A new poll suggests 80-percent of President Donald Trump’s supporters believe the 2020 election was marred by voter fraud. According to The Economist/YouGov, 79 percent of the 45th president’s 2020 voters have “[o]nly a little” or “[n]one at all” faith that the election was “held fairly.”
Reuters crime and justice reporter Brad Heath suggested those eye-popping numbers and levels of belief are testament to the efficacy of Trump’s “strategy of alleging fraud and filing lawsuits.”
Since the race was too-close-to-call on Election Day, Trump and the broader Republican Party have floated a variety of allegations centered around unsubstantiated claims of voter and electoral fraud.
An election worker in Georgia was forced into hiding after a GOP leader shared a false video accusing them of ballot tampering. One of the Trump campaign’s own legal advisers went on Fox Business to allege fraud without evidence and held out hope that Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett would save the day.
Some supporters of the president raised the idea that the electoral college in Pennsylvania should be superseded by the GOP-controlled legislature who could, theoretically, appoint a slate of pro-Trump electors there. And in Texas, the GOP lieutenant governor offered a reward of up to $1 million for evidence of voter fraud.
Those unsupported charges have been transmogrified into lawsuits filed by the Trump 2020 campaign in tandem with the national and some state Republican Parties. The most high-profile of these challenges is happening in Pennsylvania and currently on course for eventual resolution by the U.S. Supreme Court.
None of those lawsuits, however, stand any chance of flipping any state’s results, according to legal experts. And, in purely procedural terms, the president’s efforts have fared particularly poorly in Nevada, Michigan (doubly so), and Georgia. Lawsuits in Wisconsin and Arizona also stand no chance of erasing Joe Biden’s leads.
Those unsupported charges morphed into a projected image of strength, rage and would-be righteousness after the presidential race was called for Biden over the weekend. Trump quickly said he refused to concede–instead blaming the media and his opponent while continuing to allege a vast left-wing conspiracy against him.
“When you spend months – if not years – repeatedly saying over and over that everything is rigged and everything is corrupt, and then after you’re declared the projected loser you send around legal hatchet men (and women) to push dubious claims of voter fraud in court and in the media, there is going to be an understandable crash in trust in the system by those who voted for you,” national security attorney Bradley P. Moss told Law&Crime in an email.
“This does not accomplish anything other than convince the president’s base that the election was ‘stolen’ from them and make it harder for them to ever come to grips with the loss,” he added.
But the torrent of lawsuits has paid off well in the form of fundraising dividends–with yellow email subject lines rattling millions of dollars into Republican Party and Trump campaign coffers. And the GOP’s ongoing wagon-circling in tandem with those lawsuits filed by Trump 2020 and various outgrowths of the Republican Party have created a positive feedback loop within the conservative ecosystem where making false allegations of electoral fraud and conspiracy has become something of a baseline loyalty position.
Attorney General Bill Barr recently gave Trump’s baseless claims the imprimatur of the U.S. Department of Justice. And, at the behest of Trump, both of Georgia’s GOP senators recently attacked the Peach State’s own top elections official, who is also a Republican.
According to the YouGov poll, two-thirds of Trump’s 2020 voters said it is “[d]efinitely true” that mail-in ballots were or are being manipulated to pad Biden’s margins. Similarly, 81-percent of the president’s voters said the 2020 election was impacted by fraud “[e]nough to influence the outcome.”
“This is exactly why cries of ‘election fraud’ from Trump, and his enablers – despite the complete lack of evidence – are so damaging,” CNN legal analyst Elie Honig told Law&Crime in an email. “They have been unable to prove anything of substance in court, but they seem to be impacting public opinion through sheer volume and repetition of quickly-debunked nonsense.”
Federal criminal defense attorney Tor Ekeland suggested the polling did not augur well for the peaceful transition of power in late January.
“It is fundamental to our Republic that the vote is respected,” he said in an email. “In 2016, even though Trump lost the popular vote, Trump’s opponents respected the electoral college vote. Trump has now lost the popular vote and the electoral college vote, with no credible evidence of any fraud. If he does not peaceably step down from power on January 20, 2021, and Republicans like the Senate majority leader continue to support him, the social contract that is our Constitution is breached, and the risk of civil war real and pronounced.”
Those data points suggest not only a vindication of the lame-duck president’s efforts to obfuscate and litigate the otherwise clear result of the 2020 election, but also showcase a perilous road forward for President-elect Biden’s oft-telegraphed (and frequently criticized) hopes to work and re-conciliate with congressional Republicans once he is inaugurated president in late January.
“The polling is profoundly disturbing,” Democracy for America spokesperson Neil Sroka said in an interview. “It shows the strength of the right-wing echo chamber within the GOP and illustrates why GOP elected officials are cowering right now from their base. Anyone who has any sense of decency or experience with the electoral process knows that what Trump is saying is patently false. They know it is not true and that it is a lie. The fact that you have sitting senators giving these allegations credibility–even a tinge of credibility–shows you exactly what you need to know about who these people are and who they have been during this administration.”
The progressive pressure group believes the incoming administration should “thoroughly anticipate” Republican Party “intransigence” through 2022 at least. Sroka said that while Americans expect Biden to make some overtures to the Trump-loyal GOP, Democrats should not let the “olive branch drag us into the muck” because that would mean a failed White House that resigns itself to the fate of getting nothing done.
“What this polling underscores about what Donald Trump has done to this country is there is a divide between Americans’ perceptions of reality right now,” he said. “The only thing that would be surprising about GOP elected officials’ response to the lies and baseless allegations by the Trump campaign is if they were rejecting them. That would be surprising. What we have right now is a Republican Party that has been thoroughly dominated and hollowed out from the inside by Trumpism. That hollowing out and the debasement of the Republican party by the Trump administration is why we should be extremely skeptical that we’re going to see any response from the GOP during a Biden administration that is different from the response during the Obama administration.”
“Of course we have to be ready to be surprised by the GOP during a Biden administration,” Sroka continued. “But I don’t think we should expect Mitch McConnell or Republican leadership in the House to act responsibly with an eye toward governing rather than an eye toward regaining power. I think what Democrats are looking for from Joe Biden is to demonstrate a willingness to work with Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans but also a commitment to fight for a bold agenda and not cave to obstruction.”
[image via Stephen Lam/Getty Images]
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