Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election. Despite ignominious voter fraud claims, a bunch of lawsuits, and his administration sarcastically hinting at a coup, he won’t be president come January.
But that doesn’t mean questioning election results isn’t already paying off.
According to a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, 70 percent of Republicans now believe the 2020 presidential election wasn’t “free and fair.” That’s double the 35 percent who thought so before the election. There’s plenty of reason to question the legitimacy of polling after this election, but with the relentless slew of bullshit coming from the White House, it’s no surprise that many Republicans have bought in. And that’s the ultimate goal.
Republican lawmakers know Trump isn’t going to overtake Joe Biden’s lead. No judge is simply going to throw out the tens of thousands of votes Trump would need for that to happen. The GOP isn’t trying to win the election though—it’s trying to toe the line, appeasing Trump’s base while undermining general election trust. Doing so will make it that much easier for them to disqualify mail-in voting next time around, disenfranchise more voters, and maybe even steal an election or two down the line. Further eroding trust in a fundamental democratic process is collateral damage, necessary for the success of the Republicans’ long game. It doesn’t matter whether Trump’s involved or not.
Conservative media, meanwhile, is split on the issue. Independent pundits have taken up the mantle of calling out Joe Biden and crying persecution. The Murdoch empire (Fox News,New York Post, Wall Street Journal) employs plenty of Trump sycophants but understands how undermining the election might be bad for business. The conservative media model was booming before Trump entered the picture. If he leaves, they can train their guns on Biden without having to tie themselves to a dumb unpopular wannabe autocrat. The Post, which is more Trump-sympathetic than any major municipal newspaper in America, is practically begging him to take an out.
Trump won’t concede, of course—not until someone proves to him it’s transactionally better to do so. Republican lawmakers aren’t going to be the ones to do that. They’re playing along as usual, not out of true belief or Trump loyalty, but because it helps their future prospects of winning elections and consolidating power.