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The Devil Went Down to Georgia

The president of the United States asks his supporters to overturn a free and fair election through extralegal means. What could possibly go wrong?
December 5, 2020
The Devil Went Down to Georgia
Play your fiddle, son. (ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP / Getty)

When the defeated president of the United States holds a maskless, anti-democracy disinformation rally straight out of Vladimir Putin’s dreams during the most deadly week of a 100-year pandemic you should tune in.

It’s not every day that you have a chance to watch folks try to destroy the world’s oldest democracy.

But in case you did not watch, this is what happened Saturday evening: Over the course of a nauseating and embarrassing evening at Heaven’s Gate, President Trump claimed that American democracy is rigged with ballots coming out of ceilings and leather suitcases and that he regrets not sending the military into majority-black U.S. cities to stop imaginary fraud. In addition, the president explicitly tried recruiting Republican elected officials to go along with his ham-handed attempt to steal the election, telling them that if they break the law and help his attempt to overturn a free and fair election, then they will “go down in history as great people.”

It is important to say, right here at the top, that the buffoonery is masking something deadly serious.

This is not your drunk uncle posting on Facebook after dark.

It is not a fringe congressman from some Texas district.

It’s the president of the United States.

The president of the United States.

Given the gravity of the undertaking, I was not satisfied to watch only the main event. I poured a glass of wine and settled in an hour early to let the anticipation build with some of my favorite reporters and friends on YouTube.

In searching for the best outlet, a few “news” channels caught my eye. The first was “NTD America” whose mission is to “uplift and inform society by publishing quality content that embodies integrity, dignity, and the best of humanity.”

I knew these would be my people when I saw that they were branding the event as a “victory rally.”

When I flipped on NTD they were airing Trump supporters calling for “civil war” to save the country from the “satanic,” “communist” Democrats who are stealing the election, and had a newsreader parroting Sidney Powell’s fantastical claims about rigged Dominion voting machines.

The best of humanity indeed.

Between segments, NTD played this little earworm about “tyranny at our doorstep.” It will haunt my dreams.

A few words about NTD and their integrity and dignity. The “NTD” in NTD America is short for New Tang Dynasty. This is a propaganda network which is part of a group of pro-Trump outlets run by the Falun Gong, including the Epoch Times. What sort of reach do they have? NTD has 935,000 subscribers on YouTube.

Not able to take “We The People” conference-call hold music any longer, I flipped over to NTD’s slightly more popular counterpart “Right Side Broadcasting Network,” which has a full million YouTube subscribers.

On RSBN, the MyPillowGuy was ranting about how the election being stolen from Trump is “the biggest story in the world for the biggest corruption in world history.” According to MyPillowGuy, Trump was chosen by God and this election fraud is just one more instance of the forces of evil trying to destroy him.

Powerful in their own right. Really makes you think. About buying pillows. Because while MyPillowGuy was preaching, a chyron onscreen offered 66 percent off MyPillow with offer code RSNB. Would have been super-duper cool if he’d offered 66.6 percent off. YSWIDT?

What’s funny—sorry, I mean “horrifying”—is as crazy as these off-brand OANN operations sounded, they were nothing compared to what came next, from the mouth of the president himself.

Just some baseline facts before we get started: Donald Trump was schlonged by over 7 million votes. He became only the third president ever to lose the popular vote twice. His opponent won the second-highest popular vote percentage in a generation. This election wasn’t close. It was a humiliating defeat.

So naturally President Trump came on stage to Queen’s “We Are the Champions” and was surrounded by an adoring cult waving “Save America” placards and chanting—unironically—“Stop The Steal.”

He kicked off the rally by saying “We won Georgia.” Which, if you want to be a nitpicking hair-splitter, isn’t true.

He said that votes came out of ceilings and leather bags (wrong), that Biden only did better than Hillary in the swing states (wrong), that “there’s no way this could have happened other than cheating or a rigged election” (wrong), that Stacey Abrams was “harvesting” votes (nonsensical and also wrong), that poll watchers were thrown out in Pennsylvania (wrong), that “you wouldn’t believe how many dead people” were voting (wrong), that they’ve caught the Democrats cold (wrong), and that “we have so much evidence but then you go to the court” and they say we don’t have enough (wtf?).

This event was ostensibly about promoting the run-off campaigns of David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, and to be fair, the president did pause to check those boxes in his own inimitable style. He called their opponents “communistic” and said they want to “take away your religion and Christmas.” (One of their Democratic opponents is a Christian minister.) He said that Kelly Loeffler opposed Mitt Romney (she was a major donor of his).

He then invited Loeffler and Perdue on stage where the latter claimed that he was still “fighting” to make sure Trump got a “fair shake” in the Georgia election that he lost and that has already been certified by the Republican governor.

After Perdue left the stage Trump made one final pitch for his coup.

He took aim at “Dominion” with some vague insinuations and then turned to the big screen where he aired a lengthy video purporting to show ballots that came from under the table in Fulton County, Georgia as aired by . . . I shit you not . . . Newsmax.

This video has, of course, already been investigated by the Georgia secretary of state, whose office determined that nothing improper happened.

Trump wound down saying once again that there was enough fraud to give him a huge victory, that “we’re going to do something about it,” and that state legislatures and the Supreme Court should act.

Looked at one way, this is the pathetic death rattle of a loser and crybaby who is desperate for one last gasp of adoration before he is forced into an early retirement that may be marked with legal troubles.

And it is that.

But it is also something more.

We cannot let the preposterous nature of this rally distract us from what it was, under the hood of the clown car:

It was seditious incitement against the duly elected incoming president in a manner that is without modern analogue.

It was an explicit attempt to undermine faith in our democracy and to advocate for the overthrow of an election by extralegal means.

It was an abhorrent scam that is robbing tens of thousands of Americans of hundreds of millions of dollars in order to fund the Trump family’s travel and legal bills.

It was a rallying cry for the very people who before the event were telling “news anchors” that they think we need a “revolution,” a “war,” and a “coup.”

It was a wildly irresponsible gathering during the height of a contagion that is almost certain to lead to even more unnecessary sickness and death.

Through it all, the Republican party sat silently, their souls having long ago been stolen, hoping that they could leverage all of this destruction to hold onto two Senate seats in Georgia.

As the stirring NTD America song goes, “tyranny is at our doorstep.”

And Republicans don’t seem to mind. Not one bit.

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large and the author of the best-selling book Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump and communications director for Jeb Bush 2016.