Donald Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani speaks during a news conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping (Image: AP/John Minchillo)

Because your correspondent currently has a beast of an insomnia, turning night into day, he was fortunate enough to watch the Trump administration’s late act, in which reality fused seamlessly with every satire — the now historic Four Seasons Total Landscaping press conference.

As Trump issued and rescinded tweets about the presser’s time and place, pre-event set up footage filled the screen with a ratty low slung red brick building behind a chain link fence, all squeezed between a sex shop and a crematorium.

There were no words. This was going to be goooood.

Especially when, just as the thing was about to begin an hour late, word came through that AP and all media had called it for Biden, and a dozen journalists turned on their heel and ran to their cars.

By the time Rudy Giuliani, in his top flight dark-blue suit, came to the microphone in front of a garage door covered with laser-printed Trump signs, the dignity of the event was all but irrecoverable.

Giuliani had nothing new to offer in announcing the full press of the legal case, something made painfully obvious by the trio of Republican poll watchers he had produced to speak, and who had to be coached at the microphone into saying anything more than that they had to stand six feet away, or that they weren’t allowed in, none of which was necessarily suspicious.

The killing blow came when the journos informed him that the race had been called for Biden, and he managed to summon up enough oomph to make a supplication to heaven: “Ohhhhh the media called it! The media!” In the vestibule of Trump Tower or, hell, the White House, it would have looked impressive. Here it was too close to what was going on inside.

Desperate to stay close to Trump’s diminishing power, “America’s mayor” had ended up spruiking the testimony of some bewildered people in a car park between the porno and the pyre.

Since one of the featured GOP poll watchers turned out to be a perennial local government candidate who served three years in prison after being convicted for sexually exposing himself to children*, it all seemed apt. Whichever staffer responded to Giuliani’s venue request — “somewhere near an I-95 exit, so I don’t have to spend any goddam time in Philly!” — by checking Google maps and assuming there was a five-star hotel in an industrial park had done the world a favour.

What had begun in 2015 on a gold elevator in a marble tower before a crowd of paid C-list models was now stumbling over itself in an oil-soaked yard with a mob of “deplorables” in Joe Biden fright masks yelling about George Soros.

It was like the reveal in the Matrix: the gold tower and the beautiful people peel away, and America is just lawsuits, crazies, yelling in a decrepit suburb, from sea to stagnant sea.

Trump’s loss and his desperate bid to take this to the end is pushing the right to the sort of gangster movie choice, where you leave the life for “witness protection” — a la former candidate Chris Christie who is now a TV talking head on the US ABC network, about as close to anonymous relocation as you get — or you go down with the Don, figuring that there’s no life outside da life.

They stayed when it looked like the result might be 273-265, or 270-268, or even a tie, and the Don might come through. Now Smilin’ Joe’s at 309, and three states need to be flipped back, and the chances are nil.

You have to be impressed with the fidelity of those sticking with Trump. Twenty years after Downfall mash-up memes became tiresome, their pure scenario comes along, the one in which you could take the words of Downfall and put them across a Trump presser, or Stalingrad at the Four Seasons.

Systematically, the loyalist pundits are taking the wildest, evidenceless internet accusations — of 100,000-plus votes suddenly appearing, etc — and claiming that “they must be investigated”, while taking every conventional slip in counting as a result-changing event.

They haven’t yet touched the best one, yelled out by pro-Trump crowds at counting centres that media crews unloading their camera cases were smuggling in sheaves of fresh votes. That’s the point at which the vote conspiracy touches the QAnon conspiracy; the common aura of a mass, world-enveloping elite control, dedicated only to absolute evil and power for its own sake.

The paranoid style has become so hypertrophic in American politics, because the land of promise looks more like an exit ramp off the I-95 than Trump Tower, and for that the inhabitants of the latter cannot be blamed — “this is America” — by the citizens of the former, for sucking the life out of them. Something else must be found to fill that gap, and since the gap is so vast so too must be the conspiracy.

Now, in their desperation, the right (including our own Miranda Devine) are going for a recycled story by a Reno intelligence products grifter named Dennis Montgomery, who has ripped off US intelligence with fake surveillance tech, and twice spruiked whistleblowing on “deep state” software called “Hammer” and “Scorecard”, alleged to change thousands of votes in a flash.

Nothing mass TV can produce comes close to the invention and fluidity by which the Q narrative combines multiple strands of political conspiracy with crime networks, mad science, today’s celeb headlines and numerology. Nor for that matter, the overreach of the Russiagate theories, which mirrored it politically but differed stylistically (conforming to the demands of a college audience for structural consistency; Q is like wilder Stephen King — just one weird-ass thing after another until it is stitched together somehow).

In making their choice to go with the conspiracy, the real elites — around News Corp, the Republican party, the cashed-up think tanks and lobby groups — have doubled down on the absurd notion that Biden’s voters are the elites, despite somehow being a greater mass than Trump’s masses.

One can feel, in their writing and media appearances, their dark thrill at the audacity of it. They’ve toyed with it for years and now they’re going there: de facto saying that any victory by progressives must be illegitimate, and thus, the record will eventually be corrected.

It’s the same feeling that appears in pre-war narratives of those on the right who moved from conservatism to throw in their support for fascism: the sense of energy and relief that they no longer have to couch their arguments in supplicant utilitarian terms, but can assert the simple rightness of the right, a value that transcends even loyalty to the United States itself.

Trump’s three-state loss has deprived us of the ultimate showdown, whereby a Republican state legislature voids its state vote on grounds of corruption, selects Republican electors and the electoral college re-elects Trump. (Republican Senator Lindsay Graham, when asked about this on Sean Hannity’s Fox show, said that all options should be left on the table.)

Indeed, this was what several Republican senators were preparing for before the election, rehearsing constitutional literalism by reminding the public that the US is a “republic of laws”, with no founding mention of universal suffrage, thus preparing the ground for a literal constitutionalist coup.

That result, which remains an outside possibility, would oblige the armed forces to follow the letter of the law and support the legal coup — or support democracy by taking an arbitrary, audacious act, breaking the law. The likelihood has become remote, this time.

Equally remote is the likelihood that this democratic fistula will be fixed anytime soon. With the country likely to be culturally divided in a way that is deeper, in some ways, than class division, one would have to presume that a real crisis for American democracy is in the future.

In a carpark in outer Philadelphia, the desert of the real is revealed, the right’s white knights have white nights, and the sleeplessness of reason produces monsters.

Peter Fray

Help us keep up the fight

Get Crikey for just $1 a week and support our journalists’ important work of uncovering the hypocrisies that infest our corridors of power.

If you haven’t joined us yet, subscribe today and get your first 12 weeks for $12.

Cancel anytime.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW