A recent Associated Press story, based on hundreds of interviews with election officials in six states, confirmed, once again, there was no evidence of systematic or widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election. The AP reporters concluded there were less than 500 cases of potential yet unconfirmed electoral fraud out of some 25 million votes cast in six states still contested by Republican officials and the ex-president.
But this will not change the narrative about the election. It is abundantly clear that no factual evidence will persuade those who remain committed to the big lie, that the presidential election was stolen and Joe Biden is an illegitimate president. But there are two dirty little secrets embedded in the big lie. Here is the first one: Donald Trump knows the big lie is a big lie. While most Republicans polled about the election results believe the election was rigged and stolen, Trump knew he lost on the night of the election. Throughout the year, he predicted he would win the election. He warned all of us that the only way he could lose was if the election was rigged. On election night, Trump merely repeated the script he broadcasted for months. In the face of a humiliating electoral defeat he could not tolerate, he insisted the election was stolen.
Trump’s promotion of the big lie has one primary objective. He wants to keep his celebrity status and personal brand relevant and lucrative. And he has been enormously successful. Rather than fading away quietly, he raised a tremendous amount of money and has become a Republican party power broker and self-styled kingmaker, while the Grand Old Party has transformed into a veritable cult of personality.
Trump’s well-rehearsed big lie replicated the playbook used to establish himself on the national political stage, that Barack Obama was not a US citizen. He stated publicly that “you won’t believe what my lawyers are finding out” about Obama’s citizenship. Trump knew that was a lie too, but promoting it worked like a charm.
Trump is simply being Trump, a marketing maven skillful at maintaining his personal brand. He does not care if his audacious lie, challenging the outcome of the presidential election, damages the foundation of our democracy.
But what about the GOP? Why haven’t more Republican office holders, elder statesmen and intellectuals come out forcefully against the big lie? A lot has been written about the political and personal cowardice of the Republican establishment for not pushing back on Trump. But there is something more cynical and sinister at work here. Something that relates to the current Republican effort to make it more difficult for citizens to vote and to gerrymander voting districts.
Within the next quarter century, and for the first time in our nation’s history, whites will no longer occupy majority status in the population. This is a powerful and inexorable demographic shift. And here is the second and astonishing dirty little secret embedded in the big lie. Given existing demographic trends, Republican officials have seemingly concluded, and perhaps rightly, that if everyone eligible exercised their right to vote, they would become a permanent minority party.
Republicans have redoubled their effort to pass state legislation across the country making it more difficult for important blocs of Democratic voters, people of color and the poor, to exercise their right to vote. And they have cynically rallied around Trump as the primary, and perhaps the only, way to galvanize Republican and sympathetic independent voters, even if it involves endorsing the big lie. And they have engaged in gerrymandering efforts that guarantee Republican victory in many redrawn districts. All this makes expedient political sense if we assume Republican strategists and politicians have concluded their party’s grip on national power, in Congress and the White House, and even on the state level, is threatened. Simply put, Republicans apparently fear they will lose the battle of ideas and policies against bolstered Democratic majorities in general elections.
Because the stakes are critical for the GOP, no one will dare to challenge Trump, to say publicly that the emperor has no clothes. And the concerted effort to restrict access to the ballot will be endorsed in the name of promoting fair and untainted elections.
But the truth is plain to see. Republicans are running scared. They see the handwriting on the wall. Demography is destiny. Unfortunately, they appear determined to maintain their political power even if it endangers the integrity of our democracy.
Neal Aponte Ph.D.,
Editor of Delano