Trump’s large lie is altering the face of American politics
The relentless efforts of former President Donald Trump and his true political and media supporters have convinced millions of Americans that Joe Biden is a fraudulent president who seized power in a stolen election.
It has immediate political implications – the lie that the last election was a solution is already shaping the terrain in which candidates, particularly Republicans, will run in the 2022 midterm elections. And the widespread belief that Trump has been cheated of power, the former president is building a platform for 2024 to create a prime bid for the GOP presidency if he so chooses.
In the longer term, the fact that tens of millions of Americans have been seduced by Trump’s lies about electoral fraud raises serious questions about the future of America’s democratic political architecture itself. Ultimately, if a large minority of the population no longer believes in the rule of the people for the people, how long can this system survive? And when the will of millions of people is no longer expressed through voting, what other options are there? The uprising of January 6th already showed what happens when groups – in this case instigated by a massive lie – take matters into their own hands.
Trump’s great success in creating his own version of a new truth about the elections and his still magnetic talent for spinning myths for his supporters to latch onto is revealed in a new CNN poll released Wednesday.
The poll shows that 36% of Americans think Biden didn’t legitimately get enough votes to win last November. On the one hand, this means that a manageable majority believe that Biden won fair and fair. On the other hand, however, a stubborn minority of a third in a country of 330 million people can be a powerful and destructive force. Among Republicans, 78% believe Biden did not win the election and 54% believe there is solid evidence to support such a view, even though there is no evidence and several courts and states as well as the US Congress have certified a victory, that Trump’s Justice Department said it was not affected by significant fraud. Among Republicans who say Trump should be the party’s leader, 88% believe Biden lost the election. And in a sign that many Americans believe the ex-president’s efforts are causing more permanent damage, 51% say it is likely that US elected officials will successfully overturn the results of a future election because their party fails and the winner is.
Paradoxically, Republicans are more likely to say that democracy is under attack than Democrats. And this despite the fact that every fair reading of recent years shows that Trump has repeatedly hit the pillars of the democratic political system. The twice accused ex-president repeatedly abused power, politicized the Justice Department and sided with tyrants rather than democratic leaders. When it was the will of the people to remove him from office, he tried to stay, was on the verge of a coup and rejected the election that ended his presidency.
The power of Trump – and the conservative media propaganda machine that created an alternate reality for his followers – is so strong that the president is able to reinvent the truth in public and get away with it. The former president is effectively writing the script.
“I’m not the one trying to undermine American democracy, I’m the one trying to save it. Please remember, “Trump said at a rally in Arizona in June that even highlighted a mock exam staged by Republicans in the 2020 election of crucial Maricopa County that helped Biden win the state.
“Democracy is not football”
Most Americans don’t spend much time thinking about democracy and constitutional guard rails – an issue that has become an obsession for Beltway media and lawmakers in the Trump-era. The cost of health care, the pandemic, children trying to go back to school, the phasing out of unemployment benefits and eviction moratoriums, and a homelessness crisis highlighted by California’s recall elections are more of a concern for most people. But ultimately, such problems are harder to solve when people fail to trust their political systems.
And the daily erosion of democratic standards – thanks to Trump’s lies and the actions of his Republican enablers on Capitol Hill – can reach critical mass over time. The experience of other nations – for example in Eastern Europe – who have seen a battered democracy is that the additional damage adds up and only becomes apparent at a point where it can no longer be reversed.
California Governor Gavin Newsom, fresh after his defeat at the recall that critics saw as the epitome of an undemocratic exercise, pondered how to protect political freedoms from the likes of Trump, who said the California elections had been “rigged” . before the returns were even received. The Democratic governor reached for a message that could lay the foundation for a wider attempt by his party to crack down on the extremism of some Republicans.
“Democracy is not football. You don’t throw it around,” Newsom said on Tuesday evening. “It’s more like an, I don’t know, antique vase. You can drop it and smash it into a million different pieces.”
Trump is ready to reap the fruits of his own anti-democratic campaign. His ties to the grassroots party seem to give him an prohibitive edge in the next presidential campaign if he chooses to run. One can easily imagine a presidential debate in which Trump forces his rivals to accept his own false imagination that the 2020 election was stolen from him. There is no political incentive for an aspiring GOP star to get on the wrong side of Trump. Some, like the third-tier Republican in the House of Representatives, New York MP Elise Stefanik, have already made a choice between the truth and her own fast-paced careers that can thrive in Trump’s shadow.
Republicans who challenged the ex-president and pointed out the reality of his authoritarian impulses, like the ex-sen. Arizona Jeff Flake or Wyoming MP Liz Cheney, who ousted Stefanik as conference chair, find their political outlook is darkening.
The next presidential election is three years away and the political winds may change. And it’s possible that GOP voters will tire of Trump’s antics and seek a new face. Perhaps Trump’s increasingly extreme stance on electoral fraud in a national election would be counterproductive – and give him more momentum than he is currently giving him in his own party.
Some anti-Trump Republicans, like Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, believe it has already happened.
“I don’t know the answer unless you come out and keep saying, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, you know, Donald Trump lost, not because the election was stolen, but because he ran an election that focused on to heat only the most extreme element “. of the Republican Party and switched off swing voters who normally voted Republicans, “Kinzinger said on CNN’s” New Day “on Thursday.
Democracy put to the test in the midterms
But there is no doubt that the former president’s attacks on democracy help keep him politically relevant, and his ability to create a false narrative in which he won is a tangible sign of his power.
Ahead of the next presidential election, the effects of the Big Lie can already be felt in the run-up to next year’s congressional and gubernatorial elections. Many of these races are run under conditions set by new electoral laws by conservative lawmakers, who often discriminate against minority voters and are inspired by Trump’s Big Lie. If the California recall election is a guide, Trump acolytes will go into the midterm elections warning that any Democratic victory, especially if mail-in voting is heavily used, will be fraudulent, even though Republicans are predicted to be good cut off.
The former president has also worked hard and used the carrot of his precious support to ensure that GOP candidates in the mid-term election accept his face-saving and untrue tale that he won the last election.
For example, he has supported Alabama’s MP Mo Brooks, who is a Senate candidate and speaker at the infamous January 6 rally in Washington that sparked the US Capitol uprising. Last week, the former president backed Michigan State Rep. Steve Carra, who posed a key challenge to Rep. Fred Upton, one of 10 House Republicans who voted for impeachment against Trump earlier this year. In another of his many statewide endorsements this week, Trump endorsed Kristina Karamo, a Republican running for Foreign Secretary in Wolverine State, and praised her as “strong on crime, including the massive crimes of electoral fraud.” It was a move that underscored that alongside the ideological divide between Republicans and Democrats, there is a new divide – between political hopefuls who support democracy and those who are willing to deny it.
It is a new dimension of American politics that has shocked many people who have been involved in it for years, and draws dire historical analogies.
“I’m thinking of … these democracies that are in the middle of the 20 situation room” on Tuesday.
“And it wasn’t because democracy was unpopular. You know, democracy was strong. But democracy defenses were really weak, and we can’t allow that in this country.”