We are in unprecedented times. The President of the United States is trying to steal an election, making false allegations of voter fraud and seeking collaborators at the state level who will subvert the will of the people. He’s tacitly supported by a Republican establishment that remains disturbingly silent and an ignorant Trump base that is disturbingly vocal. His attempt will fail but he’s establishing a precedent that may eventually end our democracy, showing more competent would-be authoritarians the way forward.
Yesterday, the president’s lawyers called an embarrassing press conference declaring that Trump had won in a landslide but Venezuelans had hacked into our voting system and changed votes. Attorney Sydney Powell could produce no evidence, but you can rest assured that plenty of the GOP base believes it. You can also be confident that Mitch McConnell, Mike Pence, Kevin McCarthy and other Republican leaders will not refute her lies.
Today, Trump is flying leaders of the Michigan state house and senate to the White House to ask them to ignore the will of the state’s voters and seat electors loyal to Trump, not the country. Again, no prominent Republican will rebuke Trump for his attempted coup. Instead, people like Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton will show tacit support, helping Trump cast doubt about the outcome of the election.
These are the same elected officials who have failed to hold Trump accountable for any bad behavior. They ridiculed the Mueller Report, saying that the president was exonerated. In fact, the Mueller Report said the opposite. While there was no collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and the Russian intelligence operations meant to disrupt our election, the report uncovered all sorts of misbehavior by the campaign that Republicans ignored, sending the signal to Trump that he could do as he pleased with no repercussions.
For more than thirty years, the GOP base has been fed a media diet of distortions, misinformation, disinformation, and outright lies while supposedly more responsible Republican elites actually led the party. Rush Limbaugh and conservative talk radio gave birth to Fox News and Sean Hannity. They reinforced the victim mentality of white working class voters who watched their fortunes fall as trade unions lost influence and trade deals sent jobs overseas. The right-wing media circus told them that immigrants and people of color were taking their jobs and their neighborhoods. Godless liberals would kill their babies and their churches, leading to a moral breakdown of society that would leave them fending for themselves.
When one of “them,” a Black man, won the presidency, Republicans told their base that it must be voter fraud. Since 2008, Fox News and other right-wing outlets have been declaring Democrats were stealing elections by having people voting multiple times and adding dead people to the voting rolls. They’ve never produced any evidence, but they ramped up the accusations as Democrats started voting by mail in response to the pandemic this year. The shit-show we are watching today is the result of their protracted campaign to cast doubt on the validity of our elections.
And few elected Republicans have the courage to tell them the truth. The GOP has deteriorated into a party of cowards and scoundrels. The cowards are people like Senator Thom Tillis who threw away any semblance of self-respect to curry favor with Trump so he could avoid losing a primary. The scoundrels are men like Senator Ted Cruz who spread the disinformation and lies spouted by Trump’s lawyers and spokespeople. Both are opportunistic nihilists but while Tillis just wants to survive, Cruz sees the legion of ignorant Trump supporters as a potential base for his own presidential aspirations.
Our democracy will survive today’s attempted coup. The threat is the future. Millions of Americans will believe the lies of the Trump campaign, considering the election stolen and Biden an illegitimate president. Cruz, Cotton, and other GOP will hopefuls will exploit their ignorance, attempting to build their own base to launch a 2024 presidential campaign. The GOP’s priority is winning elections, not American values. We are at a precarious place in our history.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >