There is a curious dynamic at work in politics these days. Trump does not appear to be trying to court voters to his standard. If he were, he would be reaching out to Nikki Haley voters and trying to moderate his stances.

Instead, he is rejecting her voters and doubling down on extreme positions. Rather than trying to appeal to swing voters, he seems to be trying to whip up his right-wing base to engage in violence on his behalf.

In Minnesota on May 17, Trump echoed fascists when he told supporters, “No matter how hateful and corrupt the communists and criminals we are fighting against may be, you must never forget this is not a nation that belongs to them. This is a nation that totally belongs to you. It belongs to you. This is your home, this is your heritage.”

At the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association on May 18 in Dallas, Texas, Trump floated the idea that he could throw out the constitutional amendment limiting a president to two terms.

“You know, FDR 16 years — almost 16 years — he was four terms. I don’t know, are we going to be considered three-term? Or two-term?” he asked the crowd. Some yelled, “Three!”

In the same speech, Trump told attendees that the Second Amendment “is very much on the ballot” in November, and he urged gun owners to vote and to “be rebellious.” Then he told the crowd that Biden’s actions were such that if he “were a Republican, he would have been given the electric chair, they would have brought back the death penalty.”

This evening, Trump’s Instagram account posted a video of what a newspaper would look like after a 2024 MAGA win. Under the headline “WHAT’S NEXT FOR AMERICA?” were the words “INDUSTRIAL STRENGTH SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASED DRIVEN BY THE CREATION OF A UNIFIED REICH,” a clear reference to fascism and German dictator Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.

It is not clear to me how anyone can any longer deny that Trump is promising to destroy our democracy and usher in authoritarianism.

But it is also not clear that he is still a figure that any but the extremes of his base will follow to that end. Hence his emphasis on turning them to violence.

His lies have become increasingly outrageous. On Friday he told a crowd in Minnesota that he won the state by “a landslide” in 2020 even though he actually lost it by more than 7 points.

At the NRA annual meeting, Trump claimed that his former physician told him he is “healthier” and “a better physical specimen” than the famously athletic former president Barack Obama. At that same event he boasted that he won 31 club golf championships; the day before, he boasted that he won 29.

Significantly, he continues to insist that the area around the courtroom is like “Fort Knox.” “There are more police than I’ve ever seen anywhere because they don’t want to have anybody come down,” he said today, “There’s not a civilian within three blocks of the courthouse.”

But this is, quite simply, a lie. Virtually no one has turned out to support him. As conservative lawyer George Conway noted today, “There is virtually complete freedom of movement around that courthouse.”

Social media contributor Eddie Smith, who filmed the handful of Trump protesters in New York today, put it more colorfully. After noting that “MAGA’s not repping in New York,” he added: “Wait a minute! You guys hear that? There is a mouse pissing on a ball of cotton in China. That’s how quiet it is out here.”

Republican lawmakers are stepping in where Trump’s base followers are not. Republicans attacked as unfit for office 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server. They tried to impeach current president Biden on unfounded accusations that he took bribes from foreign countries.

Now they find themselves forced to defend a man who is currently the defendant in a criminal trial that is showing that his associates acted like a criminal gang. As Tom Nichols put it today in The Atlantic, that defense is partly because they are afraid of their own voters.

Nichols also called out those “now circling Trump like the cold fragments of a destroyed planet” who “resent the people who stuck to their principles.” Those MAGA Republicans lawmakers are, like Trump, trying to gin up anger with lies.

Representative Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL), who went to Trump’s Manhattan trial to support him, told Jesse Watters of the Fox News Channel and later posted on social media that “[t]hey’re trying to keep cameras out of the courtroom so that the American people don’t see what’s happening.” Former federal prosecutor Ron Filipkowski noted in response that “New York has banned cameras in courtrooms since June 30, 1997.”

The most important of their lies, though, is that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and that to protect the 2024 election, it is imperative to police the election. This is the same tactic Trump used in 2020, claiming exactly four years ago that “they send in thousands and thousands of fake ballots.”

Those lies have resulted in a huge increase in threats against those whom MAGA perceives as an enemy. Danny Hakim, Ken Bensinger, and Eileen Sullivan reported in The New York Times that last year, threats against federal judges increased 150% over 2019: 450 federal judges were targeted. Since 2018, threats to members of Congress have increased by 50%, with more than 8,000 such threats last year. More than 80% of local officials also say they have been threatened or harassed.

MAGA lawmakers refuse to say they will accept the results of the 2024 election. Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson refused to commit to that fundamental tenet of our democracy. On Meet the Press, Florida senator Marco Rubio also declined to say he would accept the election results. Those vying for the Republican vice presidential nomination, including North Dakota governor Doug Burgum and South Carolina senator Tim Scott, have refused to say they would accept the results.

Their tactics are working among the Republican base. A CBS News/YouGov poll released showed that only 47% of Arizona Republicans say they will accept the results of the 2024 election no matter who wins. An equal number — 47% — say they will challenge the results if the other side wins.

That result is not symmetrical with the Democrats: 82% of them say they will accept the results, while only 14% say they will challenge the results if their opponents win.

But people are pushing back against the MAGA narrative. On May 15 the Texas Tribune and ProPublica published a story by Jeremy Schwartz about Courtney Gore, a woman who ran for a Texas school board to combat pornography and critical race theory in the schools, only to find there was not any.

When she told the public, her former colleagues turned on her. “I’m over the political agenda, hypocrisy bs,” Gore wrote. “I took part in it myself. I refuse to participate in it any longer. It’s not serving our party. We have to do better.”

Steve MacLaughlin, a meteorologist for NBC 6 News in Miami, reported on a new law Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed into law last week that will remove references to climate change from state law.

“On Thursday, we reported on NBC 6 News that the government of Florida was beginning to roll back really important climate change legislation and really important climate change language in spite of the fact that the state of Florida, over the last couple of years, has seen record heat, record flooding, record rain, record insurance rates, and the corals are dying all around the state,” MacLaughlin said. “The entire world is looking to Florida to lead in climate change, and our government is saying that climate change is no longer the priority it once was. Please keep in mind, the most powerful climate change solution is the one you already have in the palm of your hands: the right to vote. And we will never tell you who to vote for, but we will tell you this: We implore you to please do your research and know that there are candidates that believe in climate change and that there are solutions, and there are candidates that don’t.”

On May 17, former lieutenant governor of Georgia Geoffrey Duncan noted on Amanpour & Company that Trump had done less for rural voters than any other president in modern history. “At the end of the day,” he said, “we just cannot get into the business in America of electing dishonest human beings to represent us … The world’s watching us. I’m hoping we get this right.”

Sarah Matthews, who was deputy press secretary for the Trump administration, later wrote: “Trump’s continued use of Nazi rhetoric is un-American and despicable. Yet too many Americans are brushing off the glaring red flags about what could happen if he returns to the White House. When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

Mariam Zuhaib (AP) and Paul Sancya (AP)

Letters from an Аmerican is a daily email newsletter written by Heather Cox Richardson, about the history behind today’s politics