The Big Lie continues, and Lee Drutman of the Democracy Fund's Voter Study Group has an in-depth report on just how twisted Republican rank-and-file voters are, who continue to overwhelmingly believe the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump, and that increasingly dangerous measures need to be taken in order to correct that "fraud".
On January 6, 2021, a mob of pro-Trump supporters stormed the United States Capitol. The mob came directly from a Trump rally where the president had urged them to “show strength” and told them that “When you catch somebody in a fraud, you are allowed to go by very different rules.”(i)
In the months leading up to the election, Trump had repeatedly claimed that the only way Democrats could win would be through massive fraud. The pandemic shift to mailed ballots gave him and his allies a convenient target for their allegations. After the election, the president doubled down on his claims of fraud. A growing cadre of Republican elected officials and conservative media commentators followed along, pushing the Stop the Steal narrative: Democrats had somehow cheated, and Trump was the rightful winner.
In the months since, Republican politicians across the country have supported the narrative of a stolen election. The embrace has been especially strong in state Republican parties, and especially in states where the contest was relatively close. Republican Party officials who have argued that Biden won the 2020 election fair and square, like Georgia Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Nevada Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, have been censured by state party committees.(ii) In Congress, House Republicans voted to remove Representative Liz Cheney from her leadership post for speaking out against the narrative of a stolen election.
The Stop the Steal movement is also driving a new wave of Republican-drafted state laws that restrict voting access — specifically targeting modes of voting favored by Democratic constituencies(iii) — and that change the ways in which elections are administered, empowering partisan state legislatures over professional election administrators and secretaries of state.(iv)
Meanwhile, Trump himself looms as a significant presence and the likely frontrunner in the 2024 Republican primary, should he decide to run. One sign of his sway over the party is the extent to which Republican elected officials at all levels, as well as conservative advocacy groups, devoted themselves to changing the rules of elections, in response to alleged, but unproven, fraud.(v) These developments raise an obvious question: Is this the future of the Republican Party? One way to answer this question is to ask another: What do Republican voters think about Trump and his claims of a stolen election? And more specifically, what other attitudes are most common among Republicans who most strongly believe the election was stolen and are most loyal in their support of Trump?
Republicans widely supported Trump both before and after the election,(vi) and Republicans also widely believe that the 2020 election was stolen.(vii) But we know less about which Republicans are most bought into the claim of a stolen election and which Republicans are most devoted to Trump.
A typical approach when answering questions such as these is to focus on specific and frequently binary polling questions, such as whether Republicans think of themselves as Trump Republicans or Party Republicans;(1) or whether Republicans believe Joe Biden fairly won the election or that Biden’s win was due to widespread fraud.(2) It’s important to keep in mind that any singular polling question misses the gradations of support or ambivalence.
In this analysis, I take a different approach. Using data from the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group VOTER Survey (Views of the Electorate Research Survey), I combine answers across numerous survey questions to generate various “scores” that reflect more complexity and diversity of attitudes among Republican voters. By averaging across multiple questions, we can see how deeply devoted some Republicans are to both the stolen election narrative and to Trump, as well as what other attitudes and outlooks are most prevalent among these devotees.
The results of this analysis confirm much of what many others have observed — Republican support for Trump and the stolen election narrative is broad but not universal. This variation among Republicans is important because it allows us to identify the characteristics of the most devout supporters and better understand the challenges the Republican Party faces in moving past the grievance politics of Trump and his acolytes.
This analysis shows Republicans most committed to both Trump and the narrative of election fraud also tend to have the highest levels of antipathy toward Democrats and toward immigrants, strongest belief that racism is not a problem, highest levels of nationalism, greatest support for traditional family values and gender roles, and strongest belief in a very limited role for government in the economy.
The ugliest part of the survey is that 46% of Republicans wanted GOP state legislatures to overturn election results in states Biden won, and another third of Republicans weren't happy about it but would have accepted it. There's a reason state legislative annulment is something both Georgia's and Florida's new election rigging laws allow, and something Texas's proposed law allows as a special legislative session in that state is expected soon.
That's the plan in 2022 and 2024. Battleground states like Florida, Georgia, NC, Wisconsin, and Michigan are all vulnerable to this nonsense, and the problem of potential violence may be the worst in Michigan.
As Michigan state Rep. Donna Lasinski got out of her car at the state Capitol in Lansing on a sunny morning last week, she was greeted by two people carrying what she described as assault rifles while protesters outside the building called for an audit of the 2020 election.
Such disconcerting encounters are not uncommon in Lansing — a reflection of persistent and growing tension gripping Michigan eight months after Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump and more than a year after arrests were made in a plot to kidnap and kill Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Attacks on the integrity of the 2020 election have persisted in this state, where local county officials are contending with demands by some residents to review ballots for possible fraud. The mounting calls by Trump supporters to revisit the election results are creating a thorny dilemma for the state Republican Party, which has sought to fend off those efforts, even as GOP officials seek changes to election law.
On Wednesday, a Republican-controlled state Senate committee issued a report forcefully rejecting the claims of widespread fraud in the state, saying citizens should be confident in the results and skeptical of “those who have pushed demonstrably false theories for their own personal gain.”
The chairman of the Oversight Committee that produced the report, Sen. Ed McBroom, said in an accompanying letter that “at this point, I feel confident to assert the results of the Michigan election are accurately represented by the certified and audited results.”
But the report also recommended changes to the election system, providing fodder for Republican officials who — like their counterparts in other states — are seeking to pass strict new voting rules, hoping to use a quirk in state law to sidestep an expected veto from the Democratic governor.
Last week, a few hundred demonstrators carrying boxes of affidavits signed by thousands of people demanding a state ballot audit showed up at the Capitol. On Tuesday, a GOP legislator introduced a bill to start the audit process, although it so far does not have support among other lawmakers.
The drumbeat for audits has been accompanied by increasingly violent and vitriolic threats against state and local officials. The escalating rhetoric has left legislators from both parties lamenting what happened to the state that was home to moderate political consensus builders such as President Gerald Ford, governor George Romney and the late representative John Dingell.
As Lasinski, the House Democratic leader, walked to her office last week, speakers on the Capitol steps lambasted officials who have resisted requests to review last year’s ballots and asserted that the election was well-run and that Biden received more votes than Trump.
“They are lying,” said Matthew DePerno, a lawyer who is spearheading the petition drive. A small crowd cheered as he denounced Michigan’s secretary of state as a “tyrant” and the state’s Democratic governor as “the Fuhrer” and claimed that county clerks — many of them Republicans — had engaged in racketeering and conspiracy.
“These people have committed crimes,” he said.
“Put them in shackles,” shouted a man in the crowd, to whoops and applause.
Lasinski said the atmosphere has grown more fraught by the day.
“It seems we have become ground zero in this effort we see across the country to suppress democracy and deny the peaceful transfer of power,” she said.
DePerno did not respond to a request for comment.
Already this is a state where the feds had to break up a plot to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer by terrorists who wanted to force her to overturn the election, to kill her, or both.