Republicans didn’t bother waiting until the first votes were cast much less counted in Tuesday’s California gubernatorial recall, before they began claiming voter fraud. It was a sure sign they expected to lose. And they did. Big Time.
Gov. Gavin Newsome won by a whopping 28 points by Wednesday morning. His leading challenger, conservative talk show host Larry Elder, began “dropping unsubstantiated claims that the election was rigged against him,” the Arizona Republic reported, in recent weeks as the incumbent’s polling numbers showed a wide lead. Elder ultimately conceded but not before having poisoned the well with Trumpian lies about fraud. He indicated he may run again.
Elder shares many of Donald Trump’s views and policies. Where they weren’t in alignment, Elder changed his mind to conform with his party’s leader, as when he said Joe Biden won the election “fairly and squarely” but quickly switched to “repeating [Trump’s] election fraud conspiracy theories.”
Trump, never one to be hobbled by facts, said last week that the recall vote was “probably rigged” and upgraded that on election day to “totally rigged.”
Trump, the world’s sorest loser, is the undisputed leader of the denial chorus. We all recall how he began his own fraud kvetch early in 2020, long before there was even any voting and while polls were looking good for him. Looking back, it suggest he expected to lose and was looking for an excuse. His explanation, as always, was that the only way he wouldn’t win was if the election was stolen. Actually, he was making those charges during the 2016 primaries and general election, saying that if he didn’t win he might not accept the outcome as legitimate.
It was an indication of things to come and one to be expected from a man with his shoddy reputation in business, years of stiffing contractors and a well-documented record of tens of thousands of incidents of public prevarication while president.
Add to that his monumental ego — “I’m an extremely stable genius” — and you can begin to understand why he is incapable of coping with rejection.
He continues spreading the Big Lie about his election loss and has millions of followers parroting it. The man with golden toilet in his penthouse has set the gold standard for Republican defeat: We wuz robbed!
“Republicans will accept elections as legit only if they win,” wrote Elvia Díaz of the Arizona Republic
When candidates he endorsed lost elections, Trump would say that without his backing the margin of defeat would have been enormous, but thanks to him it was minuscule (if not stolen). He twice suffered what Politico called a “crushing and embarrassing political blow” after backing losing candidates in primary and general elections in a single Alabama senate race.
When he and his band of legal misfits led by Rudy Giuliani lost 59 court challenges to the 2020 election, many being thrown out by judges he personally appointed, Trump refused to concede. Ever faultless, he has been quick and spiteful to blame everyone and anyone else when things don’t go his way. Accusations of voter fraud have become SOP in Trump’s GOP.
He inspired the deadly January 6 insurrection, which cost at least five lives and scores of injuries, just to press his false claims. As if he cared.
His denials have damaged many lives, but for Trump himself the Big Lie campaign has been quite profitable.
Through his various political committees he has waged relentless post-election fundraising campaigns touting his baseless claims that the presidency was stolen. Media reports estimate he has brought in a quarter of a billion dollars, possibly much more, while spending little or none on audits and GOP candidates.
Trump’s lasting damage to the Republican party will be enormous, but possibly the most harmful to the party and to the republic will be his culture of denial. Refusal to accept the decision of the voters, as he does, is spreading and threatens to undermine the Constitution and the American electoral system. He still commands the support of a majority of his party, according to several polls.
For Trump, winning is everything. He’s the guy who promised “we’re going to win so much you’re going to be so sick and tired of winnings sick and tired.”
That was followed by his party losing the presidency, the House and the Senate last November.
Some of the great victories Trump didn’t brag about were setting the world’s highest Covid-19 death toll, a nation running out of toilet paper, record stock market drops and unemployment jumps. And who can forget his medical megalomania in suggesting the virus be treated with injections of household disinfectant?
Another victory he promised was a new and improved Iran nuclear deal. He walked away from the original, imposed new sanctions and sat by as Iran dramatically expanded is uranium enrichment and moved closer to the nuclear threshold.
The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman said that Trump “can’t handle the concept of the label ‘loser.’”
He’s going to have to get used to it. Leading non-partisan historians have already ranked him one of the worst presidents. He’s flirting with running again in 2024; it’s a great money-maker for him, but why are many Democrats hoping he’ll try for an encore?
They apparently feel that tying their opponents to Trump will help motivate their own voters, especially in non-presidential elections, where their party has difficulties turning out voters. It seems to have helped in California and will be tested next in Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial contests.
Those contests will indicate whether Trump “still has power to mobilize liberal voters and keep suburban moderates in the Democratic tent, even if he is no longer on the ballot or in office,” the Washington Post reported.
The larger questions facing the nation, however, remain about the long-term impact of Trump’s culture of denial and whether Republicans can retake their party from the Trump cultists.
Trump is a contagious virus that threatens the heart and soul of the American body politic.