By Jessie Seigel / Washington, D.C.
“These contradictions are not accidental, nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy: they are deliberate exercises in doublethink”
― George Orwell, 1984
Chickens may be coming home to roost for at least one Trumpian hypocrite. Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff to former president Donald Trump, is under investigation for commission of voter fraud in the 2020 election. Meadows and his wife voted in North Carolina, using, as the residence where they physically live, a mobile home located in Scaly Mountain, N.C. But according to the Washington Post on March 10, Meadows never owned the residence and “might not have ever set foot in it.”
The hypocrisy exposed by this revelation is even more noxious than the alleged criminality. During the Trump Administration, the Republican Party cynically created and exploited—and Mark Meadows energetically promoted—the lie of rampant voter fraud, in order to deprive citizens all across the country of their right to vote.
In states where Republicans control the state legislatures, they have been engaged in gerrymandering, restricting absentee voting and the use of mail-in ballots, not to mention passing laws that would allow Republican-controlled legislatures to replace election results they don’t like with the legislature’s choices. Furthermore, in the 2020 election, Republican operatives in a number of states not only intimidated poll workers as they were counting votes, but attempted to submit falsified “alternate” slates of electors to the Electoral College. These actions constituted the real 2020 electoral fraud.
Although outrageous, the hypocrisy revealed by Meadows’ alleged voter fraud is not surprising. Hypocrisy has been Republican standard operating procedure for many years now. They barely try to hide it anymore.
In 2016, there was Mitch McConnell’s refusal to even allow a vote on former President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, on the specious claim that it was not appropriate to approve a Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year. But in 2020, without batting an eye—or even a sly wink--McConnell rushed through the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court a mere eight days before the presidential election.
McConnell again demonstrated his hypocrisy in early 2021, when he first voted against conviction in Trump’s second impeachment trial, only to turn around minutes afterwards and give a speech on the Senate floor condemning Trump and restating almost all of the prosecutors’ reasons why McConnell should have voted for conviction. A person could get whiplash trying to follow McConnell’s turns.
But Mark Meadows and McConnell have plenty of company. When Donald Trump was impeached (the first time) in late 2019 for illegally withholding weapons from Ukraine, Republicans in Congress overwhelmingly voted not to impeach, and once Trump was impeached, not to convict. This, despite the overwhelming evidence that Trump had attempted to extort Zelensky.
Yet, according to The Nation, when Zelensky addressed the Congress on March 16 on the need for weapons to defend his country against the ongoing Russian invasion, “those same Republicans were making sure to be photographed applauding for the Ukrainian president.”
It was 17th century François VI, duc de la Rochefoucauld who originated the maxim “Hypocrisy is the compliment that vice pays to virtue.” But that form of hypocrisy presumes some pretense at virtue on the part of vice, and Rochefoucauld never met the leaders of the Republican party.
There is no more insidious form of hypocrisy than the projection of your political actions on to your opposition. Republican leaders have become so persistent in its practice that if a Republican accuses his opponent of some skullduggery, I will confidently give you odds of 100 to 1 that he and/or his party are the ones guilty of that behavior.
Republican leaders have practiced this particularly nasty form of hypocrisy so frequently and have been so increasingly obvious about it, that it is hard to understand why some in the public are still taken in by it.
There has always been the warped Republican obsession with so-called morality—especially sexual morality. In 2007, Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig was arrested by an undercover officer for making homosexual overtures in a public bathroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. He took a plea deal.
This was the same Larry Craig who had opposed expanding federal hate crimes law to cover offenses motivated by anti-gay bias, and who had voted against a bill that would have outlawed employment discrimination based on sexual orientation (which failed by a single vote in the Senate), as well as having supported a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, and having voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal recognition to same-sex marriages.
If Craig had not chosen to hide his proclivity behind support for legislation virulently damaging to others, he might have been a subject for pity rather than scorn. But in the wake of the QAnon fabrications that Hillary Clinton was and is involved in a pedophile ring, Craig’s hypocrisy seems almost quaint.
As described by The Guardian in September 2020, the conspiracy theory created and promulgated by QAnon is that “national Democrats, aided by Hollywood and a group of “global elites”, are running a massive ring devoted to the abduction, trafficking, torture, sexual abuse, and cannibalization of children, all with the purpose of fulfilling the rituals of their Satanic faith. Donald Trump, according to this fantasy, is the only person willing and able to mount an attack against them.”
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Alex Jones, the Infowars host, reported that Hillary Clinton was sexually abusing children in satanic rituals in the basement of a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant, Comet Ping Pong.
In 2017, Rolling Stone stated it had found that at least 14 Russia-linked Twitter accounts had tweeted about Pizzagate, and that at least one of those was retweeted by Donald Trump Jr., Ann Coulter and Roger Stone. In addition, Rolling Stone found at least 66 Trump campaign figures who followed Pizzagate tweeters. Disgraced former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s son, Michael Flynn Jr., famously tweeted, “Until #Pizzagate proven to be false, it’ll remain a story.”
On December 4, 2016, triggered by the widely disseminated, manufactured anti-Hillary propaganda, Edgar Maddison Welch, a 28-year-old warehouse worker from North Carolina, came to the capital, walked into Comet Ping Pong in Northwest Washington, armed with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, a .38 handgun, and a folding knife, looking for captive children. Of course, he did not find any; there were none. Although he did fire his weapons, thankfully he did not shoot any people. Welch was arrested, pled guilty, and got four years in prison.
I’m not sorry Welch went to prison—I live one Metro stop and a short 10-minute walk away from the Comet pizzeria, and he is responsible for his actions. At the same time, Welch was a just a mark who bought the story the Republican leadership were using to con as much of the public as they could.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump had a history of palling around with Jeffrey Epstein, the financier charged with sex trafficking of minors. Epstein never came to trial because he was found dead in his cell, purportedly by suicide, but under suspiciously convenient circumstances. If anyone’s actions should be ripe for conspiracy theories of involvement with a pedophile sex-trafficking ring and suppression of evidence, it should be Trump.
One could even speculate that such actions or awareness of them might have given someone the idea of projecting such nefarious behaviors onto Hillary.
An even more insidious form of projection is the preemptive accusation. In October 2018, in the Dorf on Law blog, Neil H. Buchanan wrote: “The most extreme example of this strategy is the Republicans’ claims…that Democrats are engaging in a ‘coup’ against Trump.” According to Buchanan, the coup claim was likely directed at Robert Mueller’s investigations and the constitutionally provided process for inquiries that could lead to impeachment of a president.
As Buchanan wrote, with great prescience, the “coup” charge could “lay the groundwork for an actual coup by Republicans down the line.” In fact, in the 2020 election, events proceeded much in the way Buchanan’s article predicted—with Trump claiming he was the victim of voter fraud and of plots by Democratic operatives, as well as maintaining that he did not lose and attempting to remain in the White House—an actual coup attempt.
Buchanan wrote, and I agree: “The advantage of using the word coup first, and using it to describe something that is not actually a coup, is…to allow Republicans to say later, ‘We said all along that it’s the Democrats who were trying to illegally overthrow Trump and now these guys accuse us of plotting a coup?’”
This sows confusion, leaving the public to throw up their hands and think that both sides are the same.
Recently, Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post has begun arguing that there should be age limits for political office—presumably only for aging Democrats—since the two main current officeholders Post columnist Maureen Callahan targets are California Senator Diane Feinstein and President Biden.
The larger part of Callahan’s April 14 column is devoted to Biden. She states that a recent Politico/Morning Consult poll found that 48 percent of Americans are “concerned about Biden’s mental fitness.”
In fact, Biden is the man who, against Republican obstruction and all other odds—has been acting to clean up Trump’s messes, international and domestic, with great intelligence. Though I may disagree with some of the Biden Administration’s decisions concerning our nation’s problems, I nevertheless recognize them as reasoned.
Given Donald Trump’s erratic and obviously declining mental state, along with the possibility that the former president will nevertheless run again in 2024, Callahan’s charge against Biden is a prime example of projection. The Callahan article is likely trying to lay the ground to tar Biden with Trump’s defects in anticipation of the 2024 presidential election.
Without the development of a politically educated public, distinctions between legitimate charges and projections of political malfeasance on the opposition may be difficult to see.
Many Americans, overburdened by the demands of just getting through daily life, may be tempted to throw up their hands, and say to themselves, “Who has the time?” Or they may dismiss politics as a mere sport in which both sides are equally reprehensible and withdraw from participation. But, since politics is not a sport but rather ultimately determines whether we live and how we live, we ignore the political tactic of calculated hypocrisy at our peril.
Political columnist Jessie Seigel had a long career as a government attorney in which she honed her analytic skills. She has also twice received an Artist’s Fellowship from the Washington, D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities for her fiction, and has been a finalist for a number of literary awards. In addition, Seigel is an associate editor at the Potomac Review, a reviewer for The Washington Independent Review of Books, and a dabbler in political cartoons at Daily Kos. Of this balance in her work between the analytic and the imaginative, Seigel jokes, “I guess my right and left brains are well-balanced.” More on and from Seigel can be found at The Adventurous Writer, https://www.jessieseigel.com.