It’s generally part of the conventional wisdom these days that the real downside (politically, not morally; its immorality is fundamental) of Trump’s Big Lie about the “rigged” 2020 election was manifested in the crucial January 5, 2021, Senate runoffs in Georgia. NPR had the story not long after Republicans lost both contests and, with them, control of the U.S. Senate:
“Telling everyone that the race was stolen when it wasn’t cost the Republicans two Senate seats,” said Erick Erickson, a syndicated conservative radio show host and blogger in Georgia. “The going all-in on the cult of personality around President Trump hurt them as a result. They had to play up this, ‘There’s no way Donald Trump could have lost. It had to be stolen from him.’ “
Aside from his hijacking of the campaigns of Senate incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, Trump’s “rigged” message appears to have convinced a crucial number of Republican voters there was not point in casting ballots, the classic example of a self-fulfilling prophecy. And now Trump has put out a statement demanding that Republicans not only subscribe to the Big Lie but “solve” it as their top priority:
Whether or not you agree with Karl that Trump is “calling on Republicans not to vote,” this statement, if it reflects the former president’s planned message for the foreseeable future, sets out an impossible objective for his party. How do you “solve” the allegations of the Big Lie? They change constantly. Trump has challenged the authenticity of virtually all voting by mail, which is irreversibly a ballot option in every state and was a big deal long before 2020. On occasion, he and his allies have suggested (without evidence, of course) that there is systemic corruption in voter-registration rolls, in the conduct of in-person voting, in the maintenance of voting machines, in the tabulation of votes by election officials, in the certification of results, and in recounts and so-called audits. Add in the fact that Trump’s party has taken a virtually unanimous position against federal voting-rights legislation in order to justify their obstruction of Democratic legislation via the filibuster. He is making a demand the GOP cannot possibly fulfill.
I guess the big question is once this problem becomes apparent to all, where does Trump go next with it? Will it be enough when every Republican from sea to shining sea is grinding out a Big Lie message like so many cicadas? Will he then stop saying things that might discourage the people listening to this inane noise from voting in 2022 and 2024? Or are his intentions more sinister? Is Trump making it plain that democratic elections are so hopeless that extra-constitutional measures are the only resort?
Any way you slice it, though, Trump has succeeded in what is probably his short-term objective: keeping attention focused on his own self. That’s always Job One in MAGA-land.