It’s a well-known if somewhat scandalous fact that Donald Trump has on multiple occasions asserted without evidence that “millions” of illegal votes by undocumented immigrants gave Hillary Clinton her popular-vote win in 2016. The claim of massive “voter fraud” is also central to the rationale for the Commission on Election Integrity Trump appointed, with perhaps the nation’s chief proponent of “voter fraud” theories, Kansas secretary of State Kris Kobach, as vice-chairman and driving force, under the mostly symbolic chairmanship of the vice-president.
So it should perhaps be no great surprise that in a new survey of self-identified Republicans and leaners culled from a fairly large online sample, 68 percent of the respondents bought into the Trump/Kobach nightmare vision of noncitizens voting in massive numbers. But worse yet, 52 percent of these Republicans said they would support postponement of the next presidential election if Donald Trump said it was necessary to ensure only citizens voted. The percentage giving a thumbs-up to this scheme rose to 56 percent if congressional Republicans joined Trump in calling for it.
The grim possibility that a majority of adherents of one of the country’s two major political parties thinks elections are so debased that suspending them would be no big deal cannot solely be attributed to Trump, of course. Immigrants aside, the conspiracy theory that Democrats are stuffing ballot boxes by “buying” votes with government benefits has been a fundamental belief of many hard-core conservatives for a long time.
But still, Trump’s blunt assertion that his 2016 election had to overcome a vast voter-fraud conspiracy that nearly succeeded has brought a latent prejudice into the light in its most sinister dimensions. The academic authors of the poll showing such widespread support for violating the Constitution and suspending basic democratic norms noted that if it were actually to transpire there would be “a torrent of opposition, which would most likely include prominent Republicans.” That’s true, and there is no evidence anyone in Trump’s immediate circle is thinking of pursuing this avenue for perpetuating his administration.
You’d have to say, however, that fears of the authoritarian strain in Trumpism are not strictly a free-floating paranoid fantasy.