- Donald Trump on Sunday again falsely claimed himself to be the real winner of the 2020 election.
- Trump loyalists in the GOP are also using the claim in their push to restrict voting.
- But continuing to support it could backfire on Republicans.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
In the wake of the Capitol riot, Donald Trump’s political career seemed over.
The attack prompted concerns that Trump’s refusal to accept his defeat in the November election was not just a cynical ploy to maintain his hold over supporters but a threat to US democracy. Administration officials told Reuters that Trump’s refusal to accept his defeat would permanently stain his political brand.
But less than two months later, Trump is back, unrepentant, and again pushing his myth that the election was somehow stolen from him by Democrats, disloyal Republicans, and their supposed allies in the judiciary and the media.
In his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Sunday – his first speech since leaving the White House on January 20 – Trump repeated the lie that he was the real victor of the 2020 presidential election.
“You won! You won!” supporters chanted at the former president.
“We did,” Trump replied.
“Actually, as you know, they just lost the White House,” Trump said of the Democrats.
“Who knows, I may even decide to beat them for a third time,” he added, teasing plans for a 2024 presidential run.
He went on to attack Supreme Court justices for rejecting his legal challenges to the election, which he lost by a margin of 74 electoral votes while falling in the popular vote by more than 7 million.
“They didn’t have the guts or the courage to make the right decision,” he said of the nation’s highest court.
Trump’s speech was more than just rhetorical showmanship, too, with the former president using his election-fraud lie to push for changes to voting laws, including canceling early voting.
Trump calls out Republican critics
After the Capitol riot there was a move by some Republican leaders to distance the party from Trump. But their challenge to Trump’s dominance fizzled out as his popularity among grassroots GOP supporters held firm.
In his Sunday speech, Trump called out his most adamant Republican critics by name. They include Rep. Liz Cheney, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, and Sen. Mitt Romney.
“Get rid of them all,” he said of the lawmakers.
Their failure to successfully challenge Trump means he is set to remain the most powerful figure in the GOP, and his election-fraud lie one of its central myths.
A straw poll of CPAC attendees on Sunday found that 95% wanted the Republican Party to advance Trump’s policies and agenda. (It is worth noting, though, that only 68% wanted Trump to be their 2024 candidate.)
The stolen-election myth could harm the GOP
Trump GOP loyalists at the state level are already citing Trump’s stolen-election myth in their bids to tighten voting rules, The New York Times reported, with low voter turnout long seen as an advantage to the GOP in key districts.
The national Republican Party last week followed suit, setting up a Commission on Election Integrity to tighten voter laws.
Trump’s lie about the election has implications not just for election laws but for US national security. An assessment by US intelligence agencies after the Capitol riot, seen by The Washington Post, found that Trump’s myth would most likely continue to be a key driver in far-right violence.
But the GOP risks a serious downside.
A Morning Consult poll published on January 27 found that only 33% of Republican respondents trusted US elections, with only 36% saying they were motivated to vote in future elections.
It’s a dynamic that seemed to play out in January’s Senate runoffs in Georgia, where Republican strategists think Trump’s attacks on the state’s election officials for refusing to pursue his voter-fraud claims drove down GOP turnout.
The longer the Republican Party helps sustain Trump’s stolen-election myth, the more it could erode Republicans’ faith in the integrity of US democracy and, in turn, damage the party’s chances of success at the polls.