A new story in Politico ponders why we didn't hear much argle-bargle about Hunter Biden during the first Republican primary debate. Hunter is, after all, the only reason House Republicans continue to show up for work each day. Without new hearings speculating on how Hunter might have something-somethinged and how President Joe Biden was probably in on it because of further something-something, the whole House "Freedom Caucus" would likely shrivel up and die.
There are at least two reasons why Republican presidential candidates might not want to spend valuable debate time fluffing Rep. Jim Jordan's latest conspiracy theories, and Politico touches on them both. The first and most formidable reason is because Nobody Gives a Shit About Hunter Biden. The vast majority of the public knows that Hunter exists in the same way they might know Ivanka Trump exists, but your average person on the street has several thousand more pressing problems on their mind and has devoted very little daily thought to the life choices of either of them.
Even by the usual standards of celebrity failsons, nobody cares. The conspiracy theories that sedition-backing House Republicans have to tell about Hunter Biden are so convoluted for so little outrage payoff that only conspiracy theorists have any interest in following that shit. If the general public can't be mustered to give a shit that Donald Trump's son-in-law-turned-White-House-adviser scored a $2 billion "investment" from journalist-murdering Saudi royals immediately after finishing up his Saudi-friendly White House stint, they're certainly not going to care that Joe Biden's known-troubled son might have gotten a too-cushy gig somewhere trading on the family name.
Nobody. Cares. Or, to be more specific, only seditionists, congressional sex traffickers, coatless athlete abuse enablers, and Fox News opinion hosts care. As Politico quotes Media Matters senior fellow Matt Gertz-not-Gaetz: "If you do not have a Ph.D. in Sean Hannity studies or watch his show every night, it's basically totally incomprehensible for a normal person."
Now that is a good damn quote, and correctly identifies the problem: This is Republicanism's Extended Universe canon, the QAnon conspiracy equivalent of arguing who would win in a fight between hero Stink Bug and supervillain Dry Rot. By the time Sean goes through the backstories of how Stink Bug got his powers or Dry Rot's origin story—not his original origin story, but the reimagined version in the 1987 reboot—the eyes of even most of Sean's own audience have glazed over.
And that, in turn, leads us to the second reason why Republican primary debaters aren't spending any appreciable time polishing Jordan's carefully sculpted turd: While this stuff may play well to the conspiracy cranks of the base, talking about it in mixed company will make you look like a crank. The Republican candidates do not want to look like cranks, not in nationally televised debates. That's the stuff to save for rallies and lower-profile appearances on conservative television and radio shows where you can be assured of a rabidly partisan audience. In front of the normies of the general public, however, it has risks.
We also keep being told that Fox News is trying to hide their crank side to "redeem" themselves after settling a $787 million lawsuit for spreading hoaxes targeting Dominion Voting Systems, but that still might be overselling the case. While it might be notable that the moderators last time around were more willing to ask candidate thoughts on UFOs than about Hunter Biden, let's wait another debate or two before calling that an actual policy.
There's one part of the Politico story that's puzzling, though. A Republican strategist asserts that "the reason Trump’s opponents aren’t talking about it is because talking about Biden corruption and problems plays right into Trump’s entire narrative," with another asking, "Do Republicans realize when they bring up the Hunter Biden stuff that they’re just helping Trump?"
That's ... a bit odd. While it's definitely true that House Republicans and allied sedition-backers latched onto the Rudy Giuliani-spread Hunter conspiracies as a means of watering down the uncountable number of Trump corruption scandals that have now turned into a countable and large number of state and federal felony counts, is the "Hunter" fixation truly limited to Trump whataboutism at this point? It seems more intended as the broader defense for—say it with me now—the entire Republican Party's willing support for criminal acts during the Jan. 6 attempted coup. Jim Jordan is looking to protect his own crime-ignoring behind just as much as he's looking to protect anybody else's.
And Trump isn't the only one indicted at this point. There's a good chunk of the Republican lawyer class, state officials, and other hangers-on who have been indicted in Michigan and Georgia as well, and it seems likely that federal charges still await at least a handful of them.
So what does it mean when strategists say that focusing on Hunter conspiracy hoaxes only helps Trump? Is it that the Republican conspiracy crank circus is already completely captured by Trump to the point where if you meet a conservative voter willing to believe hoaxes, they're already glued to Trump as their conspiracy lord and savior? Is it that other Republicans still want to pretend that they aren't particularly attached to Trump's corruption even though more than one person on that debate stage helped Trump be crooked plenty of times before deciding to compete against him?
I'm not sure. Perhaps that's a good thought experiment: Why isn't Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, by far the worst conspiracy promoter in the race aside from Trump himself, spending time roiling his base with Hunter Biden stories? Mike Pence isn't talking up theories like, "Well, the Trump administration may have been the crookedest administration ever and we may have attempted a bit of mild treason, but at least we didn't try to sell art at inflated prices." Why not? Why are the House sedition-backers and head coup kingpin Trump the ones beating the Biden conspiracy drum?
Do they … do they finally realize nobody gives a flying damn about Hunter?
Trump’s continuing legal problems, the car crash of a Republican debate, and the polling numbers defy the traditional media’s narrative that the Republican Party is even above water with voters.
Republicans erupt in outrage after AG Garland appoints the special counsel they demanded
Another day, another outright hoax promoted on Fox News
Raskin pushes for House probe of Jared Kushner