Sunday, Feb. 05, 2023|
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It could be that America has finally inoculated itself against this dangerous virus. No, not the coronavirus — but election disinformation. An encouraging trend in last week’s midterms was that the predictable lies and conspiracy theories slung around by Donald Trump and his acolytes apparently weren’t able to get a foothold outside the right-wing base the way they did in 2020.
Part of why Trump could sow such doubt about election integrity during the 2020 election was the sheer audacity of his phony claims. With zero evidence, he kept making the claims again and again, counting on the force of repetition and wishful thinking among Republicans to legitimize the lie. Perhaps because Americans had never before seen a president behave like this, too many made the mistake of assuming there must be something to it.
There wasn’t, of course and, two years later, Trump’s act is apparently wearing thin.
A key strategy Trump employed last time was to seize on the routine glitches that always happen in major elections — mechanical malfunctions, late reporting of the numbers, swings in the results as new batches of ballots arrive — and make it sound like something nefarious.
So when a third of the ballot tabulators in Arizona’s Maricopa County malfunctioned last week, Trumpist gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and right-wing media talkers wasted no time connecting dots that weren’t there. “We need honest elections. … The system we have right now does not work,” Lake told supporters on election night, maligning hard-working election volunteers and democracy itself over what amounted to a technical problem with printer toner being too light.
“Here we go again?” Trump himself wrote on his Truth Social media platform. “The people will not stand for it!!!”
But this and other sound and fury ultimately signified nothing. The county’s top election official, a Republican, assured the public that the problem had been identified and all the votes would be counted — and the public moved on. Even Trump seemed to sense that the shtick wasn’t working this time. As The New York Times reported, he eventually dropped his online narratives about supposed fraud and instead turned his rhetorical guns on Republican candidates who’d lost.
Meanwhile, Trump-endorsed election deniers running for state positions that oversee elections — the nightmare scenario — found their fraudulent messages falling on deaf ears again and again. Trumpist secretary of state candidates in Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada and Arizona all lost. So did Republican Doug Mastriano, running for Pennsylvania governor, a job that includes appointing the secretary of state there. Mastriano had all but promised to fill the post with a fellow election denier.
“Election deniers are losers tonight,” tweeted Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., one of the few congressional Republicans with the courage to defy Trump’s lies. If last week’s results put more of his GOP colleagues in that column, it’s a win for America.
— St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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