In order to have a functioning democracy in America, we need to have the two major political parties willing to agree on a basic set of facts – starting with who won the 2020 election.
According to a new national poll from Reuters/Ipsos, we don’t have that. Consider these data points:
* Fully 53% of Republicans in the poll said that Donald Trump was the “true” president while 47% said Joe Biden, who is the actual president.
* Another 56% of Republicans say that the results of the 2020 election were “the result of illegal voting or election rigging.”
* More than 6 in 10 GOPers either “strongly” (39%) or “somewhat” (22%) agreed with the statement that the 2020 election “was stolen from Donald Trump.”
Those numbers are remarkable. Scary. Depressing. And reflective of the fact that the Big Lie pushed by Trump and his allies – and aided and abetted by the silence of the vast majority of Republican leaders – has taken significant root in the Republican Party.
Trump has kept up the drumbeat of falsehoods – feeding the lie.
“Why aren’t Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republicans doing anything about what went on in the 2020 Election,” he asked on Monday. “How can the Democrats be allowed to get away with this? It will go down as the Crime of the Century!”
To which Republicans – as they have for months and months – said nothing. Because they are afraid of Trump and their own base. And have prioritized their own political interests – Kevin McCarthy wants to be speaker, for example – over the broader interests of the party and the country.
Now, before we go any further, let’s just take a minute to note that there is clear and demonstrable evidence that directly contradicts what a majority of Republican say they believe about the 2020 election.
“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” said Trump administration Attorney General Bill Barr late last year. The man who succeeded Barr in the job – acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen – said the same in testimony to Congress earlier this month. “During my tenure, DOJ maintained the position publicly announced previously that the Department had been presented with no evidence of widespread voter fraud at a scale sufficient to change the outcome of the 2020 election,” he said.
Trump and his legal team filed dozens of cases – in state and federal courts – alleging widespread voter fraud. They won not a single significant victory. The Supreme Court rejected a suit to overturn the Pennsylvania results and a broader effort led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that aimed to invalidate votes in several key swing states that went for Biden.
Against all of these facts are Trump’s random musings – and a group of party leaders unwilling to acknowledge that he is, objectively, wrong.
The unwillingness by Republicans to stand up on principle – and to put their own personal political interests aside – has created an environment in which more than half of their voters believe the Big Lie. And with Trump making no move to step off the national scene, you can bet that these voters will get plenty more rhetoric to fuel their false beliefs in the coming months and years.
It’s not an overstatement to say that the Republican Party is currently organized around a lie. And what’s worse is that the vast majority of GOP leaders know that Trump is lying – and are just too afraid to tell their own voters the truth.
This cowardice will have clear consequences not just for the Republican Party but for the country as a whole.
And sets up a scenario for 2024 that could make the 2020 election and its aftermath look like a walk in the park.