The news media waited until Donald Trump was on the golf course to call the election on Saturday. The results were apparent much earlier and the online upstart, Decision Desk HQ, called the race a day earlier. But with Trump tweeting about voter fraud and stolen elections, the more staid networks took no chances and waited until both the results were certain and Trump was occupied.
In the aftermath, Republicans quickly fell into three camps: those who parroted Trump’s false claims; those who congratulated Biden on his win; and those who have remained silent.
The ones shouting about voter fraud are hoping to pick up the Trump mantle. Most of them are cynical and ambitious and see Trumper’s as their potential base. Nationally, they include Ted Cruz who is now okay with Trump insulting his wife’s looks and accusing his father of being part of the plot to kill JFK. They know that the GOP has a base of people who will believe anything and are easily duped with internet conspiracies. Keeping them angry and fomenting division is the point. They are the grifter wing of the GOP.
Then, there are the Republicans who want a return to civility and more normal politics. They include Mitt Romney and George W. Bush. Bush made a congratulatory and complimentary statement meant to bring assurance to skeptical Republicans that both the election is over and that Biden will be responsible leader. These Republican believe in the two-party system and are ready to see Trump go. They are the traditionalists.
The final group includes people like Mitch McConnell. We’ve heard little from the Senate Majority leader. He certainly knows the election is over, but he doesn’t want to incite Trump. He still has to work with the president until January 20 and he probably has things he wants to do during the lame duck period. McConnell and his ilk are probably glad to see Trump go now that they know Republicans will control the Senate and narrowed the margin in the House. They are the realists.
Here in North Carolina, Republicans have been casting doubts on elections ever since they took power in 2010. They used bogus claims of fraud to promote some of the most extreme voter suppression measures in the country. In 2016, Pat McCrory refused to concede to Roy Cooper, claiming fraud. Delegitimizing elections is part of the Republican strategy in states like North Carolina.
House Speaker Tim Moore is vying for leader of the grifter faction in the state. He’s been going on right-wing news shows arguing that Democrats are trying to rig the outcome. Moore is trying to cast doubt on the system, playing to the fears and paranoia of the GOP base in the state. He wants to sully the final ballots that are counted, in part, because Chief Justice Cheri Beasley may well defeat Paul Newby in an election where she currently trails by less than 3,000 votes. Moore also has his eye on higher office and he wants the gullible conspiracy theorists as his base in a GOP primary.
We may see the end of Trump, but his paranoid, conspiratorial base will remain. Grifters like Ted Cruz and Tim Moore saw a massive turnout in an attempt to protect Trump and they want to cast themselves as the new leader of the Trumpists. I doubt it will work. Trump’s pull on rural white America is unique to him and his showmanship. The turnout we saw this year isn’t likely to be repeated for a Trump-wannabe, even if it’s enough to win a GOP primary.
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 >