California recall vote shows Trump’s big lie is now a Republican playbook | US politics
It was a preemptive strike against the truth by some of the biggest names in the American right wing.
Former President Donald Trump warned that the ballot papers would be “manipulated”. Republican nominee Larry Elder predicted “gimmicks”. The conservative media star Tomi Lahren said that “electoral fraud” was inevitable.
The attempt to instill suspicion in California’s recall began long before Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom won a crushing victory on Tuesday, foiling Elder and other Republicans who hoped to replace him.
The flurry of false claims reflected Trump’s “big lie” of a stolen presidential election and was equally unfounded. But most importantly, they also showed that undermining trust in electoral integrity has become the norm as a strategy for many Republicans who are defeated at the ballot box.
“We saw it in the November elections; We saw it in the January 6 riot, ”Sean Clegg, a Newsom assistant, told reporters this week. “We don’t have a Democratic and Republican party in this country. We have a democratic and an anti-democratic party. “
He added, “They’re trying to throw battery acid on our constitution, on our voting norms, and it’s a preview of upcoming attractions. We will see the same thing in 2022 and the same thing in 2024. And unfortunately, it has become the Trump playbook and they will. And they go back to it. “
Although the California Democrats are nearly two-to-one better than the Republicans, party leaders had feared Newsom could be vulnerable to a recall because of its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, including mask and vaccine mandates.
Talk radio host Elder was 46’s leading contender for the replacement election – which included reality TV star and former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner – and would almost certainly have become governor had the recall been successful.
But when opinion polls showed Newsom was in a dominant position, Republicans pushed the circular argument that they could only lose if the vote was rigged. Much of the Republican scaremongering has centered on the widespread use of postal votes – although an overwhelming majority of Californians before the pandemic were postal votes with no irregularities.
Elder said he believed “there might very well be gimmicks, as there were in the 2020 election”. A website associated with his campaign included a link to a “Stop CA Fraud” site where people could report suspicious election activity or sign a petition calling for a special session of the legislature to investigate. Part of the language was identical to a petition circulated to support Trump’s efforts to overturn last year’s presidential election.
Trump himself weighed in during the last few days of the campaign, including a statement rhetorically asking, “Does anyone really believe the California recall elections are not rigged?”
Governor Gavin Newsom celebrates victory in the recall election in California. Photo: Rich Pedroncelli / AP
The baseless allegations seeped into the right-wing media ecosystem. Lahren, a presenter for Fox Nation, said: “The only thing that will save Gavin Newsom is election fraud, so as the saying goes: stay awake. Watch out for voter fraud in California because it will have major ramifications not only for this state, but also for the upcoming elections. “
But conspiracy theories have been dulled by the scale of Newsom’s victory thanks to healthy voter turnout, support for his Covid-19 measures, and a sweeping rejection of Trump-style populism. In the end, even Elder did not mention any fraud when he approached his supporters after the defeat and pleaded, “Let us be gracious in the defeat.”
Trump, however, called it “completely rigged” and right-wing media were reluctant to acknowledge the result. On a Twitter thread, CNN’s chief correspondent Brian Stelter noted that the pro-Trump One America News Network (OANN) spent hours talking about the recall while dancing around the fact that Newsom had won.
It will be difficult to find a Republican candidate who loses and accepts the results of his election, Joe Walsh
“It’s just weird,” Stelter tweeted. “OAN is not claiming fraud, it is completely ignoring the news.” Finally, 12 hours after Newsom’s victory was widely forecast, OANN briefly mentioned that the recall “secured Gavin Newsom’s role as California governor”.
A closer race could have been uglier. Joe Walsh, a former Republican Congressman from Illinois, said, “It’s a damn good thing that the California elections weren’t close at all, because Larry Elder and Donald Trump and all the other Republicans signaled that the election would be tight if they would run out of everything because of electoral fraud.
“This is the Republican Party’s playbook. It will be difficult to find a Republican candidate who loses and accepts the results of his election. You will all be a big loser like Trump. “
Walsh, who challenged Trump for the Republican presidential run last year, added, “To be a viable Republican today, you have to lie or deny the truth. It cannot be said that Joe Biden won fair and fair. You can’t say January 6th was a riot. You have to be careful saying the vaccines are working.
“To be a Republican today, you have to question pretty much every single election you lose. This is Trump’s legacy and you will see it again in 2024. “
But the merciless destruction of the electoral process could prove counterproductive. Last year, Republicans feared that Trump’s allegations of widespread fraud due to an expansion of postal voting during the pandemic would induce many Republicans to stay home. His constant screaming foul in Georgia may have cost Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue their seats in a Senate runoff last January.
It’s almost like sabotaging yourself … why would your voters want to get out if they think their vote doesn’t count? Drexel Heard
Drexel Heard, a Los Angeles-based Democratic strategist, said of the California recall, “You have Republican strategists here complaining that the Republican language, and certainly Donald Trump, may have had an effect on the Republican suppression Turnout in certain areas. Orange County, which was red in the last election, voted against this recall. “
He added, “It’s almost like sabotaging yourself. The more they talk about election fraud, it won’t affect the Democrats, it will affect their voters because why would their voters want to get out when they think their vote doesn’t count? What the Democrats said is that we want everyone to vote, Democrat or Republican. “
Trump’s allies, however, have more insidious lines of attack. Although state officials, judges, and then Attorney General William Barr found no material shortcomings in the 2020 election, some of the Republicans who tried to overthrow them are vying for positions of power over the way future elections in swing states will be conducted.
With Trump’s backing, they are running for Foreign Minister – a position that can be crucial when it comes to which names are removed from the electoral roll, who receives a postal ballot, and what technology is used to certify results.
The Republican-controlled Arizona Senate has been conducting a flimsy “scrutiny” of the 2020 election in the Maricopa district for months. Photo: Matt York / AP
Among them is Mark Finchem, who received Trump’s support for the Arizona Secretary of State this week. He promoted QAnon’s conspiracy theories and attended the January 6 rally that culminated in a deadly riot in the U.S. Capitol. Trump praised Finchem for his “incredibly powerful stance against the massive electoral fraud that took place in the 2020 presidential election”.
And on Thursday, the 45th President tossed his weight behind Matthew DePerno for the Michigan Attorney General, declaring that he “has been on the front lines to pursue fair and accurate elections as he tirelessly fights to clarify the truth about the fraud To unveil presidential elections of November 3rd ”. “.
The “big lie” also manifests itself in an absurd “test” of the 2020 elections in Arizona, which this month is supposed to provide so-called insights. Republicans in Pennsylvania are planning hearings as part of an investigation into the election, while the Texas Senate passed a bill that would allow party officials to require election results to be reviewed.
It is a very harmful and corrosive pattern that Larry Jacobs is now accelerating
Observers fear that this new republican orthodoxy can only gnaw at the very foundations of democracy. Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota, said, “It will be here a long time. It’s a shame because we may lose large numbers of Americans from civil belief in the Constitution and the electoral process, regardless of who wins.
“I think that’s happening right now: 20-30% of the electorate, almost all Republicans. This is not a good thing, and if Democrats lose close races, you will find a number of Democrats who now find this acceptable. So it’s a very damaging and corrosive pattern that is now accelerating. “
Jacobs added, “Remember that in 2016 the Democrats said similar things: a smaller number and the losing candidate quickly stepped forward and admitted the loss, so he didn’t go as far as Trump and the Republicans did. Nonetheless, there is this destructive and worrying pattern in all parties of questioning the very foundation of American democracy, which is how elections are made. “