MAGA Republicans Efforts To Undermine Elections

Welcome to our weekly “Trumptastrophe” series that serves to remind us all of the destructive policies, decisions, and actions we encountered during the Trump presidency and the threats that he and others in the MAGA movement still pose – and to keep those moments clear in our memory as we fight to defeat Republican extremists during the upcoming elections.

This week’s Trumptastrophe brings into focus how Trump and his MAGA Republican enablers sow doubt about our elections – especially for those that they lose – and how it undermines our election integrity while fueling right-wing outrage that can sometimes lead to violence:

On February 9, 2017, President Trump told a group of senators that he would have won New Hampshire in the 2016 presidential election if it weren’t for “thousands” of people he claimed were bused in from Massachusetts to vote illegally in the state. Trump offered no evidence to back up his claim.

A few days later, Trump adviser Stephen Miller was asked about the bogus claim by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on “This Week.” Pressed repeatedly by Stephanopoulos on the lack of evidence for Trump’s claim, Miller doubled down, saying it’s “widely known by anyone who’s worked in New Hampshire politics,” and declaring, “It’s very real; it’s very serious.” Miller went on to claim that there are “massive numbers of noncitizens in this country who are registered to vote.”

Miller’s amplifying of Trump’s false claims led Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire to respond on social media, “As everybody knows, Stephen Miller has no evidence of voter fraud in NH. This has been debunked.” She noted that Trump had not called for a recount in the state.

This wasn’t the first time since his inauguration that Trump made false claims about the election in which he lost the popular vote by about 2.9 million votes while winning an Electoral College majority. A few weeks earlier, he told congressional leaders that he only lost the popular vote because 3 million to 5 million immigrants had voted illegally, a claim the Associated Press noted at the time had previously been debunked.

Here’s how Trump’s lies about the election—an election he won—remind us how dangerous a Trump victory this year would be:

  • Trump has always been willing to undermine public faith in democracy for his own benefit—sometimes just to soothe his ego. When Trump lost the 2016 Iowa caucus to Ted Cruz, he accused Cruz of winning by fraud. He took to social media demanding that a new election take place or Cruz’s victory be nullified.
  • Pro-Trump political operatives were scheming to mobilize opposition to the 2016 election if Trump lost. Political dirty trickster Roger Stone had formed “Stop the Steal” that April as a “force of intimidation” to Republican officials who might try to deny Trump a victory at the Republican convention. Leading up to the 2016 general election, Stop the Steal “used incendiary rhetoric to motivate members to turn up at contested areas” on Election Day. “In court filings, Democrats argue Stop the Steal’s exit polling operation serves no legitimate purpose, but is merely a pretext for harassing and intimidating likely Democratic voters of color,” ABC News reported. Shortly before the election, a federal judge issued an injunction against Stone, Stop the Steal, and the Trump campaign barring them from intimidating voters at the polls.
  • Leading up to the 2020 election, Stone urged Trump and his supporters to declare victory on election night no matter what.  A few days before the election, Trump operative Steve Bannon said that Trump would declare victory even if he hadn’t won. “When you wake up Wednesday morning, it’s going to be a firestorm,” he said.
  • MAGA activists, including Ali Alexander and white nationalist Nick Fuentes, reenergized Stop the Steal after Trump refused to accept his 2020 loss, mobilizing Trump supporters enraged by Trump’s lies about a stolen election. The lies, the anger they stoked among Trump die-hards, and the MAGA movement’s organizing to overturn Trump’s loss led directly to the violent Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, an effort to stop the peaceful transfer of power to the winner of the presidential election.
  • After Trump’s loss, and the failure of the insurrection, MAGA Republicans in state legislatures used Trump’s false claims about election fraud to justify a wave of restrictive voting laws.
  • Trump and his allies continue to lie about the 2020 election, suggesting that President Joe Biden is “illegitimate.” Other MAGA candidates now resort to the same playbook to keep supporters fired up after they lose an election, a strategy that failed 2022 Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake is now employing in her race for the U.S. Senate.

Undermining faith in elections is bad for democracy. Thanks to Trump’s dishonesty, one-third of Republicans, and 41 percent of Trump supporters, told pollsters last fall that “true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”

These are just some of the reasons we need YOU in this fight. So, find your favorite way to unwind after reading through this week’s recap, and then make a plan for how you will fight back this week, this month, this election cycle.

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