Election Denialism 2024, Spring Edition

Posted in: Politics

Donald Trump is at it again. As the 2024 presidential campaign heats up, he is already warning that there will be widespread fraud in this November’s election and claiming that he can lose only if the election is rigged.

“For months,” the Wall Street Journal reports, “Trump has been alleging that he could be the victim of fraud in November, making the same sort of explosive, groundless allegations that fueled the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol and have continued to spark a wave of threats against election workers nationwide.”

David Becker, Executive Director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, adds that Trump is “doing it out in full view. If he is the Republican nominee, he has made clear that he’ll lie about an election that he’s lost.”

Trump’s effort to undermine confidence in elections already has done great damage to democracy. This year he is preparing the ground so that if he loses again, he can unleash a January 6 type of event on steroids.

We got a taste of that disturbing possibility last month when ultra-right-wing conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec told a panel chaired by Steve Bannon at a meeting of the Conservative Political Action Committee, “Welcome to the end of democracy. We are here to overthrow it completely. We didn’t get all the way there on January 6, but we will endeavor to get rid of it.”

Meanwhile, Trump had already unveiled the 2024 edition of election denialism in a post on Truth Social last September. “Pennsylvania is at it again!,” he wrote, “The Radical Left Governor, Josh Shapiro, has just announced a switch to Automatic Voter Registration, a disaster for the Election of Republicans, including your favorite President, ME!”

“This is a totally Unconstitutional Act,” Trump continued, “and must be met harshly by Republican Leadership in Washington and Pennsylvania…. It will be a disaster for our Nation, which is being destroyed by these Lunatics, Marxists, & Fascists, whose only real ability is to CHEAT on Elections.”

In February, the former President told a town hall hosted by Fox News’ Laura Ingraham that “If you have mail-in voting, you automatically have fraud. If you have it, you’re going to have fraud.”

We got another taste of Trump’s 2024 playbook at a rally in Greensboro, North Carolina, earlier this month. “If I am elected,” he said, “I will secure our elections. Our goal will be one day voting with paper ballots and voter ID. All the Republican Governors can go to that right now but until then Republicans must win.”

Then, unveiling a new campaign slogan, Trump told his listeners, “We have to win so it’s too big to rig. Too Big to Rig! So if you want to save America you have to go vote, and you have to vote.”

Of course, Trump’s false claims about election integrity in 2024 are just the latest chapter in a long-running story.

As ABC News reports, those claims go back at least to 2012 when he called President Barack Obama’s reelection “a total sham and a travesty” and announced that the result showed that “We are not a democracy!”

In 2016 Trump argued that he lost primary elections to Senator Ted Cruz in Iowa and later in Colorado because of “fraud.”

He reacted to his Iowa defeat by saying, “Based on the fraud committed by Senator Ted Cruz during the Iowa Caucus, either a new election should take place or Cruz results nullified.” Later that year, after he lost the popular vote to Hilary Clinton in the 2016 general election, Trump claimed, “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

In the run up to the 2020 election, Trump told his supporters that “the only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.” We know how he trashed the election after he lost to Joe Biden.

Early the morning after the election Trump called Biden’s victory “a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election.”

The damage Trump’s longstanding false alarms about American elections have already done is reflected in the results of two recent polls. Both asked people whether they are confident that the votes would be counted fairly and accurately in November.

A Suffolk University/USA Today poll found that “46% of registered Republicans said they had no confidence ballots would be accurately counted and reported after people across the country head to the polls in November. When narrowed to those supporting former President Donald Trump,… 52% said they lacked confidence ballots would be counted accurately.”

In contrast, 81% of Democrats said they were “‘very’ confident the 2024 elections would be ‘fair.’”

The second survey, the Center Square Voters’ Voice Poll conducted in January, found that among likely voters, “37% indicated they were ‘very confident’ that votes would be counted accurately in the November election and an additional 28% were ‘somewhat confident.’ In contrast, 19% of respondents answered they were ‘not very confident’ and 13% said they were ‘not confident at all’ that the votes will be tallied correctly.”

“Likely Republican voters,” the Voters’ Voice poll reported “were evenly split and had the most doubts, with 48% saying they were either very or somewhat confident but 48% also saying they were not very confident or not confident at all and 4% unsure.”

Not surprisingly, “Republicans have less trust in the upcoming election outcome than Democrats. While 52% of likely Republican voters trust that the true winner of the election will be sworn in as president, 40% do not while 8% are unsure. Among Democrats, 80% trust that the true winner of the election will be sworn in as president while just 12% do not, with 7% unsure.”

This year’s warnings about a rigged election may add to that picture of partisan division. And they are part of the Trump campaign’s effort to muddy the waters about who poses a threat to democracy.

For example, at a Richmond, Virginia, rally Trump warned that “Joe Biden and his fascists that control him are the real threat to democracy in this country. They are a big threat, and they are corrupt. They are big threat. He is the one. They have the standard line: ‘Donald Trump is a threat to democracy.’ Some advertising agency wrote that down. I’m not a threat. I’m the one that’s ending the threat to democracy.”

On March 9 he repeated this accusation. Referring to President Biden, Trump called his rival “a threat to democracy. I will tell you, he’s a threat to democracy. Weapon eyes government. Weapon eyes the FBI. Weapon eyes the DOJ. He is a threat to democracy for other reasons also. Number 1, he’s grossly incompetent.”

One week later Trump told supporters in Ohio, “If we don’t win this election, I don’t think you’re going to have another election in this country.”

As Trump’s dire warnings about the 2024 election proliferate, Democrats and Republicans who worry about the damage the former President is doing should take every chance to remind people of Trump’s view that elections are fair only if he wins them. Political leaders, public officials, and citizens need to prepare now for the fierce battle that will occur if Joe Biden wins in November.

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