But it occurs to me that this tweet unleashed a lot of anger for a reason. It captures an enormous amount about the tensions of our current moment. So it’s worth unpacking a bit more.
You often see visuals such as the one shared by Lara Trump, which purport to show that support for Trump in 2016 was overwhelming. These maps generally rely on a county-by-county breakdown of the 2016 vote.
Trump himself loves this way of depicting the vote. He showed a similar map to reporters in 2017, and remarked: “It’s pretty good, right? The red is obviously us.”
But, as anyone who understands the difference between geography and population knows, this is absurdly misleading. As The Post’s Philip Bump put it, “all of that red is mostly empty space.”
Now, Lara Trump has superimposed on top of this map: “Try to impeach this.” The vaguely menacing implication is that the enormous majority of Americans who supposedly support Trump will rise up in a rage against any effort to remove the president from office.
Yet, the very same pathologies that lead Trump and his propagandists and family members — who are often one and the same — to resort to such absurdities to inflate impressions of his popular support are, in an important way, at the core of the scandal that now poses the most serious threat to his presidency.
Ever since he won in 2016, Trump has been haunted by the shadow that immediately fell across the legitimacy of his victory. He has gone to extraordinary lengths to make the fact that he decisively lost the popular vote disappear: He invented the idea that he would have won the popular vote, if not for millions of undocumented immigrants casting ballots. The White House even created a commission tasked with turning this lie into truth.
Trump has gone to equally great lengths to inflate his popularity. He raged that the media downsized his paltry inaugural crowds. He accuses the news media of fabricating polls, and regularly tweets out cherry-picked polls that absurdly inflate his approval rating well beyond the polling averages.
This absurd county-by-county depiction so beloved by Trumpworld has been all about falsely depicting his victory as a smashing popular majority rout. And in Lara Trump’s latest rendition, it’s all about falsely depicting current support for him as overwhelming.
Trump has also gone to extreme lengths to make the fact that Russia interfered in our election on his behalf disappear, as well. The president often claims that this very idea is a hoax. Careful reporting documented that the refusal to acknowledge this led him to hamstring the administration’s response to the next round of Russian sabotage. Trump’s extensive efforts to obstruct the investigation conducted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III weren’t just an effort to protect himself; they were also about preventing a full public accounting of that Russian interference effort.
The latest scandal, in no small part, is also rooted in this same impulse. Trump and his lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, have extensively pressured the Ukrainian president not just to fabricate smears of Joe Biden, a potential general-election opponent, but also to validate a flatly debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, was behind the 2016 email hacks, and created the impression that Russia had worked to elect Trump.
The president refuses to let go of this theory. The New York Times reports that multiple administration officials told him over many months that it was nonsense, yet he kept returning to it, anyway.
At bottom, this, too, is about making a big fact disappear: The fact of Russian interference on Trump’s behalf during the 2016 election. This pressure on Ukraine, in part to disappear that fact, is why the House Democratic leadership has now fully backed an impeachment inquiry into Trump.
Trump simply cannot accept this, or indeed any, Democratic oversight. Since Democrats won the House in 2018, he has tried to make that fact disappear, as well. His maximal resistance to oversight on any and all fronts, at bottom, was an effort to render the Democratic House’s institutional role illegitimate.
Lara Trump’s map airbrushes that 2018 victory out of the picture, using a 2016 map to (absurdly) make her point: A vast majority rejects the impeachment inquiry, it’s supposed to tell us, rendering it illegitimate.
But Russia did interfere in the election on Trump’s behalf. Trump did lose the popular vote. There is a shadow over his presidency. His tenure is deeply unpopular. Democrats did win the House in 2018, and their impeachment inquiry is absolutely justified, given Trump’s extraordinary abuses. Large numbers of Americans do support the impeachment inquiry.
Quinnipiac now finds that a slight majority of 52 percent approve of it. That’s what happens when you ask real people, not grass and trees and dirt, what they think.
They can’t make all these facts disappear.
Update: President Trump himself is now circulating this same visual: