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Why Donald Trump's absurd 'reinstatement' fantasy matters

For those concerned about domestic extremists, Trump's "reinstatement" nonsense creates a threat that can't be ignored.

At a far-right gathering in Phoenix over the weekend, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) told attendees that Donald Trump will return to the presidency in 2024 -- "if not sooner."

The crowd cheered in approval, as if there were some chance that the failed former president could be reinstated, his defeat could be overturned, and Trump's second term could begin sometime before the next national election cycle.

Soon after, Trump himself appeared at the same Turning Point USA event and suggested he's thinking along the same lines.

"They almost got away with it. They may have gotten away with it. We're going to find out because something's going to have to be done.... If somebody robs Tiffany -- a beautiful jeweler, 57th and Fifth, good location, excellent location -- and they steal the diamonds and then they get caught. They have to turn the diamonds back. It's very simple. Amazing the way it works."

By the Republican's reasoning, he was robbed of the presidency, and so "they" should give him back what was taken from him.

I think there are three elements to this that matter. The first is that Trump's obsession over the absurd "reinstatement" fantasy isn't going away. Earlier this month, Politico reported that Trump has convinced himself that Arizona's utterly ridiculous "audit" could trigger "some sort of legal process" that would make him president again.

As we discussed at the time, the absurdity is part of a growing pattern. In April, for example, Trump sounded very much like a politician who believed it was still possible his defeat could and would be reversed. Soon after, the former president reportedly told associates he believed Arizona's indefensible election audit "could undo" the 2020 presidential election.

In May, by way of his now-defunct blog, he celebrated a poll showing most Republican voters "believe Donald Trump is the true president," and last month, the New York Times' Maggie Haberman noted that Trump "has been telling a number of people he's in contact with that he expects he will get reinstated" to the presidency by August.

Around the same time, CNN ran a related piece, reporting that Trump has "been asking advisers in recent weeks if he could somehow reassume the presidency this year after listening to farfetched suggestions from conservative commentators and allies."

All of which leads to the second point: Trump's fantasy is hopelessly insane.

National Review's Charles C. W. Cooke, a prominent conservative writer, explained last month, "[E]ven if it were true that the 2020 election had been stolen -- which it is absolutely not -- his belief would still be absurd. It could be confirmed tomorrow that agents working for a combination of al-Qaeda, Venezuela, and George Soros had hacked into every single voting machine in the country and altered the totals by tens of millions, and it would remain the case there is no mechanism within the American legal order for a do-over of any sort. In such an eventuality, there would be indictments, an impeachment drive, and a constitutional crisis. But, however bad it got, Donald Trump would not be "reinstated" to the presidency. That is not how America works, how America has ever worked, or how America can ever work. American politicians do not lose their reelection races only to be reinstalled later on, as might the second-place horse in a race whose winner was disqualified. The idea is otherworldly and obscene."

And finally, there are the real-world implications of the madness. On the surface, it's obviously relevant that the United States only has two major parties, and right now, one of them is becoming a sycophantic personality cult toward a man who is, as National Review's Cooke put it, actively engaged in "a rejection of reality, a rejection of law, and, ultimately, a rejection of the entire system of American government."

But just below the surface, it's quite a bit scarier. CNN reported a few weeks ago, "The Justice Department said this week that former President Donald Trump's delusional claims that he'll be reinstated to the White House could fuel more political violence from his supporters." Politico reported two weeks earlier, "The conspiracy theory that Donald Trump will be reinstated as president in August has sparked concerns at the Department of Homeland Security, a top official there told members of Congress on Wednesday."

It's tempting to shrug off the former president's ridiculous nonsense, but for those concerned about violence from domestic extremists, the fact that Trump and his cohorts keep pushing the "reinstatement" line creates a threat that can't be ignored.