The Republican Party
is more enslaved to the lies that led to a deadly attack
on the Capitol
on Jan. 6 in order to thwart the peaceful transfer of power than ever before. The latest evidence: Republicans
killed a bipartisan bill to establish a commission to investigate the insurgency.
The bipartisan commission
could have answered key questions about the attack, such as what involvement and response former President Donald Trump
and key lawmakers had, but most Republicans don't want Trump held accountable for his effort to subvert democracy
by claiming the election was stolen; they're too busy feeding the myth.
The stolen election lie that inspired the Jan. 6 insurgency now inspires voter suppression
legislation that partisan forces could use to prevent Democrats
from winning in 2022 or 2024. Republicans aren't just trying to fix elections
to benefit them in the future; they're still trying to change the 2020 election
results in states like Arizona
, and New Hampshire.
The stolen election myth is driving the majority of the party's grassroots, not just the ex-president from his hideout in Mar-a-Lago
The Republican Party's focus on the story of a stolen election comes as the party finds itself in an increasingly precarious political position in national elections, having lost the presidential popular vote in four consecutive elections and in seven of the last eight, indicating that the party no longer operates as a national majority.
However, the stolen election myth provides a narrative
for why the Republican Party can no longer win the popular vote, as well as justifies the party's anti-majoritarian turn. It is the reason for Trump's continued power over the party, and it may lead to further violence as the former president or other figures continue to insist that their supporters cannot trust the nation's democratic processes and institutions.
Election Subversion Planning
Recent county party meetings in Georgia were flooded with new members inspired to join by Trump's lie. A party election audit produced by state GOP
chair David Shafer, who claims the election was not fair, blames Trump's loss in the state on (nonexistent) "massive violations of state law," rather than on the fact that he received fewer votes
than President Joe Biden
According to Vice News
, Shafer is one of at least 19 state GOP chairs who have questioned the election results. Arizona Republican Party chair Kelli Ward, a noted conspiracy theorist, called Biden's victory a "coup." The Oregon
Republican Party issued a statement following the insurgency claiming it was a "false flag operation" perpetrated by antifa.
These are the state Republican parties pushing and passing new voter suppression laws to make it harder to vote and easier for partisan Republican officials to control the election process, and the stolen election myth is the key driving narrative inspiring these laws, as evidenced by the way the laws are written.
Republicans in Florida
and Georgia both imposed new limitations and restrictions on mail-in voting
, despite the Republican Party dominating the practice since it was implemented roughly two decades ago. Why change the laws now? Democrats dominated mail-in voting for the first time in both states in 2020. Trump has also falsely claimed that mail-in voting is corrupt and that imagined corruption c
Republicans in Georgia stripped Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger
of his position on the state's election oversight board. Did Raffensperger fail to properly administer the election? No, Raffensperger simply refused to follow Trump's potentially illegal orders to fix the election in his favor after the fact.
Arizona Republicans did the same to Secretary of State Katie Hobbs
, but because she is a Democrat, they only stripped her of her election powers until 2022, when she could lose to a Republican, who could then have his election powers restored.
At least 25 bills restricting voter access in ways inspired by the stolen election myth have passed in Republican-controlled states such as Florida and Georgia. States such as Arkansas
, Indiana, Iowa, and Kansas have all limited mail-in voting after Trump lied about it being corrupt and prone to fraud. Kansas has also prohibited the executive branch, judiciary, and secretary of state from changi.
This advance of voter suppression laws based on a myth comes as no surprise. In many cases, these are the Republican-led state legislatures that hosted hearings between the November election and the January insurgency in which Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani
and a parade of less-than-illustrious figures aired absurd allegations about election fraud.
‘A Spectacle That Hurts Us All’
Two audits of ballots in Maricopa County
, Arizona — where Biden's margin helped him become the state's first Democrat to win since Bill Clinton in 1992 — conducted after the 2020 election found no evidence of widespread fraud and determined that the election was safe and secure. That wasn't enough for Republicans in the Arizona Senate
, who voted to conduct another audit to hunt down preposterous fraud.
The auditors are using ultraviolet lights to search for nonexistent watermarks on ballots, which conspiracists claim prove which ballots are real and which are fake, and they are also searching ballots for “bamboo fibers” due to allegations that China
shipped ballots for Biden to Arizona a month before the election.
The audit, according to Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers, was a "sham process." The county's election infrastructure
will need to be completely replaced because the audit exposed its voting systems to actors
outside of the chain of custody required to protect their security, according to Hobbs, the secretary of state.
“It is time to make a decision to defend the Constitution and the Republic,” the commissioners wrote. “We stand united in our opposition to the Big Lie
, and we ask everyone to join us in standing for the truth.”
Republicans throughout the country, on the other hand, are increasingly siding with the myth.
state House Speaker Robin Vos, a Republican, announced on Wednesday that he has unilaterally granted three retired law enforcement officers subpoena power to investigate possible election fraud in the state in 2020.
In Georgia, Raffensperger, who has already been stripped of his powers for refusing to bow to Trump, now supports an election audit sought by a conspiracy theorist in Fulton County, a predominantly Black county that includes Atlanta
. Georgia has audited its election results three times and found no evidence of widespread fraud.
Former Georgia state Rep. Vernon Jones, a Republican running against incumbent GOP Gov. Brain
Kemp in 2022 because Kemp did not overturn Trump's election results, has made an Arizona-style audit a central part of his primary campaign.
According to The Washington Post
, Trump supporters
are pushing for similar audits in Windham County, New Hampshire, Cheboygan County, Michigan, and San Luis Obispo County, California
Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who has been pardoned, has led the charge for an audit of the 2020 election results, and he has urged elected Republicans to support it.
“We want transparency and answers for the American people
— what are the Democrats so afraid of?” Rep. Elise Stefanik
(R-NY) said on Bannon’s podcast earlier this month, endorsing the Arizona audit. Stefanik’s endorsement of the audits was a necessary precondition to her successful campaign as the pro-Trump replacement for Rep. Liz Cheney
(R-Wyo.) in GOP leadership.
On his podcast, Bannon recently joked about restoring Trump to the White House
on August 15.
The Power That Is Driving Everything
Stefanik isn't the only major Republican figure questioning the 2020 election results and supporting ongoing partisan audits; she's joined by a slew of House and Senate Republicans who either openly assert voter fraud, claim states conducted the elections in some nebulously unconstitutional manner, or can't bring themselves to admit Biden won.
Trump is the driving force behind this, as he was behind the insurgency.
Trump is the first and only presidential candidate to refuse to accept the results of an election he lost, leading supporters and elected Republicans to believe or endorse his myth of a stolen election, and he hasn't stopped since leaving office and being impeached a second time.
In messages posted to his new blog nearly three dozen times in the last three months, he has questioned the outcome of the election and endorsed election audits and voter suppression laws as a necessary response, and such messages have only gotten louder as the audits have progressed.
“Massive numbers of dead people ‘voted’ in the 2020 Presidential Election, far more than anyone has ever known or seen before,” Trump said in a statement released on Wednesday.
“The major Michigan Election Fraud case has just filed a bombshell pleading claiming votes were intentionally switched from President Trump to Joe Biden,” he falsely stated on May 10.
“As our country is being destroyed from within and without, the 2020 Presidential Election will be remembered as THE CRIME
OF THE CENTURY!” he declared on May 15.
Trump has also continued to criticize Republicans who did not assist him in overturning the election, including Cheney, Raffensperger, Kemp, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, and Senators Mitt Romney
), Lisa Murkowski
), and Mitt McConnell (Ky.).
These statements both frighten elected Republicans into endorsing Trump's election fraud fantasies and contribute to a majority of Republicans' continuing belief that the election was stolen.
According to an Ipsos poll published on May 21, 61% of Republicans believe the election was stolen from Trump, 54% believe the insurgency was committed by “left-wing protestors to make Trump look bad,” and 53% believe Trump is the “true presidential candidate.”
“A new Ipsos/Reuters poll ‘Beliefs Among Republicans’ shows 53% believe Donald Trump is the true President (I always knew America was smart!),” Trump said in a statement about the poll. “2020 Election was tainted 56%. Election was stolen (and Rigged!) 61%.”
The Insurgency Isn't Finished
Many Republicans have learned from Trump's insurgency that violence is required to "make America great again."
According to a January poll conducted by the conservative American Enterprise Institute, 39% of Republicans believe that “if elected leaders will not protect America, the people must do it themselves, even if it requires violent actions,” and 56% believe that “the traditional American way of life is disappearing so quickly that we may have to use force to save it.”
Another poll conducted by the Public Religion Research
Institute in March found that 28% of Republicans agreed with the statement, “Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”
The use of violence to maintain power in the face of a failure to secure majority political support among a subset of Republican voters
is becoming more prevalent in elite circles.
One such piece in The American Mind, a publication run by the pro-Trump Claremont Institute, claims that “Conservatism Is No Longer Enough.” Glenn Ellmers, the author, writes that something less constrained by rules, laws, and systems is required to restore traditional American values from the internal “non-American” threat.
“I’m really referring to the many native-born people—some of whose families have been here since the Mayflower—who may technically be citizens of the United States
but are no longer (if they ever were) Americans,” Ellmers said, adding that “they do not believe in, live by, or even like the principles, traditions, and ideals that until recently defined America as a nation and as a people.
He advocates “overturning the existing post-American order” through a “counter-revolution,” and then urges readers to “get strong” in preparation for the impending conflict. “One of my favorite weightlifting coaches likes to say, ‘Strong people are harder to kill, and more useful generally,’” Ellmers said.
The American Mind recently republished a letter from right-wing French military
officials calling for a military coup in their country.
The letter’s introduction stated, “It is a cautionary tale for what could happen in America if our own ruling class continues to attack and betray our foundations.”
In a piece for the pro-Trump publication American Greatness, Douglas Macgregor, Trump's failed pick for ambassador to Germany
and a retired Army colonel, said, "We will face the same predicament."
Following the insurgency, Michael Anton, a former Trump national security official, expanded on his fascistic “Flight 93 Election” thesis, which compared conservatives
voting for Trump in 2016 to passengers on United Flight 93 who stormed the cockpit and crashed the plane hijacked by al-Qaeda terrorists on 9/11.
“[T]he never-ending importation of Third World foreigners with no tradition of, taste for, or experience with liberty means that the electorate grows more left, more Democratic, less Republican, less Republican, and less traditionally American with each cycle,” he wrote at the time.
In his most recent piece, “The Continuing Crisis,” Anton laments Trump’s failures to win and challenge the election rules, as well as to raise his supporters’ hopes that the results would be overturned; he claims that the goal of Biden and Democrats is now “subjugation.”
He compared the current situation to the Civil War, writing, "The ruling class has backed Middle America into a corner."
This entire genre of insurgent political writing satisfies the right's growing desire for justifications for anti-majoritarian actions.
Will new laws making it harder to vote and easier for Republican officials to override election rules in Democratic-controlled jurisdictions undermine the upcoming elections? Will proponents of the stolen election myth win races to run state elections and refuse to certify elections won by Democrats?
According to current evidence, the insurgency did not end on January 6
, but rather had just begun.