I was scrolling through Twitter the other night, and there was Rudy Giuliani, the former Mayor of New York City, and present attorney of Donald Trump, holding a press conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping on State Road in Northeast Philly, about 35 minutes from Lawrence, NJ, the town where I grew up. Situated between a crematorium and a sex toy shop—and far from what surely was the intended Four Seasons Hotel in Center City—Giuliani stood at a mahogany podium, seemingly out of place, situated on top the cracked cement driveway. Behind him were disgruntled loyalists, filled with tales of the alleged voter fraud we´ve all been hearing about since the days following Biden´s victory.
I immediately recognized the first speaker: Daryl Brooks. The convicted child sex offender who served three years in prison, and who I´d surprisingly come across while working one of the many jobs I held as a struggling artist, clearly hadn´t been vetted. Daryl, who had been a Republican poll watcher, spoke as Giuliani stood to one side. Election officials, Daryl claimed, “Did not allow us to see anything.” He continued. “Was it corrupt or not?” His conclusion: “It was not fair at all.”
The last real job I had was selling alarm systems in New York City. It was a position infused with cocaine and money, nothing but excess. Before that, however, I worked in a tobacco shop in Princeton, New Jersey, for ten dollars an hour and a daily ration of cigars, enticement to draw in the high-end clientele willing to pay the exorbitant tobacco tax in Jersey. There, we specialized in discernment, and in many ways, I was simultaneously learning how to discern as an artist as well. I was honing the craft that would, ten years later, take me to Europe as a touring performer and recording artist.
I´d been working in the cigar shop for about two years when Daryl showed up and started stirring up political conversation among the customers. Sitting underneath the billows of smoke coming from both the liberal and conservative cliental that constitute Princeton’s split charm, Daryl immediately appeared as an unlikely spokesman for the era´s most controversial political movement, the Tea Party (the astroturf political party of the early 2000´s, falsely claiming to be grassroots when, in fact, they had big money backers. A foreshadowing of the Trump ethos). Almost seven feet tall, Black, and extremely conservative, Daryl edged his way into the patrons´ skeptical company. Daryl started coming by every day. It seemed he was becoming a regular.
A few weeks after his first appearance, he asked me if I´d like to perform at a Tea Party Event.
Daryl: Luke, I’ve heard a few of your songs. You´re great! We´d love to have you perform at one of our events in Trenton. We´d pay you pretty well.
Me: No thanks
Daryl: Look, I know you´re not into the whole political thing, but it would really be a great way for more people to hear you.
That was true. No one had heard me outside family and friends, and the few drunken hanger-ons at bars I´d played in the metro area. But I wanted nothing to do with the Tea Party, and I was still developing a soul that, hopefully, would be worth bringing to market down the line.
Shortly thereafter, people started asking questions about Daryl. He had let slip during one of his many conversations at the parlor that he´d spent some time in jail. When asked what for, he dodged the question. Who was he? Where did he come from? What did he want? There was an innate uneasiness you felt when he spoke to you—a feeling that he wanted something here, or that he was avoiding something there. You got the sense that, in plain sight, he was hiding out.
One of the regulars was a former NYPD Detective who quickly became suspicious of Daryl. He decided to do some research and quickly discovered the reason for our karmic discomfort. Daryl was a registered sex offender, listed in the public registry, who´d served three years for fondling himself in front of two young girls in 1998. Now, claiming his innocence, Daryl found a new avenue to expose himself- this time to local government. In the following years, Daryl would become a fixture in the New Jersey elections circuit, running for positions in the Senate and Congress, to pitiful avail. In 2004, in his run for Congress in New Jersey´s 12th district, Brooks won one-half-of-one-percent against Rep. Rush Holt (D-Hopewell) and Republican Bill Spadea.
Daryl was asked not to return to the cigar shop.
Before the Trump administration, it would be to everyone´s astonishment that someone like Daryl Brooks would appear on a GOP podium. The fact that he was Giuliani´s first example of voter fraud in Philadelphia, a state in which Brooks didn´t even reside, would have been newsworthy. But now, farce is business as usual. Asked by the Daily News if he was troubled by Daryl’s character, Guliani referenced an unproven allegation against Hunter Biden: “Does it affect the credibility of others who support Biden? Print that!”
And there it is: hiding out, in plain sight.
To the cult of Trump, it does not matter that he lost the popular and electoral college votes. Since there is no objective truth in the cult, vetting is unnecessary. Make a claim, and then make up examples. Cult Trump logic distorts truth, but to many, the claims seem real because the people making them are powerful.
Just as Trump ranted about global warming as farce and dismissed the need to wear masks in public to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the GOP used Brooks to further their false claim that voter fraud was prevalent in this election. The propagandization of these lies have found their way into our daily lives. Their materialization can be seen in the culture´s bottomless need to vomit up whatever unchecked impulse wants to come up. Discernment, it seems, has become obsolete.
As the world declared that Biden had won, we all hope for a new US public discourse. So, in pursuit of our better angels, we must be quick to discern unsupported claims and realize that it is truth, not power, that will carry the day.
Written by Luke Elliot