It’s hard to say exactly when Donald Trump started lying about widespread fraud in the 2020 election because he’d never really stopped lying about it in the 2016 election. But if you had to pinpoint when his outlandish, self-serving conspiracy theories really began to accelerate, it was probably around the late spring of last year, when polls indicated that he could lose to Joe Biden and that his desperate attempts to brand his opponent as a “sleepy” socialist didn’t seem to be working. As I asked in May 2020, “Is Trump Setting the Stage to Dismiss the 2020 Election Results?” Trump appeared to answer that question by the summer: “2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,” he wrote. “It will be a great embarrassment to the USA.”
Most Americans, no doubt, understood these outbursts for what they were: The efforts of a delirious demagogue to, if not successfully overturn his eventual defeat, at least save face from it. But the campaign worked on its intended audience—his ever-loyal base—and the conspiracy theory burrowed into the body politic of the American right. And while Trump may be gone—sort of, at least for now—his lies remain an animating force in the GOP, fueling the party’s assault on voting rights and becoming a blueprint for other Republicans seeking to explain away potential losses.
For a time, the GOP seemed bullish about their chances to oust Governor Gavin Newsom in California’s upcoming recall election. But a spate of recent polls may be dampening their confidence: The Democrat appears poised to survive the removal attempt, with the numbers trending even more in the incumbent’s favor in recent weeks. That doesn’t mean he and the Democrats can take a sigh of relief just yet—polls have missed the mark before—but it has already sent his GOP opponents scrambling for preemptive excuses.
“There might very well be shenanigans,” Larry Elder, one of Newsom’s top right-wing foes, told reporters last week, inviting supporters to report alleged instances of cheating on a website that already describes the results of the election as “twisted.” “The only thing that will save Gavin Newsom is voter fraud,” the right-wing commentator Tomi Lahren said on Fox News. “Well, it’s probably rigged,” Trump himself said of the California race on Newsmax. “The one thing they’re good at is rigging elections, so I predict it’s a rigged election. Let’s see how it turns out.” [Continue reading…]