Two weeks before the election, televangelist and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson said that God had spoken to him personally to say that “without question, Trump is going to win the election.” A week after the election, Robertson said that “God will stop the theft of our election” by using the Supreme Court as his divine instrument to rule in favor of a Texas lawsuit. On Monday, Robertson changed his tune once again, saying that it’s time for Trump to accept Biden’s victory and move on.
While some are applauding Robertson for acknowledging reality, he went on to tout a conspiracy theory taking hold among right-wingers. The 90-year-old said that “I also think we’ll be seeing a President Kamala Harris not too long after the inauguration of President Biden.”
It is always hard to say exactly where this kind of nonsense began. But among the lies Trump told during the campaign were the ones about Biden being weak and mentally incapacitated (which were nothing but pure projection). At a rally in September, the president mimicked Biden saying, “I’m getting tired. I’d like to rest. I’d like to let Kamala take over as president.”
In October, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi discussed legislation to clarify the implementation of the 25th Amendment following Trump’s hospitalization for COVID-19, the president’s campaign produced a television ad titled, “President Kamala?”
The idea that Biden is merely a placeholder for a Harris presidency has been spread by many of the usual suspects who traffic in conspiracy theories, like InfoWars and the Daily Caller. It is likely to gain steam as we approach Inauguration Day, especially from those who have finally accepted Trump’s defeat.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen conspiracy theorists attack the first woman of color to be elected vice-president. Initially, they revised the birther lie about Obama to suggest that Harris, whose parents were immigrants, isn’t eligible for the office—even though she was born in Oakland. That was just one of several lies spread about the vice-president-elect.
While Trump and his enablers have falsely tagged Biden as corrupt and mentally deficient, referring to the president-elect as a “radical socialist” simply isn’t credible. After all, Biden is an older white man from Scranton who, over 40 years in office, built a reputation as a moderate Democrat. In other words, the president-elect isn’t a target-rich villain. On the other hand, Harris checks all of the boxes: she’s a woman of color from California—the state that conservatives see as a bastion of socialism in America.
For years Republicans have nursed nostalgia for a mythical past dominated by white men as a way of maintaining their base. Even more than Barack Hussein Obama, Kamala Devi Harris represents everything they fear about a changing America. Without that fear, Republicans have nothing.
So even as Pat Robertson finally admitted that Biden is President-elect, he flipped the conspiracy theory script away from election fraud to ramp up the one about Biden simply being a placeholder for the real president—Kamala Harris.