One of the weird things about the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election is that those in the winning party are engaged in all sorts of retrospective looks at what went wrong, while those in the the losing party are bellowing triumphantly that they actually won “by a landslide,” as Donald Trump and his campaign keep asserting. (On Monday, the Electoral College confirmed this is definitely not true.)
Yes, some of this funhouse-mirror reaction is attributable to high expectations for Joe Biden and his party that they did not meet — particularly the Senate results that have left control of that chamber to a pair of January 5 runoffs in a state Biden won by the narrowest of margins. But still, Democrats won the big prize, while also hanging onto control of the House (albeit by a reduced margin) and keeping a federal government trifecta on the table at least until Georgia votes.
So perhaps it’s not so unusual that the perpetually self-doubting Donkey Party isn’t celebrating all that wildly, and besides, there’s nothing wrong with winners in close contests seeing room for improvement and debating how to do better. But that Republicans are engaging in little or none of this introspection — much less the postmortem that you might expect from a party that lost the presidential election by over 7 million votes — is purely attributable to Trump’s insistence that the election was stolen from him.
After all, why would the GOP need an “autopsy report” or an effort to expand its reach if its only problem is getting an honest count? The only remedial effort necessary to overcome that obstacle is a massive effort to restrict the franchise, which is exactly what the Trumpified party appears to be determined to carry out, ironically under the rubric of “election reform.”
Without the delusional claim of a stolen election, Republicans could be usefully asking themselves why they’ve lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections. With demographic trends not being friendly to their cause, something more promising than only losing the Black vote by 75 points and the Latino vote by 33 points and the under-30 vote by 24 points might be in order. Republicans cannot go forever without a coherent foreign policy or health-care policy, or without anything to say on climate change or economic inequality other than attacks on the patriotism of those raising alarms. As the Washington Post’s Paul Waldman has asked: “How many more election wins can [the GOP] squeeze out of White grievance and voter suppression?”
Building a real as opposed to an imaginary majority is hard and serious work. The real victim of Trump’s bizarre “election theft” narrative of 2020 is the party that buys it.