The Memo: Trump's election push causing long-term damage, experts say

The Memo: Trump's election push causing long-term damage, experts say
© Getty Images

President TrumpDonald TrumpDemocrats, activists blast reported Trump DOJ effort to get journalists' phone records Arizona secretary of state gets security detail over death threats surrounding election audit Trump admin got phone records of WaPo reporters covering Russia probe: report MORE’s attempt to subvert the election results is destined to fail but is causing long-term damage to American democracy, experts say.

Trump saw more doors close on Monday. Georgia recertified President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden to meet with 6 GOP senators next week Arizona secretary of state gets security detail over death threats surrounding election audit On The Money: Five takeaways on a surprisingly poor jobs report | GOP targets jobless aid after lackluster April gain MORE’s victory, while a federal judge denied an effort by Michigan Republicans to have the results decertified in their state.

The Electoral College meets on Dec. 14, and there is no sign so far that any state will acquiesce in Trump’s push to overturn the outcome. 


His efforts are unlike any seen in modern times, however. 

For example, the president called Georgia Gov. Brian KempBrian KempStacey Abrams on why she won't quit working: 'The world isn't fair yet' Georgia, South Carolina governors sign bills to pay college athletes Poll shows tight GOP primary for Georgia governor MORE (R) on Saturday morning, reportedly seeking to get Kemp to call a special session of the state legislature where, Trump hoped, a slate of electors favoring him would be appointed.

Biden carried the state by about 12,000 votes. Kemp has rebuffed Trump. 

A situation in which a clear majority of Republican voters believes the election was illegitimate is a problem in itself. So too is the willingness of pro-Trump protesters to threaten state officials. 

In Georgia, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who describes himself as “a conservative Republican” has received threats, as have election workers. 

In Michigan, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D), said in a statement that dozens of armed protesters came to her home on Saturday night. According to Benson, the protestors chanted “unambiguous, loud and threatening” slogans as she was inside with her 4-year-old son.


Raffensperger condemned the attempted intimidation of Benson in an interview with The Hill on Monday.

“That is alarming, and I would condemn violence on anyone at any time and in any place, regardless of party affiliation,” Raffensperger said. “We need to understand that’s not appropriate. We would condemn antifa or BLM [Black Lives Matter] if they did that, and we should thoroughly condemn it if it happens to anyone from our side.”

Raffensperger is careful not to get into a war of words with Trump. He said that, as a Republican, he was disappointed the president did not carry the state but that, as secretary of State, it is his job to ensure the results are accurate. He is adamant that they are, noting extra safeguards that were added this year. 

He also contended that 2018 gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, a Democrat, had eroded public confidence with claims of voter suppression after she lost to Kemp.

But right now, Raffensperger expressed deep concern about people and organizations that he argued were, in effect, seeking to manipulate public opinion.

“You have people who are really emotionally spun up — and what is sad is that people have been spinning them up with a lot of misinformation, disinformation and outright lies,” Raffensperger said. “I don’t want to ever play with people’s emotions. I just want to shoot the facts to them.”

Trump and those who have been seeking to amplify his arguments have been having more success in the court of public opinion than in the legal courts.

In the most recent Economist-YouGov poll, conducted in late November, 80 percent of Republican voters said they believed Biden’s election win was not legitimate. When asked about their level of confidence that the national election had been fair, 60 percent of Republicans said they had “none at all” and 14 percent said they had “only a little.”

Those results spell real trouble for the incoming Biden administration, according to Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

“A significant segment of the American electorate — certainly a vast majority of Republicans — believes that the election was stolen and that Biden is an illegitimate president,” he said. “That is going to make it more difficult for Biden to govern and more difficult for Republicans to cooperate with him.”

In addition, Diamond raised the question of what happens in the future if the confidence in election results is undermined. The belief that election results are legitimate is a fundamental tenet of democracy. 

“If you believe this election was stolen, then the barrier against doing undemocratic things in future elections is certainly lowered,” he warned.

University of Southern California professor Erroll Southers, director of Homegrown Violent Extremism Studies, expressed confidence that Trump would leave office in January. But he was concerned at the kind of threats seen in Georgia and Michigan and what he considers the president’s encouragement of such behavior.

He described the threats to public officials in those states as “alarming” and added that it was “even more troubling that these threats, and the groups that are expounding these threats, are being championed by our executive branch.”

So far, however, the criticism of Trump from congressional Republicans has been severely muted. In response to inquiries from The Washington Post, only 27 of the almost 250 GOP Senators and House members would acknowledge that Biden had won the election. A startling 220 declined to express an opinion.

Trump, meanwhile, is showing no sign at all of accepting the results. On Monday, he retweeted another call to seek a special session of the legislature in Georgia. The previous evening he had insisted “NO WAY WE LOST THIS ELECTION!”

“We are headed into very, very dangerous terrain,” said Diamond, who complained that, even though some Republicans might have “quietly rebuffed” Trump’s claims, they had generally refused “to frankly reject them as baseless.”

“That unwillingness, I think, is deeply disturbing — and damaging in the long term.”

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald Trump’s presidency.