Would you bother voting in an election you thought was hopelessly corrupt? What if it came two months after a presidential election that the opposition had stolen by secretly “switching” votes? What if even the elected Republican leadership of your state had been bought off with foreign communist money?
That’s the question some Trump-supporting voters in Georgia — besieged on all sides by false conspiracy theories about why Donald Trump lost his bid for reelection in the state — are contemplating right now, as two Jan. 5 run-off elections are set to determine the partisan balance in the U.S. Senate.
For Republican officials, who hesitated to push back against Trump’s off-the-walls assertions that the November election was stolen for him, the conspiracy mongering is coming home to roost, with potentially critical impacts on the U.S. Senate. Even the President’s son is feeling the heat.
That is NONSENSE.
IGNORE those people.
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) November 23, 2020
But for hardcore Trump supporters, commentators and influencers still blindly devoted to the President, nothing else matters. To fuel the effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Georgia for Trump, the President and his fringe allies have taken to cannibalizing GOP officials and Republican voters’ faith in the electoral process.
Why won’t Governor @BrianKempGA, the hapless Governor of Georgia, use his emergency powers, which can be easily done, to overrule his obstinate Secretary of State, and do a match of signatures on envelopes. It will be a “goldmine” of fraud, and we will easily WIN the state….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 30, 2020
“I choose not to vote in another fraudulent election with rigged voting machines & fake mail ballots,” Lin Wood, an attorney suing elections officials over wild fraud accusations in Georgia, tweeted Sunday night. By Monday morning, he asserted the January runoff elections “will have to [be] replaced with [a] new down ballot election.”
It’s difficult to tell how widespread the Trump dead-ender phenomenon is. “Anyone who thinks the election is rigged will shy away from polls for the same reason,” Jeffrey Lewis Lazarus, a political science professor at Georgia State University, told TPM.
But while Lazarus said it’s nearly impossible to poll the effect of voters’ doubts about election integrity, he noted some warning signs for the GOP, pointing to an episode over the weekend involving GOP Chair Ronna McDaniel.
At an event in Marietta on Saturday, one Republican voter made a comment to McDaniel referring to evil forces “switching the votes” away from Trump and Pence: “We go there in crazy numbers and they should have won!”
Another person chimed in after him: Why bother expending “money and work, when it’s already decided?” she asked.
“It’s not decided!” McDaniel pleaded.
“How do you know!” the woman shot back.
“There were several people in the audience who were convinced the November election was rigged,” Lazarus said — people who, it appeared, “wanted to vote for Trump on January 5 and wanted to overturn the results of the election.” That’s evidence that at least some Republican voters are buying into the Trump camp’s conspiracy peddling and doubting the validity of the election, he added.
That schism within the party, Lazarus said, could prove additionally problematic for Republicans. A civil war with Republicans like Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on one side and Trump and Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) and David Perdue (R-GA) on the other “has the potential to cause some problems with GOP messaging.”
Wood represents the tip of the conspiracy theory spear: Last week, he and former Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell filed yet another absurd attempt to overturn Georgia’s election results for Trump.
The latest legal complaint restates fever swamp fodder about the voting systems company Dominion, which Powell has asserted was created by communists to corrupt elections, a scheme that has now made its way to the United States.
Biden won Georgia fair and square, as elections officials confirmed with a hand recount, but Powell has disregarded the results, suggesting that Kemp and Raffensperger, both Trump supporters, were bribed by the voting machine company.
But the Powell and Wood are hardly alone: Ali Alexander, the far-right organizer of various “Stop the Steal” protests around the country, including a recent demonstration in Georgia, told the Daily Beast recently that Trump supporters would boycott the runoff unless Perdue and Loeffler called for a special legislative session to investigate the results of the presidential election.
“Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue can either do what we said, because we are their voters, we are their donors, we are their volunteers, or we literally won’t vote,” he said, before characterizing the typical GOP counterargument: “‘Oh, but Ali, then Democrats will take the Senate?’ I would rather an enemy in my face than a traitor behind.”
Raffensperger hasn’t tried to hide his frustration, saying Monday that some “dishonest actors” were “exploiting the emotions of many Trump supporters” and the President himself with misinformation.
NEW: Georgia elections chief Brad Raffensperger: "There are those who are exploiting the emotions of many Trump supporters with fantastic claims, half-truths, misinformation—and frankly, they are misleading the president as well, apparently." https://t.co/EbS7Y9pBmV pic.twitter.com/xK5FHIFQCo
— ABC News (@ABC) November 30, 2020
Just how damaging the misinformation will be to the Republican cause is yet to be seen.
As former Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently, voters “may throw up their hands and say, ‘Why vote?’”