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Trump pretends he's 'not the one trying to undermine democracy'

Trump would have his followers believe his attacks on our democracy are really little more than a defense of democracy, which is as twisted as it sounds.
Image: Donald Trump speaks at the North Carolina Republican Convention
Former President Donald Trump speaks at the North Carolina Republican Convention on Saturday, June 5, 2021, in Greenville, N.C.Chris Seward / AP

Donald Trump spoke at the North Carolina Republican Party's state convention on Saturday, delivering what he and his team described as an "official presidential speech," despite the fact that he's not the president. Ahead of his spiel, some of Trump's allies pleaded with him not to dwell on conspiracy theories surrounding his 2020 defeat.

Naturally, he did it anyway. As NPR reported:

"The 2020 presidential election, that election, the 2020 presidential election, was by far the most corrupt election in the history of our country," Trump baselessly claimed in a speech before the North Carolina Republican Party, continuing his false grievance about an election he lost. He said Democrats "used COVID" and "used mail-in ballots to steal an election." He called it a "third-world election, like we've never seen before." He derided it as the "crime of the century" and claimed that the "country is being destroyed, perhaps by people who have no right to destroy it."

It's worth emphasizing for context that Trump, while suggesting that U.S. elected officials "perhaps" weren't actually elected, appeared to be reading from prepared text. While the former president is notorious for ignoring scripts during public appearances, in this instance, the Republican was delivering a specific and deliberate message.

In other words, Trump wasn't just popping off, sharing random thoughts that occurred to him at the time. He and his team wanted his audience to believe the former president questions the legitimacy of their successors.

At the same event, Trump soon after declared, "I'm not the one trying to undermine democracy. I am the one who's trying to save it."

The sentiment wasn't altogether surprising, but it was a peek into a twisted perspective. The failed former president tried to cling to power after losing; he helped inspired an insurrectionist attack on his own country's Capitol; and he continues to question the legitimacy of the United States' rightful leaders. Trump would nevertheless have his followers believe his attacks on our democracy are really little more than a defense of democracy -- an idea predicated entirely on the idea that his crackpot conspiracy theories are true and he won the election he lost.

Earlier in the day, the National Republican Senatorial Committee released a new video in which Trump boasted that his party is "going to take back the Senate, take back the House, we're going to take back the White House -- and sooner than you think." He added, "It's going to be really something special."

A generous interpretation of the comments would be that Trump expects Republicans to control the White House "sooner" than, say, 2029. But the former president's prediction came against a backdrop in which he's reportedly told associates he expects to be "reinstated" to power later this year, reality be damned.

I realize there's a school of thought that says it's better to ignore pitiful tirades from a guy who couldn't quite cut it as a blogger for a full month. But whether he deserves the influence or not, Donald Trump remains the head of one of the nation's major political parties, and he's made attacks against our democracy one of his principal post-presidency hobbies.