Wednesday, October 27, 2021


A headline from Politico:
A fear grows in Trumpworld: Have we gone too conspiratorial?
What? There are limits to how much paranoia the Trumpers want to induce? The barrel has a bottom?

Apparently it does:
For months, conspiracies about the 2020 election being stolen from Donald Trump have fueled Republican efforts nationwide to rewrite election laws. But now, some GOP operatives and Trump World luminaries are worried that the truly wild conspiracists may be mucking it all up.

Hogan Gidley, one of Donald Trump’s top lieutenants, took a subtle dig at some Trump allies and put some distance between their efforts and his group’s work on election reform. Other Republicans have expressed fears that talk of “audits,” machine rigging and foreign plots will depress voter turnout and discourage some people from seeking office.

“People are going to do whatever they want, and I can’t answer for any of those other groups,” said Gidley when asked about misinformation and efforts by Mike Lindell and others to overturn the 2020 election.

“But as it relates to election integrity and voter protection, it is vital that we help states get these simple, popular security mechanisms in place to ensure honesty for the 2022 midterms,” added Gidley, who is heading the Center for Election Integrity at the Trump-aligned America First Policy Institute....

"When my fellow Republicans are focused on the wrong things, when they’re focused on conspiracies about secret algorithms on voting machines, and they’re focused on ideas there is a group of ballots printed in China snuck in the back door of the board of elections — all those things are easily disproven," said Republican Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who is running for re-election next May. “But a focus on those things distracts from what I consider the real concerns about election integrity.”
So some Republicans -- or at least these two -- believe that paranoia comes in two varieties: the bad kind (which says that pro-Biden saboteurs used fake Chinese bamboo ballots and military satellites based in Italy to steal the 2020 election) and the good kind (which says that we're always just one round of Republican voter suppression laws away from perfectly fair elections).

But that's the problem: If you've been imbibing Republican propaganda since the days when ACORN was hounded out of existence for allegedly engaging in mass voter fraud and the Bush administration was firing U.S. attorneys who wouldn't concoct cases of electoral cheating, you're never going to buy the argument that this time the GOP has those conniving Democrats totally under control. Especially when you believe that Democratic fraud was worse than ever in 2020.

If Gidley and LaRose want Republican voters to stop believing in the bad conspiracy theories, maybe they should try to persuade their fellow Republicans in state legislatures and governors' mansions to, y'know, stop passing voter suppression bills altogether. Maybe it would help if every Republican who wants to be seen as "responsible" would simply say, "You know what? The election in 2020 was honest. Joe Biden won, and so did a lot of Republicans." That's unthinkable, of course. But as long as all Republicans say that there are "election integrity" problems, and some Republicans say there are massive problems, GOP voters will continue to be paranoid.

Gidley and LaRose are presumably worried that fears of fraud will prevent the Republican base from turning out in 2022 and 2024. I wish they had reason to worry, but as Philip Bump pointed out recently, the numbers suggest that Republicans turn out whether or not they think elections are riddled with fraud. And they plan to do so in the future, as the Politico story makes clear:
A POLITICO/Morning Consult poll released Wednesday ... offers some measure of relief for Republicans worried that voters won’t turn out amid talk of vast election conspiracies. A full 92 percent of self-identified Republican voters said that they planned to vote in the 2022 elections, with just 4 percent saying they did not plan to. By contrast, just 70 percent of self-identified Democrats said they planned to vote, and 29 percent said they did not plan to.
That should scare Democrats, not Republicans.

But maybe Gidley and LaRose know what they're doing. Maybe they're engaging in the standard GOP rope-a-dope, in which some Republicans dish out red meat in supersized portions to inspire the angry base while other Republicans pretend to be "reasonable" in an effort to reassure moderate swing voters.

Regrettably, this tends to work. If it works this time, it means they've succeeded in turning "Our elections were rife with fraud through 2020, but we've fixed all that now" into the moderate position. That seems to be where we're headed.

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