the America First movement, right? Help the deplorables, help President Trump, help yourself, your country, community, your kids, grandkids, all of it. Put your shoulder to the wheel.”
Help, Trump needs somebody, help, not just anybody. Help him. Help the bombardier! Save the cheerleader, save the world. Home ... home is where you wear your hat. I feel so breakup, I wan' go home.
The story notes that Bannon has had some real influence in pushing the scheme; after an earlier podcast interview with Schultz last year,
thousands of people answered Bannon’s call to become precinct officers in pivotal swing states, according to data compiled by ProPublica from county records and interviews with local party officials.
As of last August, GOP leaders in 41 counties reported an unusual increase in sign-ups since Bannon’s first interview with Schultz, adding a total of more than 8,500 new precinct officers. The trend appears to have continued since then.
Once in place, those new precinct officers have started going mad with whatever power they have, using it to "remove or censure Republican leaders who contradicted Trump’s election lies," and also to recruit all their MAGA buddies and Big Lie aficionados to sign up as poll watchers or poll workers.
So if the next time you go to vote, the nice old lady volunteers at the polling place have been replaced by guys wearing body armor or Hawaiian shirts, you'll know. Or they may dress like students or dress like housewives, blending in with the crowd.
Next, Stern told ProPublica, he's hoping Trump will actually push the idea out loud at one of his upcoming rallies. In anticipation of that wonderful moment, Stern said he'll have tables ready to get people signed up when Trump says it. However garbled it may come out.
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