Trump’s Voter Fraud Yarn is Unraveling. But it can Still Help the GOPHistorians in the News
tags: Republican Party, conservatism, Jimmy Carter, voting rights, Vote Suppression, 2020 Election
What these leaders recognize is that that the stakes of Trump’s voter fraud narrative are far higher than rescuing his failed reelection bid. If Democrats push for a new, improved version of H.R. 1 in the next Congress, Republicans will likely seek a principled-sounding narrative to argue for eliminating the pro-democracy rules that governed the 2020 election, and for making it harder for Americans to vote in 2022, 2024 and beyond. Pointing to recent allegations of fraud lingering in the political ether — allegations they put forward — could easily become a core part of this strategy. What appears, today, to be a stubborn refusal to acknowledge a tough loss could also lay the groundwork for a forthcoming ouroboros of voter-suppression rhetoric.
There’s precedent for this: As historian Rick Perlstein writes, in 1977 President Jimmy Carter proposed a landmark series of election reform bills, arguing that “millions of Americans are prevented or discouraged from voting in every election by antiquated and overly restrictive voter registration laws.” The Democrat’s agenda enjoyed bipartisan support until the political right leaped into action: The Heritage Foundation warned that Carter’s plan could enable “eight million illegal aliens” to vote, echoing the claims of former California governor-turned-conservative commentator Ronald Reagan, who had condemned mail-in voter registration for its “potential for cheating.” The package failed, and Reagan later defeated Carter in 1980’s landslide presidential election.
Forty years later, Republicans looking to their party’s future tried to run a version of the same playbook: Even in a pandemic, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott limited each county in his state to one mail-in ballot drop-box location, regardless of population; as a result, counties with only a few thousand residents had the same number of locations as Harris County (which overlaps with the city of Houston), the third-largest county in America. In Alabama, state officials prohibited counties from implementing curbside voting as a public safety measure. In Florida, less than a month before Election Day, the secretary of state’s office issued guidance that appeared to add additional requirements for county election officials to meet for setting up ballot drop-off locations.
Although these efforts weren’t enough to deliver Trump a victory, they didn’t go to waste, either: Last month, a Monmouth University poll found that 61 percent of Republicans were “not at all confident” that the election was conducted fairly and accurately and 70 percent of Republicans said Biden’s win was due to fraud. Last week, former GOP senator Rick Santorum predicted “a lot of action after this election to talk about these changes that we’ve made,” adding that “a lot of Republicans are actually cheering the president for bringing this to light so we can actually try to do something after this election is settled.” By pushing his voter fraud theories until the bitter end, Trump will leave his fellow Republicans with plenty of fodder to resist pro-democracy reforms well after he leaves office.