To win a Republican primary in 2022, you probably need to support a coup attempt.
It’s not always enough — David Perdue, a former Senator, looks like he’ll lose to incumbent Georgia Governor Brian Kemp in next week’s primary election, despite his support for the “big lie” — but it makes a difference .
Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, Doug Mastriano, won his race thanks to his enthusiastic support for Donald Trump’s attempt to undermine and undo the results of the 2020 presidential election. As a state senator, Mastriano demanded that lawmakers invalidate Joe Biden’s electoral votes. He attended the January 6 “stop the steal” meeting and continued to accuse Democrats of fraud. Mastriano has not commented on the 2024 election, but has said he supports the view that state lawmakers can allocate electoral votes against the will of the voting public.
Republican Senate nominee in North Carolina, Ted Budd, was similarly committed to Trump’s bid to hold himself in office. He was one of 139 members of the House who objected to passing the presidential election in favor of Biden.
JD Vance, the Republican nominee for the Ohio Senate, has not endorsed the claim that Biden stole Trump’s election, but he did play with the idea during his campaign. “I think we should research as much as we can,” said Vance of the 2020 election results. “I believe sunshine is the best disinfectant. And we’re going to learn a lot about what happened. But, you know, I think at the grassroots level we already know for the most part what happened.”
Overall, there are hundreds of Republican candidates in races across the country who have embraced Trump’s false claims about his defeat. Many, like Budd, voted against accepting Biden’s Electoral College victory. Some, like Mastriano, attended the “stop the steal” protest in Washington on Jan. 6. Others signed legal documents or resolutions challenging Biden’s victory.
Will the Democrats Face an Interim Destruction?
The extent to which election denial and pro-insurrectionism are now litmus tests for Republican politicians is clearly due to Trump’s massive influence over the Republican Party. Despite his defeat, he is still the leader. But even if that weren’t true — if Trump were just one of many influential figures instead of the boss — there would still be reason for Republicans to embrace this view.
That’s because Republican election denial is simply the strongest form of faith the Republican Party has defined since at least the Newt Gingrich era in the 1990s. For many Republicans, theirs is the only legitimate political party, and their voters, regardless of their actual number, are the only legitimate voters — and the only legitimate majority. Democrats from this point of view are presumably illegitimate, their victories suspicious, their policies un-American, even if they have the support of most people in the country.
You see this in the years of voter fraud hysteria that preceded Trump’s post-2016 election claim that he was cheated by millions of votes. “Besides winning the Electoral College in a landslide,” he said, “I won the popular vote when you subtract the millions of people who voted illegally.”
For example, in 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced a crackdown on voter fraud, accusing unnamed actors (presumably Democrats) of rigging elections. “Votes have been bought, voters intimidated and ballot boxes filled,” he said at a news conference that year. “The voting process has been disrupted or has not been completed. Voters have been duped into signing absentee ballots on the assumption that they were requests for public lighting. And cemeteries have infamously turned up on election day.”
After the 2008 election, Republicans went into a frenzy over the ACORN group, accusing it of fraud on a national scale. How else could you explain Barack Obama’s unexpected victories in traditionally Republican states like Virginia, Indiana and North Carolina?
The obsession with nonexistent voter fraud is hard to ignore. But there were other ways in which Republicans expressed their belief that they were the only legitimate members of the political community.
Sarah Palin’s rhetoric about the ‘real America’, very evident during the 2008 presidential campaign: ‘We believe that the best of America lies in these small towns that we are allowed to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I believe to be the real America. ” – was one of these ways. For example, the Tea Party movement, whose members saw themselves as a disenfranchised majority, was besieged by a Democratic Party of troublesome illegal immigrants, ungrateful minorities and entitled youth. Fox News commentator Glenn Beck captured some of this feeling during a 2010 broadcast. “This is the tea party. This is you and me,” he said. “You’re not alone, America. You are the majority.”
Mitt Romney’s infamous claim that there are “47 percent of people” who “depend on the government,” “believe they are victims” and are unable to “take personal responsibility and take care of their lives” condemned as classist and biased in the 2012 presidential election. But you can also read it as an expression of the belief that there are some Americans who count—the “makers,” in the language of his vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan—and some Americans who count. don’t do that.
Yes, the Republican Party’s current election denial is far more extreme than the rhetoric surrounding voter fraud or the idea that there is a “real America.” But the difference is ultimately gradual, not friendly: Republicans have been trying to somehow remove Democrats from the political community for decades. It was only a matter of time before this escalated to deny that Democrats and Democratic voters can win elections at all.