Why Trump supporters think 2020 was rigged

Last Friday a Twitter user named Darryl Cooper wrote a 35-tweet thread explaining the mindset of Trump supporters who think the 2020 election was rigged.

The thread was read verbatim on the Tucker Carlson show, and Cooper’s Twitter account went almost overnight from about 7,000 followers to about 70,000.

Glenn Greenwald invited him to write a summary of the thread for his Other Voices Substack account.  Although he did not agree 100 percent with Cooper, he thought Cooper’s viewpoint is important to understand. So do I.

Cooper said that for many years, most conservative Republicans, although they disagreed with the direction the country was moving, long had a basic confidence in the country’s institutions – the military, police and judiciary, the large corporations and even the press, which might be biased

This changed with the run-up to the 2016 elections and the victory Trump administration.  Intelligence agencies, Democratic politicians and the Washington press endorsed a conspiracy theory of Russian collusion which, it turned out, was based on opposition research conducted for the Hillary Clinton campaign.  Each of the claims were debunked one by one.

I happen to think Donald Trump was a terrible President.  But he was almost never attacked for the things he actually did wrong (nor was Hillary Clinton, for that matter).  Trump was attacked for his erratic statements, which didn’t matter, and for things he didn’t really do.

Cooper wrote:

Trump supporters know – I think everyone knows – that Donald Trump would have been impeached and probably indicted if Robert Mueller had proven that he’d paid a foreign spy to gather damaging information on Hillary Clinton from sources connected to Russian intelligence and disseminate that information in the press. Many of Trump’s own supporters wouldn’t have objected to his removal if that had happened.  [snip]

Trump supporters had gone from worrying the collusion might be real, to suspecting it might be fake, to seeing proof that it was all a scam. Then they watched as every institution – government agencies, the press, Congressional committees, academia – blew right past it and gas-lit them for another year.  [snip]

This is where people whose political identities have for decades been largely defined by a naive belief in what they learned in civics class began to see the outline of a Regime that crossed not only partisan, but all institutional boundaries. They’d been taught that America didn’t have Regimes, but what else was this thing they’d seen step out from the shadows to unite against their interloper president?

In the run-up to the 2020 campaign, the establishment press abandoned all pretense of neutrality, and, with the help of social media companies, imposed a news blackout on information that would help Donald Trump or hurt Joe Biden.

Is it any wonder, Cooper asked, that Trump supporters do not believe assurances from the Washington press corps and the Biden administration that the election was on the up-and-up?

I sympathize because my own political evolution was much the same.  In spite of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, in spite of the Watergate scandal, in spite of the revelations about the FBI’s Contelpro infiltrations of radical groups, I believed that the USA was fundamentally sound and that it had no problems that could not be put right, so long as there were fair elections and a Bill of Rights.

I started to become radicalized in the early 2000s when the USA Patriot Act basically wiped the Bill of Rights off the blackboard, and the Bush administration justified its invasion of Iraq based on lies, just as the Johnson administration justified intervention on Vietnam.

Still, I blamed everything on Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Karl Rove, and hoped for a return to normal with the Barack Obama administration.  What really radicalized me was the realization that there was a new normal, based on undeclared wars, drone assassinations, prosecution of whistle-blowers and immunity for torturers and high-level financial criminals.

Like Cooper, I understand this was not a Democrat vs. Republican question, nor even a liberal vs. conservative question, but a question of an entrenched authoritarian regime vs. challengers to that regime.  If the candidates in 2016 had been Bernie Sanders vs. Jeb Bush, Sanders would have got the same treatment that Trump did.

Cooper concluded:

Many Trump supporters don’t know for certain whether ballots were faked in November 2020, but they know with apodictic certainty that the press, the FBI, and even the courts would lie to them if they were.  They have every reason to believe that, and it’s probably true. [snip]

Trump supporters were led down some rabbit holes.  But they are absolutely right that the institutions and power centers of this country have been monopolized by a Regime that believes they are beneath representation, and will observe no limits to prevent them getting it.

I encourage people on the Left to recognize the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in front of them. You’re not going to agree with the conservatives on everything.

But if in 2004 I had told you that the majority of the GOP voter base would soon be seeing the folly of the Iraq War, becoming skeptical of state surveillance, and beginning to see the need for action to help the poor and working classes, you’d have told me such a thing would transform the country.

Take the opportunity.  These people are not demons, and they are ready to listen in a way they haven’t in a long, long time.


Author of the Mega-Viral Thread on MAGA Voters, Darryl Cooper, Explains His Thinking on Glenn Greenwald’s Outside Voices Substack blog.

MartyrMade on Twitter, Darryl Cooper’s controversial Twitter thread.

MartyrMade Podcast by Darryl Cooper.

The Unraveling Podcast by Jocko Willink and Darryl Cooper.

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11 Responses to “Why Trump supporters think 2020 was rigged”

  1. silverapplequeen Says:

    The GOP thought that the 1960 election was rigged. It’s no surprise that they think that the 2020 election was rigged. If they lose, it’s rigged. It’s that simple.


    • philebersole Says:

      Vote-rigging in Chicago and Texas possibly could have accounted for John F. Kennedy’s margin of victory in 1960. But when the votes counted, the losing side accepted the result. There were no mass protests or attempts to make the Electoral College disregard the results, unlike in 2016 and 2020.


  2. davidgmarkham Says:

    I have read this article a couple of times and I don’t get it Cooper’s point. Is the U.S. government corrupt? Yes! Being 75 I have known this since the Viet Nam era and civil rights. I have been a Dan Berrigan, Dorothy Day, Social Justice liberal Roman Catholic.

    Cooper, it seems, is trying to re-write history, and put a theory about Trump supporters distrust of the “regime” that just doesn’t fit well. Trump supporters are not “post truth” but “pre truth.” They don’t believe in law and order and rational discourse but a mythic belief in authoritarian strong man “I alone can fix it.”

    To dress up this primitive level of consciousness as some sort of sophisticated revolution against an authoritarian institutionalized regime doesn’t’ smell right to me.

    The way forward is not to regress but to transform. The support of Trumpism is a major regression from rationality to emotionalism which while exhilarating can be very destructive.

    The nonsense over a rigged election, anti vaxing, refusal to wear masks, drinking bleach, and violently trying to disrupt congress is hard to dress up pretty as Cooper tries to do.


  3. philebersole Says:

    Nearly 74 million Americans voted for Donald Trump in 2020, many more than in 2016. He got nearly one-third of the vote of Hispanic Americans and increased his vote share among African-Americans. A number of people who voted for Obama voted for Trump.

    This calls for explanation, not demonization.


  4. davidgmarkham Says:

    Hi Phil:

    I didn’t understand your last sentence. Did it seem like I was demonizing Trump voters? That was not my intention. I am trying to understand their voting behavior and stated that I didn’t understand Cooper’s hypothesis and explanation that it is some sort of rejection of deep state dysfunction.

    I think the simplest explanation is that they are frightened by the rapid social change upon us and the lack of a compass provided by any kind of comforting meta narrative. The democrats have not provided one which has resonated after Obama’s ringing cry of “Hope!.” and “Change we can believe in!”

    Another easy explanation is the failure of leadership other than an authoritarian model which can be very comforting and diminish anxiety in very anxious times.

    It is interesting to see the rise of the appeal of fascistic authoritarianism at the same time that traditional religion is also loosing its appeal and adherents. Do you see a connection there?

    I see the phenomenon stemming from the same etiology, the loss of a spiritual compass and an increase in existential anxiety.

    We do not have agreement in our society about where we are headed or want to be headed let alone how to get there. The genesis of this social anxiety makes a “I alone can fix it” kind of mythic figure very attractive. I am tempted to vote for him if I believed it were true.

    What we have in America is a spiritual problem more than a political problem. People do not know in whom or what to put their faith other than a con man and conspiracy theories. I am not demonizing I am trying to describe a phenomenon.


  5. philebersole Says:

    I would never vote for Donald Trump or a hard-core Trump supporter. His record in private life and as President shows him to be intellectually, morally and temperamentally unfit to be President.

    Nevertheless there are certain respects in which I am in agreement with Trump supporters, or at least find their views understandable.

    The Democratic establishment never regarded the 2016 election results as legitimate. There were protests in Washington, D.C., against Trump’s inauguration. Top-level Democrats favored members of the Electoral College violating instructions of the voters.

    The whole Trump impeachment campaign was based on fraudulent charges, all of which were discredited. I’ve discussed this at length on my blog, as have Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, Caitlin Johnstone, Aaron Máte and other non-rightist reporters and commentators.

    He was attacked for policies that began under the Obama administration and continued under the Biden administration. This is not to say that Trump was a good President, only that he was attacked for bogus reasons, not for things that he actually did.

    I agree with Trump supporters in their opposition to what we might call the cultural revolution – woke-ness, political correctness, cancel culture, Critical Race Theory, whatever you want to call it. This is another topic I’ve written about before.

    Trump supporters (as distinguished from certain high-level Republican operatives) are not “post-truth.” They think it is the liberals and progressives that embrace post-modern views of truth.

    It is one thing to oppose racism, sexism and other forms of prejudice. It is another to crusade against “whiteness,” masculinity and “heteronormativity.”

    There are people who want teenage children to have the choice to embrace gender reassignment surgery, which is a double mastectomy for girls and castration and more for boys. If I were a parent, I would be greatly worried about this.

    I’ve made a lot of sweeping generalizations; I’m sure there are many exceptions to all of them. My writing is based on conversations with Trump supporters, including my right-wing brother and members of the men, plus interactions with conservative bloggers.

    My guess is that if Dorothy Day and Daniel Berrigan were alive today, they would think, as I do, that the leaderships of both main political parties are committed to oligarchy and war and that, whatever their differences, their similarities are more important.

    I think most Republicans and self-described conservatives are good people who are misled by their leaders, just like the majority of Democrats and self-described liberals.


    • philebersole Says:

      Another reason Donald Trump attracted some votes was his promise to rebuild American manufacturing industry and renegotiated pro-corporate trade policy. In 2016, Bernie Sanders was the only other noteworthy candidate talking about these issues. Trump also promised a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan.

      Trump never presented any proposals that would have accomplished these goals. He did reject the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership agreement and renegotiated NAFTA, both positive accomplishments, and imposed a lot of poorly thought out tariffs and sanctions, but overall his policies never amounted to much. His infrastructure plan was a joke – just a bunch of tax incentives and subsidies to industry.

      However, he deserves some minimal credit for putting these issues on the table.

      Joe Biden’s Build Back Better program is a response to these issues.


  6. davidgmarkham Says:

    Hi Phil:

    What you write above is very wise and informative. What is needed now in our society is what Steve McIntosh and his colleagues calls a “post-progressive” approach which takes the best from the traditional, the modern, and the post modern and discards the worst from these same world views. It is interesting that 44% of Americans identify as independents in the Gallup poll in the first quarter of 2021. This finding might indicate that we are not as divided and polarized as the media portrays us to be.

    This observation might lead one to the idea that what is needed is memetic mediation where leaders on the cutting edge can engage with people meaningfully and satisfyingly who hold the three world views of traditional, modern, and post modern. There are positive things in all these world views as well as negative.

    I think you often display these qualities of memetic mediation leadership able to take people where they’re at and accentuate the positive and minimize the negative.

    Thank you for the wonderful work you do and share here.


  7. davidgmarkham Says:

    You are a thought leader for me, so God help me too. However, I trust and have faith that I am in good hands.


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