Enforced delusions: Stolen 2020 election myth imposes loyalty test on Republicans

Photo: Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

The narrative about a stolen election is completely fabricated. None of it is true. None of it happened.

None of it, not in Arizona, not in Georgia, not anywhere, none of it. All “evidence” offered to support that narrative is likewise a mirage; it vanishes completely upon closer inspection. It’s just a fiction, a fiction with the same grounding in reality as tales of flying, fire-breathing dragons or little green men invading Earth from Mars.

Unlike those stories, however, this one is functional fiction. Its creation was conscious and intentional; it was designed not to entertain or instruct or titillate, but to further a criminal conspiracy. It was designed as an excuse by people who needed one, concocted out of nothing to try to justify the overthrow of a legal election and thus destroy American democracy, and it was carried out by those frustrated because that democracy would not produce the outcome that they demanded.

If you only support democracy that gives you the outcome that you want, then you never supported democracy in the first place.

Since the failed attempt on Jan. 6 to reinstate the election loser as president, the narrative has also come to serve a secondary but still quite powerful purpose. For this particular purpose, it doesn’t matter that the story is ridiculous, that no facts or evidence or testimony could be found to support it. To the contrary, the lack of supporting evidence has made it more powerful and useful.

Over the past two decades, the Republican Party has defined itself through two dynamics, one internal and one external. Externally, they seek to define themselves through the opposition that they provoke from others, which is how “triggering the libs” became so central to their identity. They don’t want acceptance, they want rejection. They seek to create distance from the cultural and political mainstream, and anything that gives them that distance is good, which explains to some degree their infatuation with Donald Trump.

Internally, they have defined themselves through the loyalty tests they impose on each other, and anyone who expresses doubt or less than total commitment risks expulsion as a RINO. Trump has proved useful in that regard as well, forcing Republicans to demonstrate to themselves and each other just how deep their loyalty to the tribe really goes. Does that tribal loyalty outweigh any concerns they might have about Trump’s extraordinary character, behavior, racism or intellect? For most, unfortunately, their answer has been yes.

The belief that the 2020 election was stolen has now been embraced as the latest such loyalty test. It serves both definitional purposes, external and internal. If the majority of Americans reject that belief as well as those who espouse it, great! It creates the distance that conservatives need to define themselves. And if a small number of supposed Republicans can’t reconcile their loyalty to democracy with their loyalty to the party, great again. If the likes of Liz Cheney choose to defend the Constitution and the republic over Trump and the GOP, then let the purification rites continue; let she and others be cast aside.

Again, the more ridiculous the required belief, the more groundless and absurd it might be, the more effective it becomes as a test of loyalty. Anyone can believe something that is true, or that might be true. Only the true believer can believe the truly unbelievable, and if you can be swayed to the other side by such things as fact and evidence, then you weren’t really one of us anyway.

It’s also critical to note that for many, this is not a passive belief; believing it requires that action be taken.

Once you have been convinced, by yourself or others, that the election was stolen, then the assault on the Capitol was not merely acceptable, it becomes necessary and patriotic.

Once you believe the election was stolen, then you can only support those politicians and leaders and media figures who will overturn it and future elections.

Put another way, this fiction was designed to have consequences, and if it is not fought and defeated, those consequences will be dire.

Veteran journalist Jay Bookman is a columnist for the Georgia Recorder, which first published this essay.

Proposed uses for NC’s flexible funds from American Rescue Plan vary widely

North Carolina’s share of State Fiscal Recovery Funds – flexible dollars allocated to North Carolina from the American Rescue Plan – present the opportunity to address new and long-standing needs across the state by infusing dollars at a once-in-a-generation scale into communities.

Our analysis to date shows that the state House and Senate’s proposed plans lack transparency and public input, rely on arbitrary one-time allocations for specific communities only, and demonstrate an over-reliance on federal funds rather than state funds to address long-term needs.

An additional analysis of the three plans – those released by the Governor, Senate, and House, respectively – shows substantial variation across the proposals. Line items were placed into one of five categories related to the purpose or outcome the investment sought to secure. These were:

  • Aid for individuals, examples include premium pay bonuses and funding for food banks
  • Build capital and infrastructure, including broadband networks and water and sewer utility grants
  • Support the workforce, examples include Longleaf Commitment grants and funding to expand an apprenticeship program for high-demand fields
  • Stabilize private businesses across North Carolina, including through a grant program to aid in their economic recovery from the pandemic
  • Fund public institutions, such as stabilizing community college budgets, funding for communicable disease control and prevention by public health departments, and supports for local governments to administer federal recovery funds.

All three proposals place a high priority on improving the state’s infrastructure, though vary in how they intend to do so. In addition to infrastructure investments, the Governor’s plan prioritizes aid to individuals, while the Senate’s places the next greatest investments to stabilize businesses, and the House proposes similar levels of funding for aid to individuals, mostly in the form of one-time premium pay bonuses and stabilizing businesses. Notably, the legislative plans would invest very few dollars into supporting the workforce, and all three plans invest relatively few dollars into funding for public institutions.


Suzy Khachaturyan is a Policy Analyst at the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center.

COVID-19 boosters from Moderna, J&J OK’d along with ‘mix and match’ shots

Thirty years ago, Republicans thought ending gerrymandering was a good idea. They were right.

Listening to congressional Republicans today, Democrats’ democracy reform bills are “a brazen power grab” and “the single most dangerous piece of legislation pending in the United States Congress.” Yet, one of the most important reforms being advanced by Democrats today — the redistricting provisions in the Freedom to Vote Act — isn’t a Democratic idea at all but a Republican one.

The year was 1989. The next round of congressional redistricting wouldn’t be for another two years, but Republicans were already worried. With the Democratic Party in control of key state legislatures and governorships, Democrats would have free rein to gerrymander maps to guarantee themselves a comfortable majority in the House for the coming decade. For Republicans, that meant continuing to be consigned to the same perpetual minority they had been in since 1957 — even though they regularly won half the nationwide congressional vote and in many parts of the country were becoming increasingly competitive.

But President George H.W. Bush, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and other Republicans had a bold idea: pass federal legislation to make the map-drawing process fairer.

In June 1989, the Bush administration told reporters that it would push for passage of “legislation aimed at outlawing gerrymandering.” The core of the proposal would be “‘neutral criteria’ to be used in drawing the nation’s congressional districts after the 1990 census.” If states refused to follow these criteria when drawing districts, voters would have the ability to take states to court to force a redraw of maps.

To be sure, Republicans conceded that redistricting reforms faced an uphill fight in a Congress dominated by Democrats. But they strongly pushed back against Democratic accusations that the legislation was merely a GOP power grab. At a press conference in late June 1989, Bush told reporters that he was “outraged by a suggestion of that nature” and that he was “looking [at the matter] as objectively as I can.”

Sen. McConnell and congressional Republicans would go on to include redistricting reform in not one, but three separate democracy reform bills they would propose over the next two years. (In a reverse echo of the fights today, not a single Democrat would co-sponsor any of the bills.) Read more

Republicans torpedo debate on voting rights in dangerous moment for democracy

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

When Senate Republicans voted unanimously to block debate on the Freedom to Vote Act on Wednesday, they fulfilled Mitch McConnell’s “hope and anticipation” that not a single GOP senator would break ranks — ensuring that a measure protecting voting rights and secure elections, increasing campaign finance transparency and cracking down on partisan gerrymandering would not come to the floor.

So much for West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin’s promise to get 10 GOP colleagues to support the compromise bill, which he led.

It’s a perilous moment for democracy.

Now Democrats must decide if they are going to push to abolish the filibuster to secure voting rights, or whether they will let Republican state legislatures, which are making an unprecedented push to curtail voting rights, run the table in the 2022 and 2024 elections and for the next 10 years as as they draw new voting districts based on the 2020 census.

The stakes are high.

Molly McGrath, a voting rights attorney, advocate, and organizer for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project told the Wisconsin TV show Up Front’s Mike Gousha on Wednesday that in the absence of federal action, state-level voter suppression bills around the country could determine the outcome of elections for years to come. “It’s almost like death by 1,000 cuts,” she said. “We’re seeing a lot of restrictions that are going to have a very, very big impact on people who will be able to cast a ballot, a huge impact on traditionally disenfranchised communities.”

The Brennan Center for Justice recently reported that, in an unprecedented year so far for voting legislation, 19 states have enacted 33 laws that will make it harder for Americans to vote.

All of those state laws make it absolutely essential for Congress to act to protect voting rights, McGrath said. “Doing nothing doesn’t keep us in neutral,” she explained. “Doing nothing on the federal level actually takes us backward.” Read more