If you thought the Republicans were going to be decent and civil human beings about losing the 2020 presidential election, you really haven’t been paying attention for the past 4 years — or even the past 40 years. Smelling defeat in the water, they started laying the groundwork for a heist well in advance of the election, questioning its honesty and fairness long before anyone ever cast a ballot. And as soon as the voting got underway, they swarmed the battleground states with a plague of lawyers willing to whore themselves.
The bombardment of false claims, disinformation and tin hat conspiracy theories has been relentless. Consequently, many of the faithful flock are unswervingly convinced (“I know for a fact”, says one clueless MAGA cultist to a reporter’s microphone) that their guy was cheated, that the election was stolen, and that any day now it’s going to be magically overturned. This in spite of the fact that all of the lies they’re being fed have been ripped to shreds, and the lawsuits have been consistently laughed out of court– often by Republican judges. In fact, the Supreme Court, which the White House Occupant rushed to stack before the election for the express purpose of trying to subvert the election outcome, has declined to soil its hands.
RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel boasted that she had 500 sworn affidavits from 11,000 witnesses to fraud. It turns out that these “witnesses” were reporting things like a poll worker giving them a funny look. One “witness” to “fraud” said she saw a couple of vans pull up to the polling station, and since they couldn’t have been big enough to deliver food for all the election workers, they must have been there to assist with ballot tampering. There was another report about a suspicious little wagon loaded with electronic equipment — obviously something to interfere with voting machines, right? Except it turned out to be a journalist’s gear.
In private, many of the GOPers have acknowledged defeat, and some have even congratulated Biden and Harris on their victory. Yet in public, they still rouse the rabble with nonsense about “fraud” and a “stolen” election. You’d think they were actually trying to incite violence among the yahoos. And they and their media accomplices still have no problem with spreading even the most inane and insane of false claims.
After a two-hour press conference at which deranged shysters Rudy Giuliani and Sydney Powell had promised to deliver blockbuster evidence but instead just repeated the same stale and nutty rumors and allegations, the White House suddenly decided that Powell was too delusional even for them (How is that even humanly possible?) , and totally disavowed her. But she still gets plenty of encouragement from other right-wing extremists. In fact, she whipped up a new frenzy a few days later when she made good on her vow to “release the kraken” in the form of lawsuits to nullify the election results in Georgia and Michigan. Her filings were riddled with misspellings, typos, formatting problems and — you guessed it — the same baseless conspiracy theories she and others had been hawking all along.
The lies got loonier by the day. But that doesn’t prevent millions of people from falling for them. Here are just a few of them:
“Sharpiegate”: Using a Sharpie on ballots in Arizona supposedly invalidated them. (Nope.)
“A batch of votes for Biden, totaling 138,00, mysteriously appeared in Michigan.” (Nope.)
“Mail-in voting is rife with error”. (Nope. It’s at least as reliable as in-person voting. It’s also been done for years, and has always had bipartisan support.)
“Some states had more votes than registered voters.” (Nope.) In promoting this one, Republicans cited an affidavit by a man who confused numbers in Becker County, Minnesota with those in Wayne County, Michigan — which has roughly 50 times the population. Even after this bumbling error was exposed, Rudy Giuliani, of melting hair fame, continued to promote it in court.
“Some guy burned 80 ballots, so the whole election should be overturned.” (Nope and Nope.)
“George Soros”. Of course. Isn’t it mandatory for right-wingers to implicate him in everything these days? (Often with more than a hint of anti-Semitism.) But as always, this one’s another big nope.
Some of the rumors are especially illuminating. Here are perhaps the three most interesting.
- “Dead People Voted”
This one has been clunking along for years. Which is why it’s so amazing that the GOP is still not only trying to drive it around, but take it on a joy ride. The claim was that tens of thousands of dead people voted (presumably all for Biden) in this election in Pennsylvania and Michigan, two crucial states. Apparently, it’s always in swing states that deceased voters feel the need to reach in from the beyond to let their voices be heard. The GOP even presented lists of these names as “proof”. But when the names are examined more closely, the deadness starts to disappear. It turns out that voters on the list who actually voted are very much alive. And those on the list who are deceased (surprise) didn’t vote.
Often, the suspicious names are flagged because of clerical error in entering the voter’s date of birth. In some cases, a “place holder” date is entered when the birthdate is unknown or confidential –e.g., Jan. 1, 1900 (or even 1800). But these are still very much living and qualified voters. In other cases, the living voter simply has the same name as a deceased person. Who woulda thunk it?
In Georgia, one dead person who was believed by the GOP to have cast a ballot was James E. Blalock Jr. But upon further investigation, it turned out that the vote was cast by his widow, who (as is an old custom, particularly in the south) was using her husband’s name as a variant of her own: Mrs. James E. Blalock Jr.
Oh, there was at least one person in Pennsylvania who did indeed try to vote on behalf of a deceased individual. But, as almost always happens, they got caught. This attempted fraudster, by the way, was a Republican. Not sure about the deceased.
2.“Sinister voting machines”
File this one under Shoe On Other Foot. In past elections, it was Democrats who were concerned about voting technology operated by companies with connections to the GOP. And not without reason — those companies had raised a number of red flags. During the 2004 campaign, for instance, Ohio-based Diebold CEO Wally O’Dell flatly declared “I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president.” (He did.) There were many suspicious outcomes with Diebold voting technology, and if indeed there was any skullduggery, it could have made a difference in close elections like 2004 and 2000.
But the 2020 election, let’s emphasize again, was nowhere near that close. And there is no evidence that voting machine irregularities produced any significant problems. Furthermore, contrary to what the GOPers keep trying to claim, Dominion is not a “Democrat-owned” company, nor (contrary to a popular social media claim) does it have any connections to Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s husband or other prominent Democrats. Both Democrats and Republicans have had ties to the company. But as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports:
Dominion CEO John Poulos said Dominion is 75.2% owned by the New York-based private equity firm Staple Street Capital and that he, a Canadian citizen, holds a 12% stake. No other investor owns more than a 5% stake, he said.
3. “Poll workers / postal workers altered votes”
For this one, we largely can thank the incomparable James O’Keefe, who has a long, cringeworthy history of churning out breathtaking muckraker “documentaries” that quickly unravel, and throw another serving of egg on his face (not that he or his fans ever will know the difference).
This time, he first released a shocking little video that purported to document Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) committing election fraud. But (surprise!) it turns out the video itself was fraudulent. Then he released a video in which a USPS “whistleblower” (who had a history of disciplinary problems on the job, and admitted that he was a supporter of 45) claimed that he heard other postal workers planning to illegally backdate mail-in ballots.
Under questioning by USPS authorities, however, he recanted the claim. Later, under prodding from right-wing activists, he claimed that no, he never recanted. But he did. There’s audio to prove it. He stated under questioning that he simply heard supervisors discussing one — yes ONE — ballot that had a late postmark; he did not hear anyone discuss altering it, and guessed that “My mind probably added the rest.” You don’t say.
Why are these three lies particularly noteworthy? Because they reveal three prominent principles of (sometimes unintentional) disinformation at work.
First, there is what we have termed the Fallacy Of Single Explanations. Republicans have noticed oddities and errors, and rather than seek out the actual causes, automatically conclude that the explanation must be widespread, systematic fraud.
Second, there is the “game of telephone“. They hear or see something that seems unusual and, as in the case of the postal worker, their fevered imaginations vividly add details. And each time the story gets repeated, it gets embellished more. Next thing you know, one possibly suspicious ballot has morphed into a million definitely fraudulent ones.
Third, there is the matter of selectivity. Republicans are concerned only about irregularities that affect them negatively. They ignore the ones that help them, and even try to create the impression that the latter don’t even exist. Remember, a contorted narrative of persecution and oppression is a vital part of conservative propaganda.
Look, there is always a certain amount of error when millions and millions of ballots are involved. But it’s minimal, and does not affect the outcome of an election unless it’s extremely close. And — say it again — this one was not close at all. In 2020, the GOP candidate lost Michigan by 150,000 votes; but he tried to get the state’s results invalidated by focusing on the heavily populated Wayne County (which, just coincidentally, is mostly black) as a supposed hotbed of fraud. But Wayne County actually had a higher error rate in 2016, when he won the state by fewer than 11,000 votes. Yet –surprise — he didn’t contest anything then.
Let’s be clear, these shenanigans to overturn a decisive election had, at most, zero chance of success; and the Republicans probably knew it. So why did they persist so doggedly anyway? Well, there are at least seven “good” reasons: (1) to offer an excuse, however flimsy, for the unflagging obstructionism that will characterize the next 4 years; (2) to keep the members of the base riled up and gnawing at their straitjackets; (3) to lay the groundwork for challenges to future elections that are much closer; (4) to offer a justification, however flimsy, for future vote suppression tactics; (5) to establish a “boy who cried wolf” narrative so that if Democrats should challenge fraud in, say, the next election, it will be be brushed off as absurd and unfounded, in the spirit of bothsidesism; (6) Money, money, money. As Media Matters chronicles, a number of right-wing grifters are using the pretense of fighting for election integrity as their latest con to shake down their fans for more cash. The Fraudster-In-Chief is among them; (7) The Big Ego. Everything, absolutely everything, the Head Narcissist does is for attention and personal glory. The “stolen election” narrative gives him the opportunity to bask in it, for now and the indefinite future.
The election may be settled, but the myth of the “stolen election” is not going to just ride off into the sunset any time soon.