The most hardcore Trump backers have *always* taken him literally

Former White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday that he was stunned at the storming of the US Capitol by pro-Trump forces last week because he hadn’t thought that people took the President “literally.”

“I never thought I’d see that,” Mulvaney told NBC’s Chuck Todd.
Or, more appropriately, WHAT?
What evidence could Mulvaney possibly have that President Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters didn’t take every word out of the President’s mouth literally? Because the four-year bullying campaign by his backers of politicians who disagreed with him suggested that Trump’s supporters took him literally. As did the white supremacist march on Charlottesville, Virginia, that left a counter-protester dead. And the fact that hate crimes have risen 20% during the course of Trump’s presidency.
In fact, any inspection — close or otherwise — of how Trump’s supporters have responded to his pleadings and urgings over the past four years would lead you to the exact opposite conclusion that Mulvaney attempted to draw on Sunday: The most hardcore Trump backers have always taken him literally. Always.
It’s the Republican political class — populated by the likes of Mulvaney — that has spent Trump’s term deluding themselves that no one really takes Trump seriously because a) who could? and b) it soothed their consciences as they enabled and abetted Trump’s worst instincts out of fear of what would happen to them if they didn’t.
The justification went something like this: Yeah, what Trump is saying is dangerous and crazy. But no one believes he means what he says. So, no harm, no foul! Right? Right?!?!

That has never been anything more than a weak — and easily debunked — excuse for not standing up to Trump’s erratic and irresponsible behavior. That whistle-past-the-graveyard attitude is typified by this now-infamous quote from an anonymous Republican official to The Washington Post in the immediate aftermath of the 2020 election.
“What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time?” the official asked. “No one seriously thinks the results will change. He went golfing this weekend. It’s not like he’s plotting how to prevent Joe Biden from taking power on Jan. 20. He’s tweeting about filing some lawsuits, those lawsuits will fail, then he’ll tweet some more about how the election was stolen, and then he’ll leave.”
“No one seriously thinks the results will change.”
Nope! Lots and lots of people — fed Trump’s lies over the past four years and without any significant push-back to them by Republicans who knew better — 100% believed that not only had the election been stolen from them but that their only recourse when faced with such a titanic steal was violent insurrection.
So, when the President of the United States told a large group of supporters last Wednesday that “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” moments after encouraging them to march to the Capitol building, well, they did what he said. They fought like hell, in their minds, to save the country they love.
As Ezra Klein put it in a terrific New York Times column on Trump’s supporters: “They did not experience this as performative grievance; they experienced it as a profound assault.”
This wasn’t new. Trump’s supporters had been taking him literally since he first began running for president. They really thought he was going to build a “big, beautiful” wall along our southern border and make Mexico pay for it. And that Ted Cruz’s father might just be involved in the JFK assassination. And that every prominent Democrat should be tried (and convicted) for their roles in the Russia counterintelligence investigation.
What happened at the Capitol last Wednesday, then, wasn’t the first time Trump’s base took him literally. It was the culmination of having taken him literally the entire duration of his presidency.
Mulvaney and Trump’s other most prominent enablers can try to comfort themselves with this who-could-have-seen-this-coming junk. But the truth is that anyone who wasn’t purposely ignoring what was right in front of their faces saw what happened last Wednesday at the Capitol coming. Including Donald Trump himself.

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