Everyone is talking about the insane rant that Michael Caputo, the senior communications official at the Department of Health and Human Services, delivered during a live video talk from his Facebook page on Sunday.

Caputo, who is playing a leading role in dictating the administration’s public communications about the coronavirus pandemic, suggested that “deep state” scientists are shaping their handling of coronavirus around the deliberate goal of not allowing “America to get well, not until after Joe Biden is president.”

And Caputo, who admitted that his “mental health has definitely failed,” also referred to leftist “hit squads being trained all over the country,” who will enter into a shooting war to depose President Trump after he’s reelected, and advised his supporters to prepare.

Everyone is understandably aghast at all this. But how far afield is it from what we hear regularly from that guy who happens to be the president of the United States?

In an important respect, Caputo’s rantings are just a more lurid version of what President Trump himself says constantly — that the political opposition to Trump is at its core fundamentally illegitimate and, indeed, that there is no legitimate way for Trump to be removed from power.

Here’s how the New York Times characterized Caputo’s remarks:

“I don’t like being alone in Washington,” he said, describing “shadows on the ceiling in my apartment, there alone, shadows are so long.” He then ran through a series of conspiracy theories, culminating in a prediction that Mr. Trump will win re-election but his Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., will refuse to concede.
“And when Donald Trump refuses to stand down at the inauguration, the shooting will begin,” he said. “The drills that you’ve seen are nothing.” He added: “If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get.”

There is a strange, gaping hole at the center of much of the political discussion today. It is sometimes not sufficiently acknowledged that Trump has repeatedly said there is no existing legitimate fashion in which he can lose the election.

When this is reported on, you sometimes see euphemisms such as Trump “seemed to suggest” that he can’t lose legitimately. In fact, he said this flat out, recently claiming that “the only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.”

One might strain to read this as Trump predicting he won’t lose unless the election is rigged, rather than as a flat out declaration that it cannot happen. But when White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was pressed on that quote, she refused to say whether the president believes there is any circumstance under which he can lose the election fairly.

And Trump repeated this again at his Nevada rally on Sunday, railing that Democrats are rigging the election, “because it’s the only way they’re gonna win.”

This passed with almost no media comment. As Crooked Media’s Brian Beutler notes, Trump has been “relentlessly messaging that he’ll reject anything but election-night victory as illegitimate,” but it “has had almost no impact on how journalists cover the horse race.”

On top of that, Trump has openly encouraged his supporters to go to where protesters are and directly confront them, even saying that a “backlash” from them should not be “unexpected,” which is a disguised way of suggesting a violent vigilante response would be understandable, given the nature of the threat.

And Trump even elaborated on the nature of this threat during a major speech commemorating Independence Day that declared the country to be at war with an invented version of a broad, organized domestic leftist menace. Trump depicted this as akin to the struggle against fascism.

Meanwhile, numerous of Trump’s top law enforcement and national security officials have used their government positions to lend validation to unsupported claims that bolster that narrative of an organized, insidious, widespread domestic enemy within.

In short, Trump and his top officials constantly exhort Trump supporters to believe that, broadly speaking, the political opposition is operating via fundamentally illegitimate means and that it poses an existential threat to the very possibility of civil society itself, a claim Attorney General William P. Barr also made during a major speech.

Meanwhile, Trump is simultaneously telling his supporters to believe there is no fashion in which our political system can deliver a verdict removing him from power that is legitimate — that there is no lawful or licit manner in which the political opposition can prevail.

If we’re going to talk about how crazy it is that Caputo suggested that Trump supporters should gird for an armed plot to depose Trump, maybe we should also talk about how crazy all of that is as well. Is it really that big a leap from one to the other?

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