I doubt there are any sane Republican elected officials who really doubt Trump lost in November-- and even many of the borderline sane ones know he lost. But, without any kind of a positive agenda to offer the voters, the Republican Party has morphed into a machine that is all about "owning the libs." For their over 80 IQ supporters, it's all a big game. The bulk of GOP supporters-- the under 80 IQ folks-- it's just a blur of confusion anyway, like most everything.
But in yesterday's Washington Post, Ashley Parker and Marianna Sotomayor made the sad point that in Republican-World, the loyalty test above all loyalty tests is to accept that Trump won. That may be just fine in politically backward areas of the Old Confederacy or in poorly educated rural areas, but what happens when normal people hear this unhinged ranting and raving? I asked Alan Grayson, the former Orlando congressman who is planning on running for the Senate seat occupied by Marco Rubio who is playing Trump's gaming, pretending he believes Biden is an illegitimate president. "I think that, like the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass," said Grayson last night, "they can believe six impossible things before breakfast. Have you listened to Rubio lately? Normally, people don’t say those kinds of things unless they’re in a padded cell."
Parker and Sotomayor began their investigation not by talking to anyone in a padded cell, but by asking Michigan Republican activist Debra Ell, a fervent Trump supporter, who told then she has good reason to believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen. Actually she sounds like she should be in a padded cell. They wrote that she told them that she speaks "for many people in that Trump has never actually been wrong, and so we’ve learned to trust when he says something, that he’s not just going to spew something out there that’s wrong and not verified." Oh, boy! Where do you even start?
In fact, there is no evidence to support Trump’s false assertions, which culminated in a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. But Ell, a Republican precinct delegate in her state, said the 2020 election is one of the reasons she’s working to censure and remove Jason Roe from his role as the Michigan Republican Party’s executive director-- specifically that Roe accepted the 2020 results, telling Politico that “the election wasn’t stolen” and that “there is no one to blame but Trump.”
“He said the election was not rigged, as Donald Trump had said, so we didn’t agree with that, and then he didn’t blame the Democrats for any election fraud,” said Ell, explaining her frustration with Roe. “He said there was no fraud-- again, that’s something that doesn’t line up with what we think really happened-- and then he said it’s all Donald Trump’s fault.”
Nearly six months after Trump lost to Biden, rejection of the 2020 election results-- dubbed the “Big Lie” by many Democrats-- has increasingly become an unofficial litmus test for acceptance in the Republican Party. In January, 147 GOP lawmakers-- eight senators and 139 House members-- voted in support of objections to the election results, and since then, Republicans from Congress to statehouses to local party organizations have fervently embraced the falsehood.
In Washington, normally chatty senators scramble to skirt the question, and internal feuding over who is to blame for the Jan. 6 insurrection has riven the House Republican leadership, with tensions between House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican, spilling into public view. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is facing a Trump-aligned primary challenger in her 2022 race, inspired by her call for Trump to resign after the Jan. 6 attack and her later vote to convict him over his role in inciting the insurrection. [Polling shows the Trump freak, Kelly Tshibaka, slaughtering Murkowski.]
Local officials, too, are facing censure and threats-- in states from Iowa to Michigan to Missouri-- for publicly accepting the election results. And in Arizona’s largest county, a hand recount of 2.1 million votes cast in November is underway by Republicans who dispute the results, in yet another effort to overturn the results of the November contest.
The issue also could reverberate through the 2022 midterms and the 2024 election, with Trump already slamming Republicans who did not resist the election results. For Republicans, fealty to the falsehood could pull the party further to the right during the primaries, providing challenges during the general election when wooing more moderate voters is crucial. And for Democrats, the continued existence of the claim threatens to undermine Biden’s agenda.
“It is not just about the Donald Trump persona,” said Jennifer Palmieri, who served as White House communications director under President Barack Obama. “Trump is also a proxy in a culture war that’s about whose side are you on, and the people that buy into QAnon and other conspiracy theories are always looking for ways to discern whose side you’re really on.”
Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster, said that although such fealty to Trump may play well in a Republican primary, the calculation is far more complicated in local elections, general elections and critical swing states.
“In the battleground states-- and Georgia is a prime example of where this played out-- you had local officials who were really caught between the narrative of the ‘Big Lie’ and defending their own elections and the job they’d done,” Lake said.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both Republicans, resisted direct pressure from Trump to overturn their state’s election results in favor of a Trump victory. The backlash was swift: Trump called for Kemp to resign and endorsed Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), a challenger to Raffensperger, for Georgia secretary of state.
“Jody will stop the Fraud and get honesty into our Elections!” Trump said in a statement shortly after Hice announced his challenge.
After the 2020 election, in which Georgia went for Biden-- and later elected two Democratic senators in a runoff in January-- Kemp signed a sweeping law that critics say restricts voting access in the state. The new law provoked a public outcry from voting rights activists and major corporations-- Major League Baseball moved the 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta in response-- but also proved an insufficient step for many Republicans who still say the election was stolen.
“There’s no Republican that I know of, that I’ve spoken with, who has come to me and said, ‘Biden won fair and square,’ ” said Salleigh Grubbs, the newly elected chair of the Cobb County Republican Party in Georgia. “I absolutely do believe that there were irregularities in the election. I absolutely believe that our voices were shut out.”
In Washington, McCarthy has backpedaled from his original reaction to the Jan. 6 attacks, when he said that Trump “bears responsibility,” defending Trump’s response in a recent “Fox News Sunday” interview. At the House Republicans annual policy retreat last week, he also pointedly declined to say whether Cheney-- who has publicly criticized Trump’s refusal to accept the election results-- was a “good fit” for the party’s leadership team.
“That’s a question for the conference,” McCarthy said, while also saying that anyone criticizing Trump during the event, as Cheney had done, was “not being productive.”
Cheney finds herself in an increasingly tenuous position inside her own party, which her father once helped lead as vice president. There have been new calls for her to step down from her leadership role, and several House Republican aides said many are growing increasingly frustrated with her being so outspoken against Trump.
One leadership aide added that they “wouldn’t be surprised” if a move against Cheney materializes at some point.
“Trump is still a very active part of our party,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) said in an Axios interview Friday about the tension between Cheney and McCarthy. “This idea that you just disregard President Trump is not where we are.”
In North Carolina, former Republican governor Pat McCrory was initially highly critical of Trump, saying on his radio show that it was the former president’s own fault that he lost the election and that his false election claims were damaging to democracy. But now, running in North Carolina for the U.S. Senate and facing a tough primary, McCrory has sought to distance himself from those comments and casts himself as “a huge defender-- of Trump policies.”
Several local Republicans have either stepped down or been forced out of their party positions for not supporting Trump’s baseless election claims or for criticizing the former president’s role in inciting the deadly Capitol riot. In Iowa-- after telling a local newspaper that Trump should be impeached for his “atrocious conduct” in egging on the Jan. 6 attacks-- Dave Millage was called a “traitor” and forced to step down as chair of the Scott County Republican Party. In Missouri, the state’s Republican Party executive director, Jean Evans, resigned from her term several weeks early amid angry and threatening calls from Trump supporters, who urged her to do more to help Trump hold onto the White House after his loss in November.
...Trump, meanwhile, has continued making false assertions about the election, including at a Republican gathering in Florida last month.
A CNN poll released Friday found that 30 percent of Americans say Biden did not legitimately win enough votes to win the presidency, including 70 percent of Republicans. Less than a quarter of Republicans-- 23 percent-- believe Biden legitimately won enough votes for the presidency. However, the percentage of Republicans who falsely say there is solid evidence that Biden did not win has dropped by eight percentage points, from 58 percent in January to 50 percent now.
Whitney Phillips, an assistant professor of communication and rhetorical studies at Syracuse University, said the pressure inside parts of the Republican Party to support Trump’s false election narrative has “a long tail.”
“It feels like this has been happening in the Republican Party for a really long time,” Phillips said. “If you allow an entire contingent of your caucus to be steeped in conspiratorial thinking, what … do you think is going to happen? They’re going to turn on you.”
In Arizona, Republicans in the state Senate instructed Maricopa County to turn over all of its voting machinery and 2.1 million ballots for a new recount, which is underway. Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers said that after the five-member board voted in November to certify election results that showed Biden winning the growing and diversifying county by more than two points, the backlash from local Republicans was so intense that police officers were posted at supervisors’ homes for their protection.
Now, Sellers said, he worries about the divisiveness, not just in the country but in his own party-- especially in a place like Maricopa, where Republicans already have been losing ground.
“In Maricopa County, only a third of the voters are Republican,” Sellers said. “A third are Democrats and a third are independents. If you don’t even have a third of the voting public all together, how on earth can you expect to win over enough independents and others?”
Last week, Republican senators remained reluctant to weigh in on just how much accepting Biden’s presidency as legitimate is becoming a key question for party stalwarts. National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Rick Scott (FL), one of the eight senators who voted against certifying the election results, said the former president’s election falsehoods are not resonating with voters.
“They’re worried about the border crisis and worried about their schools opening,” Scott said. “They’re worried about men playing in women’s sports, they’re worried about the job market, watching them kill the Keystone pipeline.”
And the normally loquacious Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-LA), who also voted against certifying the electoral college count, simply declined to answer, saying, “I don’t have any comment on that.”
Yesterday, Marc Caputo reported how Trumpist crackpot Lin Wood had "played a starring role in Georgia’s GOP civil war after the 2020 elections [and now] is taking his roadshow to South Carolina, where he’s campaigning as a 'chaos' candidate to lead the state Republican Party... [He] shocked the political establishment in one of the GOP’s most important state parties by mounting an unexpectedly strong challenge to the incumbent chairman, Drew McKissick... An adherent of the QAnon conspiracy theory, Wood contends Trump won the election in a landslide and is still president. Speaking without notes in a style that blends the skills of a preacher and an accomplished trial lawyer, Wood-- who first gained fame as the attorney for the family of JonBenét Ramsey and also for Richard Jewell, who was wrongly accused of the Atlanta Olympics bombing-- has built a candidacy around his support of Trump, whom Wood said he supported in 2016 because he thought chaos was good for the country."
It must be hard for a guy growing up named Lin... and Wood certainly appears certifiably insane, and he appears to be determined to drag the whole GOP into a padded cell with him... or at least into a state on anomie. I wonder why no one ever says Pelosi or Schumer have obviously put him up to it. One South Carolina former GOP state chair hit the nail on the head: "They’re not Republicans. They’re not conservative. They’re anarchists." And that's exactly what his wretched party deserves for opening up the whole organization to Trump, much the way the conservatives opened up their organizations to Hitler before he devoured them. I for one hope they choke on the whole Trump phenomenon.
"[F]ormer South Carolina Republican Gov. Mark Sanford," wrote Caputo, "said Republicans are blame-shifting from the root of the problem: Trump, his spreading of conspiracy theories and his destabilizing influence on the GOP overall. Sanford marveled at how Wood could gain traction against McKissick, who recently oversaw an election where Republicans flipped a congressional seat, sheriffs races, and state House and Senate seats. Sanford, who made a brief 2020 primary challenge against Trump, pointed out that McKissick canceled the 2020 GOP primary in the state, robbing the state’s former governor of the opportunity to have a forum to discuss traditional conservative issues like the national debt and deficits. 'His candidacy is yet another manifestation of the Trump phenomenon. It’s varying degrees of crazy, a cult of personality,' Sanford said. 'What this really says is the party is wrestling with its own Trump demons. It’s one version of Trump versus another, more rabid version of Trump, but it’s all crazy,' Sanford said. 'The fact that Wood can run and there’s any appetite for a new guy from out of state who has not been a part of GOP politics in South Carolina is unusual, but that fits with the era of Trump.'"