The Prez Who Cried (And Cries) Fraud
Steve Bell for the Guardian, 2020
With the 2022 midterms less than a week away, the consensus among election pollsters and pundits the Republicans have an advantage over the Democrats. The former is projected to win the House of Representatives and has a shot to take the Senate. RealClearPolitics has the GOP taking an average of 31.5 House seats with the Senate going to 48 Republicans, 45 Democrat and 7 toss-ups.
Last week, pollster Frank Luntz pointed out something interesting on journalist and pundit Bill O’Reilly’s podcast. Mr. O’Reilly was skeptical of Mr. Trump influencing the 2022 midterms, as the former president has been mostly absent from the campaign cycle. Mr. Luntz responded:
“But Donald Trump has told Republicans again and again that the elections are rigged, that the system doesn’t work and he won the (2020) election. And you know the impact of that? Some Republicans aren’t going to vote because-
Donald Trump has sway. Conservatives listen to him. He’s the most powerful political figure among the Republican Party since Ronald Reagan, 40 years ago. And even if 1% of Republican voters don’t vote because of that (claims about election fraud), that will cost 3 or 4 House seats and maybe a Senate or governorship.”
Mr. Luntz postulates a small group of the Trump diehards will throw the baby out with the bathwater, causing some close, nail biter races to flip to the opposing party while allowing for solid Republican turnout across the board, averaged out over the country.
A variety of facts support this position.
70% of Republicans believe that Joe Biden did not win the 2020 election per a variety of polls. According to PBS News Hour, 25% of people feel that their state and local offices will not run a free and fair election, many of them Republicans and/or Trump supporters. Yes, there are a lot of Republicans fired up about voting out the party in power (which tends to happen during midterm elections) but what about these 25% suspicious of the electoral system? If they believe it is rigged and unfair, will they participate in it? What’s the sense?
Those critical of President Biden and the Democrats have argued that the president’s poor performance will depress turnout, especially among African-Americans and others suffering more economically or otherwise. Why couldn’t this be true of Republicans “left behind” behind malfunctioning “elections?”
We’ve already seen evidence of Trump’s rhetoric depressing turnout in the 2020 Georgia Senate races. The Atlanta Journal -Constitution found that “over 752,000 Georgia voters who cast ballots in the presidential election didn’t show up again for the runoffs two months later. More than half of the no-shows were white and many lived in rural areas, constituencies that lean toward Republican candidates.”
A Northwestern study found that those who shared conspiracy theories about election rigging on social media were less likely to vote than those who did not.
How could the blistering attacks of Mr. Trump and his supporters about the election machinery and prominent Georgia Republicans such as Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger not contribute to three quarters of million voters not voting in the runoffs?
From Washington Examiner reporter David Drucker’s 2021 book “In Trump’s Shadow: The Battle for 2024 and the Future of the GOP” Mr. Drucker asks Mr. Trump what he thought might have happened if the former president had stated “Despite some irregularities that deserved looking into, the state’s voting system was reliable” instead of constantly going on about fraud.
Trump responded: “I don’t know. I did two very successful rallies. I did say a version of that, but not as strongly as you said, because I was very angry about what happened there (Georgia).”
For Republicans who want the party to move past the 45 president, a massacre of Democrats on November 8th will embolden Mr. Trump and his supporters, who will argue that the election proved the country needs them, rather than being a symptom of our bipolar electoral system. Remember, because of the dualist U.S. politics, you have parties with Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Andrea Ocasio-Cortez under the Democratic banner and Donald Trump, Brian Kemp and Rand Paul under the Republican.
Mr. Trump and his surrogates will take credit for Republican victories.
Despite the fact that he and they arguably cost the Republicans control of the Senate in the 2020 Georgia runoffs.
Despite the fact that 2022 midterms are about President Biden and Democratic policies, as midterms are often a referendum of the ruling party.
Despite the fact that almost two years of constant talk about election rigging and fraud could cause 1% of Republican voters or more to stay home.
Rhetoric has intended and unintended consequences. Mr. Trump and his supporters would do well to recall this in their rush to claim victory after November 8th.