A big time mistake by Trump

Running a campaign for national office compels candidates to expose themselves to a national audience, and that can be a fraught prospect. Even the most capable advance teams can’t shield their campaign’s principal from every pitfall on the trail or guard them against exposure to this country’s varied and diverse voters, some of whom will be kooks. But a prudent campaigner can minimize the risk of reputational damage that might arise from an awkward photo-op or ill-considered remark. Donald Trump is not that kind of campaigner.

On Thursday, Trump strolled into a New Hampshire diner to bask in the admiration of his supporters and press the flesh. There, he was confronted by one of his more adoring fans — Micki Larson-Olson, whose red-white-and-blue-streaked hair, USA-themed peaked military cap, and flashy Trump-branded fare conveyed her enthusiasm for the cause. “She’s a Jan. 6er,” one of the restaurant’s patrons called out. Trump did not recoil from this revelation. He was drawn to it.

“Where is she?” Trump asked. He sought her out and, absent any solicitation, told her to “hang in there.” Trump later pulled Larson-Olson, who was among the hundreds arrested and convicted for their participation in the January 6 riots, toward him for a photo.

A competent political professional should have responded to Larson-Olson’s overtures by smiling and backing away slowly. Instead, Trump embraced her, praised her commitment, and heaped scorn on the authorities tasked with enforcing America’s laws. He even went so far as to autograph Larson-Olson’s backpack, which she said she wore as she trespassed inside the Capitol complex on what she later told reporters was “the most patriotic day of my life.”

“Patriots, I hear the woman,” Trump said of his supporter, who informed him that her misdemeanor conviction resulted in her imprisonment for 161 days. “It’s terrible,” he continued, “what they’re saying is so sad, what they’ve done to January 6.”

This unnecessary display practically obliged the press to perform a deep dive into Larson-Olson’s background, and that’s exactly what they did.

The Dispatch reporter Andrew Egger identified Larson-Olson, a regular Trump-rally attendee, as the person who identified herself to him as “Q Patriot.” She went on to regale him with tales about how “they used murdered and experimented-with children to create” the Covid vaccines and provided previously unknown details about Pope Francis’s clinical contributions to Operation Warp Speed.

Larson-Olson held nothing back in comments she provided NBC News. “The punishment for treason is death, per the Constitution,” she said, adding that the Republicans who certified the votes of the 2020 election “deserve death.” The Trump superfan hoped she would secure “a front seat” to witness “Mike Pence being executed.”

It should go without saying that the president’s conduct is not just morally obtuse but irredeemably stupid. Voters do not like what happened on January 6. They are not keen to see anything like that day’s events happen again, and they’re sending every possible signal to the political class that they will punish office seekers who fail to provide the requisite assurances. In a post-election survey, FiveThirtyEight found that the 2022 midterm electorate ranked “political extremism” just below inflation as their second-biggest concern heading into the voting booth. That outlook among the electorate helps to explain why the majority of Donald Trump’s hand-picked candidates for open races up and down the ballot performed so dismally last November. It wasn’t abortion. It wasn’t their economic prescriptions. It wasn’t foreign policy. It was those candidates’ evasiveness about who actually won the 2020 election — a coy nod to the beliefs that animated the rioters who sacked the Capitol Building.

Donald Trump can’t let 2020 go. Nor will members of the press — not while the former president continues to provide them with a news hook that allows them to keep January 6 fresh in the public’s minds. There’s a reason why Joe Biden’s first reelection campaign video begins with images of the January 6 mob.

Revising the history of January 6 in pursuit of Donald Trump’s redemption has been great for Donald Trump. It’s also been good for Democrats and their allies in the press. It’s even benefited some conservative media outlets, for whom staking out a contrarian approach to whatever the prevailing media narrative happens to be is a lucrative enterprise. But for Republican voters who want to see the GOP retake legislative chambers to advance their political objectives, the martyrology around the January 6 rioters has been a disaster.

It’s never been clear to me what Republicans get from their perpetual relitigation of the 2020 race and its attendant consequences. Whatever it is, it isn’t “winning.”
Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher is the editor and publisher of High Plains Pundit. Dan is also the host of the popular High Plains Pundit Podcast.

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