The relentless efforts of former President Donald Trump and his genuine supporters in politics and the media have convinced millions of Americans that Joe Biden is a fraudulent president who took power in a stolen election.
Longer term, the fact that tens of millions of Americans have been seduced by Trump’s lies about voter fraud poses serious questions about the future of America’s democratic political architecture itself. Ultimately, if a large minority of the population no longer has faith in the power of the people for the people, how long can this system survive? And if the will of millions of people is no longer expressed through the vote, what are the other outlets? Already, the January 6 uprising has shown what happens when aggrieved groups – in this case prompted by a massive lie – take matters into their own hands.
The survey finds that 36% of Americans don’t think Biden legitimately got enough votes to win last November. On the one hand, that means a practical majority thinks Biden won fairly. On the other hand, however, a restless minority of a third in a nation 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 strong evidence to support such a view, poll finds, although no evidence exists and multiple courts and states and the US Congress certified a victory which Trump’s Justice Department said was not tainted with significant fraud. Among Republicans who say Trump should be the party 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’s likely that U.S. elected officials will successfully overturn the results of a future election because their party did not win.
Ironically, Republicans are more likely to say democracy is under attack than Democrats. This despite the fact that any fair reading of recent years shows that Trump has repeatedly broken down the pillars of the democratic political system. The twice-indicted ex-president has repeatedly abused power, politicized the Justice Department, and sided with the tyrants rather than the Democratic leaders. When it was the people’s will for him to be kicked out of office, he tried to stay, almost staged a coup and ransacked the elections that ended his presidency.
Such is the power of Trump – and the conservative media propaganda machine that has created an alternate reality for his supporters – that the president is able to reinvent the truth for all to see and get away with it. The former president is actually writing the script.
“Democracy is not football”
Most Americans don’t spend much time thinking about democracy and constitutional safeguards – a topic that has become an obsession with the media and Beltway lawmakers in the Trump era. The cost of healthcare, the pandemic, children trying to return to school, the expiration of unemployment benefits and moratoriums on evictions, and a homeless crisis highlighted by recall elections in California are more likely to be of concern to most people. But in the end, such problems are more difficult to resolve if the people’s faith in their political systems fails.
And the daily erosion of democratic norms – 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 – in Eastern Europe, for example – that have seen democracy tarnish is that the incremental damage adds up, and this only becomes evident at a time when it is impossible to reverse it. .
“Democracy is not a soccer ball. You are not throwing it,” Newsom said Tuesday evening. “It’s more like a, I don’t know, an antique vase. You can drop it and smash it into a million different pieces.”
Trump is poised to reap the rewards of his own anti-democratic campaign. His party-base lockdown appears to give him a prohibitive advantage in the next presidential primary campaign if he decides to run. It’s easy to imagine a presidential debate when Trump forces his rivals to believe that the 2020 election was stolen from him. There is no political incentive for a rising GOP star to side with Trump. Some, like the third Republican in the House, Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, have already made the choice between the truth and their own meteoric career, which can thrive in Trump’s shadow.
The next presidential election is three years away and political winds may change. And it is possible that GOP voters will tire of Trump’s antics and seek a new face. Perhaps Trump’s increasingly extreme stance on voter fraud would be counterproductive in a national election – and create more momentum against him than it currently gives him in his own party.
Some anti-Trump Republicans, like Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, believe this has already happened.
“I don’t know the answer other than come out and keep saying -” Ladies and gentlemen, you know Donald Trump lost, not because the election was stolen, but because he led an election focused on triggering only the most extreme element of the Republican Party and it turned off swing voters who typically voted Republicans, ”Kinzinger said on CNN’s“ New Day ”Thursday.
Democracy being tested at mid-term
But there is no doubt that the former president’s attacks on democracy are helping to keep him politically relevant, and his ability to create a false narrative in which he has won is a tangible sign of his power.
Ahead of the next presidential election, the impact of the Big Lie is already being felt with the approach of congressional elections and next year’s governorship. Many of these races will be fought under conditions set by new election laws passed by conservative legislatures that often discriminate against minority voters and draw inspiration from Trump’s big lie. If the California recall election is any guide, Trump’s henchmen will go halfway warning that any Democratic victory, especially when postal voting is heavily used, will be fraudulent even though Republicans should do well.
The former president has also worked hard, using the carrot of his invaluable support, to ensure that top-to-bottom GOP candidates in the midterm ballot buy into his saving and bogus narrative that he won the last few. elections.
It’s a new dimension of American politics that has shocked many who have been involved in it for years, and it draws grim historical analogies.
“I think of… those democracies that were lost in the middle to early 20th century, where democracy was not sufficiently defended and authoritarian regimes grew,” said the former attorney general of the Obama administration. , Eric Holder, to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room” on Tuesday.
“And it wasn’t because democracy was unpopular. You know, democracy was strong. But the reality is that the defense of democracy was weak, and we can’t allow that to happen in this country.”