President Donald Trump continued his Quixotic battle to discard the lost election results – by going on Twitter to encourage followers who believe the race was rigged and by openly ignoring reality.
Those efforts came to a head late on Sunday evening with a tweet that read, “I won the election!”
The president, of course, didn’t – President-elect Joe Biden won both the referendum with 5.5 million and 306 electoral college votes, 36 more than the 270 it took to win the White House and 74 more than Trump. But that fact has not and does not seem to have stopped the President from wrongly claiming otherwise.
Trump signaled that he would not accept the election results until they were held, for example, telling Fox News’ Chris Wallace in July that he “needs to see” whether he thinks the results should be considered valid. And days before election day, Axios and others reported that Trump was about to declare victory before enough votes had been counted to determine a winner.
He implemented that plan and has since worked to alter election results in key states through a series of legal challenges – many of which were dropped or rejected due to a lack of evidence of wrongdoing – and has spread conspiracy theories about electoral fraud that electoral officials hardly ever saw found no evidence at all.
Democrats and democracy experts have categorized this behavior as caustic, arguing that it weakens the American system of government and casts doubt on the country’s electoral process, which will last long after Trump leaves office. The Republican legislature has largely backed the president, saying he should investigate the non-existent election fraud.
And perhaps, to believe the fears of the President’s critics, much of Trump’s grassroots were stimulated by his rhetoric – so much so that several thousand of his followers traveled to Washington DC for a “Million MAGA March” Saturday. They falsely claimed, that the election is not over yet and that the Democrats are trying to steal Trump’s rightful second term.
Trump rewarded these followers with a brief appearance on Saturday morning as he drove by on his way to the Gulf. He later retweeted scenes and videos from the gathering, including those that falsely misrepresented the current number of votes in states like Michigan – which Biden won.
It seems inevitable that Biden will be installed in the White House – he won the election again, states are about to confirm their results, and voters are on track to cast their votes for or against him as their states are prescribe. And, as Vox’s Andrew Prokop explained, even Republican leaders like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said Trump was “100 percent within his right to investigate allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options,” have suggested it Once the electoral college has voted in, the election is settled for them.
“At some point here we will finally find out who has been certified in each of these states, and the electoral college will determine the winner,” McConnell said recently.
But Trump does not seem ready to follow McConnell’s lead, nor does his most ardent supporter, who seem to suspect how the 2020 elections were conducted, which even the assurances of Trump’s own officials don’t seem to calm.
And that’s because they trust Trump and he continues to falsely say that a lot of things were wrong with the election.
Trump uses lies and conspiracy theories to spread doubts in the election process
The president spent part of the weekend promoting a conspiracy theory that machines from Dominion Voting Systems, a company that also makes voting software, were modified to misread ballot papers to ensure a Biden win. It’s a lie spread by QAnon supporters and reinforced by far-right networks that have endorsed the president like the One American News Network (OANN). It was repeated by Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and heavily featured on the President’s Twitter account.
The New York Times notes that conspiracy theory appears to have gained momentum following mistakes made by Dominion machine users in Michigan and Georgia that led to a miscount of a few thousand ballots in the former state and delayed results in the latter. These mistakes were found and quickly corrected, but that did not prevent the President and his allies from falsely claiming that something sinister was happening – in the words of the President, that the race was “the most fraudulent election in history”!
The fact that the president expressed doubts about the election so effectively gave some observers hope that he would be able to convince his supporters that the election was over on Sunday when he – albeit alongside other conspiracy theories – apparently recognized the election first time Biden won the election.
“He won because the election was rigged,” tweeted Trump.
He won because the election was rigged. NO VOTE WATCHES OR OBSERVERS Allowed, Vote Tabulated by Dominion, a privately owned Radical Left company with a bad reputation and bum gear that couldn’t even qualify for Texas (which I won a lot!), Den Fake & Silent Media , & More! https://t.co/Exb3C1mAPg
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 15, 2020
Disinformation about the election aside, many – including at least one White House official reportedly – took the tweet as a concession, and arriving Biden officials were cautiously optimistic about the message, especially given the president’s refusal to launch allow the official transition process.
But Trump followed up that tweet a few hours later with another one who made his intentions clear and wrote, “I’m not admitting anything!”
This tweet was preceded by the promise that “WE WIN!”, A sentiment that was ignored shortly before midnight on Monday and replaced by Trump’s stronger and factually incorrect claim: “I won the election!”. – one that was repeated on Monday morning:
Almost two weeks after the vote was over, Trump’s recent tweets have essentially got the president where he was on election night: denying reality.
On early November 4th, Trump said the Democrats were trying to steal his elections and the Supreme Court would help secure his victory. He then suggested that his legal challenges would help make this happen, but lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Michigan have failed, and it appears that pending cases that remain to be heard will also fail.
The legal way is becoming more and more dubious. Trump is now trying to steal the election by saying that what happened didn’t happen at all and that election officials, election companies and media are lying to the American people.
His claims are in some ways pointless. States are working to certify their results and are due to submit them to the federal government by December 8th. The electoral college plans to vote on December 14th. And Biden’s inauguration is scheduled for January 20th. Nothing Trump says on Twitter can stop time from moving towards these events.
But what he says clearly affects many Americans, from those who marched in Washington on Saturday to those who used rhetoric similar to the president’s to explain to ABCs This Week on Sunday why they don’t believe Biden and the winner is.
If these feelings take root permanently, Trump’s disinformation campaign would not have been ineffective at all. Instead, it means that one of his final acts as President was to create an alternate reality that many of his supporters live in, where the 2020 elections were illegally stolen from him and where elections cannot be trusted to be free and unreliable are fair.
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