Joe Harding represents part of Marion County, Florida including Ocala. It’s a red enough district that the Democrats didn’t bother running anyone against him. Trump won Marion County 62.4% to 36.6% in 2020 and this year Rubio beat Val Demings 67.2% to 31.9% and Ron DeSantis beat Charlie Crist 69.2% to 30.2%. So… not exactly friendly territory for a Democrat. And backward enough so that Joe Harding was able to introduce the “Don’t Say Gay” bill without any feeling that it would damage his standing with his constituents.
You know how Republicans are always accusing normal people of stealing and cheating and molesting children and being unpatriotic and all kinds of things. That’s called projection— a Trump specialty. It’s one of the most ubiquitous of Republican psychological characteristics. If a Republican knows they would try to steal an election, they assume that that’s what normal people would do too. So they accuse them of it. IT’s why when the Republicans crack down on voter fraud they always catch Republicans.
Yesterday an indictment was unsealed against Rep. Harding on 6 counts including money laundering, wire fraud, making false statements to the Small Business Administration— all so he could steal $150,000 in taxpayer money allocated for small business COVID relief. Dozens of Republicans in Congress did the same thing and so far none of them have been indicted.
All through 2020, Harding used 2 dormant companies— the Vak Shack and Harding Farms, neither of which has been active since 2017— on applications for loans on the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan applications, including using false bank statements as supporting documentation.
He engaged in a complex fraud to make it appear that the companies were functioning, bringing in revenue and employing people— all lies. He faces up to 35 years in prison— but, being white, just a couple months— and pleaded not guilty and was released on bail. He was kicked off all his committees, including the House Judiciary Committee. The trial is scheduled for January 11.
I can’t say that the rise of Trump inside the GOP has attracted forepeople like Harding, although he was first elected in 2020. I think people like Harding (and Trump) have always been attracted to the Republican Party and have contributed to making it the institution it is today. In his column yesterday, Thomas Edsell noted that In the weeks immediately surrounding the midterm elections, Donald Trump called for the “termination” of constitutional rule, openly embraced the conspiratorial QAnon movement, pledged support for the Jan. 6 rioters and hosted, over dinner at Mar-a-Lago, the white supremacist Nicholas Fuentes and Ye… both of whom are prominent antisemites.” He wonders if “Trump’s wrecking ball bid for the presidency [will] fracture his party?”
He spoke with political scientist Martin Wattenberg, author of Where Have All the Voters Gone: The Decline of American Political Parties, who told him that “The Republican party faces a lose-lose proposition as long as Trump is politically active. If Trump succeeds in getting the nomination again, it would seem that his brand is so damaged among Independents and some Republicans that he will be unelectable. And if Trump loses his nomination fight, it seems highly likely that he will charge that he is a victim of voter fraud and damage the legitimacy of the Republican nominee… it is certainly conceivable that he would mount an independent candidacy and split some of the Republican vote. Continuing his fight as an independent would enable him to continue to raise big sums of money and attract the attention that he so intently craves. All in all, it could well be a disaster for the GOP.”
This is the party of Joe Harding and Donald Trump… and the people willing to vote for them and for the failed human beings like Herschel Walker, Doug Mastriano, Joe Kent, Kari Lake, Tudor Dixon… you know the names. And you know what they are and how dangerous they are to our country. I’m delighted Harding has been indicted and I hope he doesn’t say gay when he gets out of prison. But even more, I hope Donald Trump winds up in an adjacent cell. As NBC News put it yesterday, “The Trump train is stuck in the station, and it was weighed down Tuesday with the new baggage of corporate tax-fraud convictions and a final midterm defeat. In the three weeks since Trump launched his comeback bid from a ballroom of his Mar-a-Lago club, he has exhibited little of the energy that made him a force in national politics, but many of the behaviors that led voters to oust him two years ago, according to Republican strategists.”
Maybe his frustration led him to calling for the “termination” of the Constitution but Tuesday 2 of his companies “were found guilty of criminal tax fraud in New York's highest court… He also watched helplessly in recent days as courts handed his tax records to Congress, dragged his White House lawyers before a grand jury and facilitated an investigation into his removal of classified documents from the White House… Herschel Walker’s loss in a Georgia Senate runoff added an exclamation point to the argument that Trump hurt the GOP by picking a bad crop of candidates in swing states.” But don’t get too happy about Trump’s angst.
“The stuff you’re seeing on the news or the influencer-types on Twitter, you’re not seeing that on the ground with Trump,” said Wes Donehue, a top Republican digital strategist from South Carolina, which holds the first primary in the South.
“Trump still controls the Republican Party with everyone I talk to, whether it’s people in county parties or just conservatives at the bar or guys at the gym,” he said. “People are ignoring the media, the influencers, and it’s just Trump’s to lose. South Carolina is Trump country. People like Trump a lot here. And they like [Florida Gov. Ron] DeSantis. They just think he’s the future, but Trump is the present.”
…The dual realities of Trump’s early bumbling and persistent formidability are one reason that several Republican strategists refused to openly criticize the former president's nascent run.
“As you can imagine, it would make a big difference if we’re on the record or off the record,” said one national GOP strategist who agreed to be quoted on the condition of anonymity because he has clients who don’t want to get crosswise with Trump.
“The one thing Trump had to do was come out of the block looking like a winning presidential candidate in 2024," the strategist said, "and I think he has looked anything but that."
Who votes for these people? You know… 74,223,975 of them in the 2020 presidential election, including 70% of voters in Wyoming and almost as big a percentage in West Virginia, 65% in North Dakota and Oklahoma and 64% in Idaho. Notice that none of them were part of the Old Confederacy. All of them are part of a new Confederacy… of dunces.
In a post today, Trump is the Opposable Thumb of the Establishment, Sam Husseini makes the point that Trump presents himself an opponent of the establishment (“The Swamp”) but “in fact helps it grab more… Trump took disgust with the establishment, largely from the right, and then worked to actually incorporate that base into the establishment… pretty much what Obama did to the left… The current characterization of Trump as a fringe figure may be useful for the establishment as they can help characterize him as well outside of it, to memoryhole the many ways that he served the establishment when he had actual power. This may simply be the latest chapter in his service to it.”