War on truth damages democracy

The falsehood that Donald Trump won the 2020 election persists, deepening the polarization of American politics that tears at our country's fabric.

By

Columnists

July 13, 2021 - 9:45 AM

Joe Biden celebrates with his family and supporters after winning the presidential election on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. Photo by (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

WASHINGTON — Last month, as thousands of former President Donald Trump’s loyal supporters waited for him at a rally in Ohio, a chant rose from the crowd.

“Trump won!” they roared. “Trump won!”

The former president agreed. “We won the election twice,” he said, “and it’s possible we’ll have to win it a third time.”

Eight months after he lost convincingly to President Joe Biden, Trump and his followers are studiously maintaining an alternative reality — and having remarkable success keeping the fiction alive.

Almost two-thirds of GOP voters told pollsters in one recent survey that they’re still convinced the election was stolen — a number that hasn’t changed much since November.

This isn’t a harmless exercise in political puffery; it deepens the polarization of American politics and weakens democracy.

The charge that the election was stolen doesn’t merely flatter Trump; it’s also an attempt to delegitimize Biden.

It makes it politically dangerous for Republicans in Congress to collaborate with the administration — for why would anyone loyal to Trump negotiate with a usurper?

The charge that the election was stolen doesn’t merely flatter Trump; it’s also an attempt to delegitimize Biden.

The falsehood persists even though Republican officeholders have run investigations that debunk it.

Last month, a GOP-led probe in Michigan found that the Trump camp’s charges of voting irregularities there were nothing more than “blatherskite.”

Former Attorney General William Barr, a Trump appointee, gave ABC News his pithy judgment of the president’s charges: “It was all bull—-.”

But many of the GOP faithful appear virtually immune to evidence.

The fantasy hasn’t stayed alive on its own; Trump has spent much of his time since leaving office stoking his claims and warning Republican politicians that he will torpedo their careers if they don’t back him up.

“If they don’t, I have little doubt that they will be primaried and quickly run out of office,” he said in a written statement last month.

GOP politicians, fearful of Trump’s wrath, either tiptoe around the fantasy or join in promoting it.

Arizona legislators have been auditing election results for more than two months; last week one GOP leader called for yet another recount after the current audit is complete. Legislators in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, bowing to pressure from Trump, have said they are seeking audits or recounts as well. The Washington Post reported last week that hundreds of Republican candidates are campaigning on promises to loyally pursue Trump’s claims.

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