QAnon Memes, F-Bombs, and Tribunals: As Biden Faltered, Trump Amped Up the Crazy

Since Joe Biden’s face-plant in the CNN debate with Donald Trump, the sitting president has faced unyielding pressure from The New York Times, many within his own party, and top donors to step aside from the 2024 race ahead of next month’s Democratic nominating convention in Chicago.

Yet in the exact same nine-day span, Trump has been offering America a stark display of his own disqualifying temperament and mental state — behavior that’s been met with a shrug by the powers-that-be in the media and the GOP. Among other alarming behavior, Trump has amplified a violent conspiracy theory; called for political foes to be tried for treason; lobbed an obscenity at the sitting vice president; and suggested that he is God’s “chosen” candidate.

Promoting Conspiracies

The leader of the Republican Party promoted on his Truth Social feed a meme featuring the words, “Where We Go One We Go All,” the catchphrase of QAnon conspiracy theory cult. The meme featured a photo of Trump and Melania in the White House, and also a superimposed letter ‘Q’ — leaving no doubts as to the intentions of its creator.

The extremist QAnon movement imagines a paranoid master-narrative in which the heroic Trump is battling a shadowy network of Democratic and Hollywood pedophiles, many of whom he will one day round up and execute. It has been linked to horrific violence, and even MAGA stalwart Marjorie Taylor Greene has tried to distance herself from QAnon beliefs.

That wasn’t Trump’s only bout of conspiracy mongering this week. Trump also amplified a meme on Truth Social about the Soros family. George Soros is a billionaire financier and longtime mega donor to liberal politics and progressive causes; his son Alexander has recently stepped up as the face of the family’s political largesse. The meme featured Alexander Soros’ selfies with top Democratic politicians, as well as international leaders like Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, and declared: “TIME TO EXPOSE THIS COUP AGAINST AMERICA! BRING DOWN THE ENTIRE SOROS FAMILY AND ALL THESE TREASONOUS TRAITORS THAT HE FUNDS!”

Demanding Show Trials for Enemies

Such supposed treason by political foes was weighing on Trump’s mind this week. The former president also “retruthed” — his platform’s version of a retweet — a meme calling for a show trial of the vice chair of the House Jan. 6 committee, now-former Wyoming GOP Rep. Liz Cheney. It read: “Elizabeth Lynne Cheney is guilty of TREASON. Retruth if you want want televised military tribunals.” The typical punishment for treason, to be clear, is the death penalty. (Cheney responded on her own X account writing, “Donald — This is the type of thing that demonstrates yet again that you are not a stable adult — and are not fit for office.”)

This week, top Trump ally Steve Bannon was actually sent to prison — to serve a four month sentence for defying a congressional subpoena. In response, Trump also retruthed a meme featuring a mosaic of head shots of prominent lawmakers that declared: “THEY SHOULD BE GOING TO JAIL ON MONDAY NOT STEVE BANNON!”

The politicians Trump apparently would like to see locked up — for the supposed crime of having “HID THE J6 FOOTAGE” — include Republicans like former Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, as well as Democrats like Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi.

McConnell is among the Republican leaders on Capitol Hill who have formally endorsed Trump for 2024, even though Trump is clearly okay with promoting calls for his jailing.

Flashing a God Complex

Trump’s victory in the CNN debate had everything to do with Biden’s failure. If the Republican fared better, it was only only by comparison; Trump was, himself, frequently incomprehensible — though his nonsense was more conversationally fluid than that from Biden. Nonetheless, Trump spent much of the week exalting in his own performance, describing it “as “the greatest single debate performance in the long and storied history of Presidential Debates.” (In “complete and total modesty,” Trump attributed this sentiment to “many, on both sides of the political spectrum.”)

Trump was clearly feeling himself this week — going so far as to endorse the idea (popular among Christian nationalists) that his candidacy is being guided by divine providence. He retruthed post by user Patriot4Life that featured Trump’s profile picture and the words: “GOD HAS CHOSEN HIM TO LEAD THIS FIGHT FOR FREEDOM. GOD WINS!”

Dropping the F-Bomb

As pressure was building on Biden to drop out of the 2024 race, Trump was filmed at a golf course giving his impromptu thoughts on the state of the race. He claimed (mistakenly) that he’d already forced Biden — whom he called a “broken-down pile of crap” — to quit the race. Trump then turned his ire to the president’s presumptive replacement, Kamala Harris. Trump was profane in his assessment of his prospective new rival: “She’s so bad. She’s so pathetic. She’s just so fucking bad.” Far from being chagrined by this hot-mic moment, Trump promoted a video of it on his Truth account.

Was that Trump’s lone display of bad taste? Hardly. He also retruthed a meme version of a Weekend At Bernie’s poster that showed Barack Obama and Kamala Harris propping up a sunglasses-wearing Joe Biden corpse.

‘Graded on a Massive Curve’

The Trump campaign did not respond to questions about the former president’s erratic week, which showcased the Republican’s poor impulse control and thirst for vengeance in equal measure.

Trump’s outlandish behavior came the same week the Supreme Court ruled he would enjoy nearly-dictatorial power should he return to office, emboldening the reactionary agenda his team laid out to Axios that includes: deporting tens of millions of undocumented immigrants, seizing political control of the Justice Department to embark on a campaign of retribution against perceived enemies, and hollowing out the career expert staffs of government agencies, replacing them with MAGA loyalists.

As questions continue to swirl around Biden’s health and fitness for office, Team Trump is still eager to lash “the media” for allegedly having tried to cover for Biden and save the Democrats ahead of Election Day 2024. But privately, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the matter, Trump campaign officials and longtime confidants to the ex-president are elated at all the media hyper-focus on Biden’s age, and some have been giddily joking about it with Trump.

Some advisers to Trump are hoping the former president continues to stay (at least by Trump’s standards) below the radar for the coming weeks, and simply allow, in the words of one Republican close to Trump, “the media to devour Biden.” To a certain extent — going by Trump’s garrulous, routinely scandalous standards — they’re currently getting their wish. And yet, especially on his own social media site, Trump just can’t help himself.

“Trump is clearly trying to let the focus be on Joe Biden,” says Doug Heye, a former senior official at the Republican National Committee. “What we saw with Biden is so disastrous for him as a candidate.”

“But with Trump — even with his call for a military tribunal for Liz Cheney — his language, for years, has been so over-the-top that even with his record as president, he still gets graded on a massive curve by so many voters,” Heye says. “It’s already factored in, in a way that it could never be for almost any other candidate for the presidency. Trump saying something crazy is the oldest news there is at this point. It doesn’t mean it’s not crazy, and it doesn’t mean it’s not damaging. But this [dynamic] benefits him greatly.”

More from Rolling Stone

Best of Rolling Stone