Team Trump offering ‘fire hose’ of conspiracy Kool-Aid for supporters
President Trump continues to insist, without evidence, that the 2020 election was “RIGGED” and that the announcement of a winner of more than 270 electoral votes was aided and abetted by the “Fake and Silent” news media. Among Trump’s recent retweets is a claim by a supporter that anyone who voted for former Vice President Joe Biden was “ignorant, anti-American, and anti-Christian.” He has refused to concede or authorize his administration to cooperate with Biden and his colleagues on transition planning.
Sidney Powell, a member of Trump’s legal team, declared recently that the president “won by not just hundreds of thousands but by millions of votes that were shifted by this software that was designed expressly for that purpose. We have so much evidence, I feel like it’s coming in through a fire hose.” The CIA, Powell added, ignored complaints about the software, “which makes me wonder how much the CIA used it for its own benefit in various places.”
Apparently, millions of Trump supporters are drinking the conspiracy Kool-Aid from that fire hose: 78 percent of Republicans believe mail-in voting was rife with fraud, and 72 percent believe Democratic poll workers tampered with ballot counting. Last week, huge numbers of MAGA hatters descended on Washington, D.C., to stand by their man.
But facts are — or at least they should be — stubborn things.
Here are just a few facts that partisans of the party that embraces the elephant as its emblem should consider.
The vast majority of lawsuits filed by Team Trump have been dismissed as baseless or trivial or have been withdrawn. In Arizona, Judge Daniel Kiley evaluated affidavits collected by the president’s campaign allegedly proving fraud. “Let me just clarify,” Judge Kiley said. “Your solicitation of witnesses yielded some sworn affidavits that you yourself clearly determined are ‘false’ and ‘spam,’ as you phrased it. … The ones you couldn’t prove are false you submitted to this court?” Other suits — involving “overvotes” tabulated by a machine and ballots using Sharpie markers — sought to disqualify, at most, a couple of hundred votes. The Trump campaign dropped these suits because the size of Biden’s lead in Arizona (about 10,000 votes) rendered them “moot.”
Judge Timothy Kenny dismissed a suit seeking to block election certification in Michigan on the argument that officials in Wayne County predated mail-in ballots and refused to let Republican poll watchers observe ballot counting. “Plaintiffs’ interpretation of events,” Judge Kenny declared, “is incorrect and not credible.”
Powell’s claims have been contradicted by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency of the United States, which leads federal election prosecution efforts. Last week, the agency, whose leader Trump promptly fired by tweet, deemed 2020 “the most secure election in American history,” an assessment shared by Republican and Democratic election officials throughout the country.
And it’s worth noting that when Trump’s lawyers have appeared in court, they have not even alleged — let alone documented — widespread fraud. Asked by a judge in Pennsylvania if he was alleging fraud in Montgomery County, Jonathan Goldstein replied, “To my knowledge, at present, no.” Democrats and election officials in the state, Goldstein added, had acted “with good faith.”
The exception is Rudy Giuliani, who — for the first time in years — argued before a judge in Williamsport, Pa. According to the judge, Giuliani’s legal arguments were “without merit” and his “speculative accusations … unsupported by evidence.”
“In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state,” wrote Judge Matthew Brann, a Republican who has been active in the Federalist Society and the National Rifle Association. “Our people, laws, and institutions demand more.”
In other respects, claims of a rigged election do not pass the smell test.
How, one wonders, did the Democrats seize control of the electoral machinery in Arizona and Georgia, states in which all the branches of government are controlled by Republicans? Did Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, a proud and intensely partisan Republican, really order a costly and historic full-hand recount that, according to Trump, is a “scam”? Why didn’t the Democrats make sure that David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, Georgia’s Republican U.S. senators, were defeated along with Trump?
Why, for that matter, did the Democrats fail to seize majority control of the U.S. Senate by knocking off Susan Collins in Maine and Thom Tillis in North Carolina? Why did they allow their party to lose seats in the House of Representatives?
Even Rick Santorum — former far-right senator from Pennsylvania — looked at the numbers and determined, “If you’re going to steal an election, they did a pretty bad job.”
Groundless claims by the president (and his enablers in and outside Congress and the Cabinet) that the 2020 election was rigged might be dismissed as soon-to-pass spasms of sore losers if they didn’t present a clear and present danger to our health, national security and democracy.
While Trump is working hard — on his golf game — coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in the United States are skyrocketing (with more than 170,000 new cases and 80,000 new hospitalizations every day and tens of thousands of deaths almost certain to follow); millions of Americans are out of work; and China has signed a pact with its neighbors that increases its political and economic clout in Asia. America’s allies and adversaries are watching, and the hurricane season is not yet over.
It’s time for Trump and his followers to accept reality and move on.
Glenn C. Altschuler is the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies at Cornell University. He is the co-author (with Stuart Blumin) of “Rude Republic: Americans and Their Politics in the Nineteenth Century.”