I urge you to set aside an hour of your life to listen to a man whom you likely disdain and whose predations account for untold misery in America today — especially this very day.
I want you to listen to Donald Trump’s phone call last week with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger where the President tried to persuade him to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential election.
You likely recall the most quoted line from that call: “So look. . . I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state,” and its English translation: “There’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated.”
But it’s worth an hour of all our lives to hear a master of modern-day rhetoric at his absolute best, threatening, cajoling, charming, berating Raffensperger to overturn the Georgia results which had already been audited three times.
“We won very substantially in Georgia. You even see it by rally size, frankly. We’d be getting 25-30,000 people at a rally and the competition would get less than 100 people.”
“I know you would like to get to the bottom of it, although I saw you on television today and you said that you found nothing wrong.”
“Thousands and thousands went to the voting place on November 3rd, were told they couldn’t vote ….because a ballot had been put in their name.”
“As you know, we won every single state …and we won the House …which was supposed to lose 15 seats.”
Pay no mind to the fact that all of these are lies. Of course they’re lies. Truth carries no coin here. It’s all about power.
In the end, Trump failed because Raffensperger, also a Republican, did something extraordinary in the four years since Trump took office: he stood his ground. The fact that someone on the call leaked it to The Washington Post is simply a gift for students of the dark persuasive arts.
I say this because Donald Trump is by far the most effective orator in the corridors of power today. But in the backrooms, on the private calls like this was meant to be, he’s even better.
It’s instructive to unpack his words to see where their power comes from.
This was by no means the first official Trump had called to quarrel with the election results. Nor the first time he had tried to reach Raffensperger. Trump is frequently decried for his laziness and lack of focus. Reading a one-page document is often too much.
But it seems The White House reached out 18 different times to get Raffensperger on the line between the Nov. 3 election and the actual call last Saturday.
So, Lesson 1: Be relentless.
Lesson 2: Start talking and keep talking.
After Trump’s Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, introduces everyone, Trump simply takes off and speaks for 1,746 words before Meadows comes back on to say: “So Mr. President, if I might be able to jump in and I’ll give Brad a chance….”
When Raffensperger finally gets his chance to talk, he says: “We don’t agree that you have won. And we don’t … agree about the 200,000 number that you’d mentioned. And I can go through that point by point.”
His final words (about 40 minutes into the call) sum up his stance: “Mr. President, you have people that submit information and we have our people that submit information. And then it comes before the court and the court then has to make a determination. We have to stand by our numbers. We believe our numbers are right.”
Lesson 3: Keep saying what isn’t so, is.
Trump responds to Raffensperger: “Why do you say that? …..I mean, sure, we can play this game with the courts, but why do you say that? … Hey Brad ….. your numbers aren’t right. They’re really wrong, Brad. And I know this phone call is going nowhere other than, other than ultimately, you know — Look ultimately, I win, okay?”
This would all be condescendingly amusing were the stakes not so high. And by that, I don’t just mean the results of yesterday’s senatorial election in Georgia; or Ted Cruz’s absurd effort today to block Joe Biden’s confirmation in the Senate.
No, I mean the long tragic history of demagogues whose rhetorical powers matched those of America’s 45th President. The power of Trump’s words can only be seen in a leaked phone call. But the power of their words can be seen in their books, like Mein Kampf, The Doctrine of Fascism, and The Little Red Book.
But even Hitler, Mussolini or Mao never said: “Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Gimme a break.”
Think I’m exaggerating the danger in all this? Check out your news feed right now for, as CBC calls it, “America’s Capital Under Siege.”