The question many observers of the US election ask is why do so many people support former President Trump. Why do they continue to think that the election was stolen?
From the former President’s perspective, the election was close. All Trump needed was 40 or so thousand votes spread around a few of select states. As these states were controlled by Republicans (as the Governor or state assembly was Republican) was it too much to ask that the votes he needed be found. As he told the official from the state of Georgia “Recalculate”. It was so close – why couldn’t they help just a bit? And besides, how could he have lost when he was so popular?
Despite Mr. Trump’s self belief, the problem for him was that there was no evidence of voter fraud or manipulation even to the extent of 40,000 votes. There was no evidence of election irregularities, let alone massive vote rigging. Over 60 judges, some Trump appointees, threw out legal challenges to the election results for want of any proof of electoral misdeeds. What the facts did support was his election loss. Millions more Americans voted for Biden than for Trump – not that this matters in the US Presidential election. Biden also received more votes in places that mattered – in states like Pennsylvania, Arizons, Wisconsin and Georgia. Biden won the Electoral College vote and the Presidency. Biden won.
Ironically, at least for Republicans, the dearth of voter fraud was a consequence of years of attempts at what Democrats call voter suppression. In the US each of the 50 state governments have their own rules when it comes to elections and voting. State officials in a number of what have become Republican states have worked hard for years to make their voting systems fraud proof. A number of such measures have assisted the Republican cause by making it harder for poor and, in particular poor people of colour, to vote. The Secretary of State in Georgia, who Trump asked to find more votes, had said that he had wanted Trump to win. What he didn’t say was that Republicans had done all that they could do to help, but it still wasn’t enough. Some observers have suggested that Biden’s winning margin would have been higher but for voter suppression. At the same time, all the rules meant that it was then much harder to challenge the vote. At the same time the attempts at voter suppression arguably motivated Democrats to get out the vote despite the challenges, while making Republicans complacent.
Trump for months before the elections claimed that the only way he would lose was if the vote was rigged. After the election he continued to dispute the results. He said that he would never concede and he hasn’t. The fact that millions more people voted for Biden than for Trump. Even with the strange electoral college process, there can be no doubt as to Biden’s victory. Biden received more votes in states where it mattered. In the absence of evidence of any irregularities or worse, voter fraud, Biden’s victory is indisputable.
Trump has said that he would never concede and he hasn’t. Millions of Americans continue to believe he is the victim of a terrible injustice. Thousands went to Washington to advance his cause. His supporters attempted to prevent the certification of electoral college votes by occupying the Capitol (the building housing the House of Assembly and Senate). Their anger at election fraud directed at the so-called traitors who accepted the election results exploded into a mob. Screaming to hang Pence and bashing doors and windows to enter forbidden buildings overwhelming security. And then, at Trump’s request, they left. Such violence by self proclaimed patriots done in the name of protecting America was incomprehensible to almost everyone watching from a distance. These strange folks with their MAGA hats, bizarre outfits and Confederate flags were convinced that they had to fight to protect their way of life. Millions of Americans believe in the new Big Lie.
Millions more people voted for Biden than for Trump. Even with the bizarre electoral college process, there can be no doubt as to Biden’s victory. Biden received more votes in states where it mattered for the electoral college vote. In the absence of evidence of any irregularities Biden’s victory is indisputable.
Without Trump, it is unlikely that the election result would have resulted in armed insurrection. Sure many people would not have accepted the results as true, but Trump made it real.
The passions felt by partisans in an election campaign run deep. Victory is sweet and defeat bitter. Campaign workers spend long days, weeks, months, even years, believing that they can win. And when their candidate doesn’t win, especially in a close election which matters, the loss hurts. The hurt is personal and often financial. Those on the losing side may find it tough to get another job. Even for those whose participation amounted to attending rallies, buying swag and even donating money, faith in one’s candidate can run deep. Being told when faced with crushing defeat, that victory had been stolen comes as a welcomed relief. Trump’s Big Lie worked because his supporters wanted to believe. But Trump was no Lenin. He did not have a realistic plan for taking over government. He had no Trotsky and, more seriously, no military support. The Big Lie was not believed by the right people or perhaps enough of the right people.
So why? Why do so many people believe so strongly in something for which there is no evidence? There is Trump. He stands in front of the crowd and tells them that they were robbed. He assures them that they are not crazy or misinformed. They believe him when he says that the supporters of the Democrats, not them or their friends, those believe the Fake News, are the crazies. They believe him when he feeds their belief that immigrants, people of colour, Muslims, Jews and maybe even Catholics, are destroying the American way of life. Trump feeds his supporters faith, especially the Q-Anon supporters, that they and they alone know the truth about America. And unless they fight for that truth, America will be lost. But still. How can anyone believe anything Trump says? And will they continue to believe as the memories of his Presidency fades.