Joining Trump's war on voting was a test of loyalty for the GOP. Will it keep up the fight?

·6 min read

They stood by him when he made fun of John McCain for being a prisoner of war. They rallied around him when he was caught on tape boasting about groping women. They had his back during impeachment and through a long list of half-forgotten scandals and outrages. And in President Trump’s hour of need, his loyalists joined a frantic effort to prove that the election was being stolen from him.

It didn’t go all that well.

On Thursday evening, Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show to promote misinformation and baseless conspiracy theories about Republican poll watchers being blocked from observing ballot counting in Philadelphia.

Sens. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Tim Scott, R-S.C., have made similarly misleading statements on Twitter and Fox News about the vote-counting process in various states.

But some have taken a more aggressive approach, like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who went on Laura Ingraham’s show on Fox News Thursday to declare that “President Trump won this election,” urging supporters to fight back against unspecified wrongdoing.

“Do not be silent about this. We cannot allow this to happen before our very eyes,” he said, tweeting later that “Republicans will not be silenced.”

On Saturday morning, after the networks, including Fox News, and news organizations called the election for Joe Biden, Trump issued a statement vowing to fight on. How many of his allies will go along with him wasn’t immediately clear, though a number of right wing media personalities quickly spoke out to oppose Biden's victory.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)  speaks with  Committee chairman U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) during the fourth day of the Supreme Court confirmation hearing for nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on October 15, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Bill O'Leary-Pool/Getty Images)
Sen. Ted Cruz speaks with Sen. Lindsey Graham in October. (Bill O'Leary-Pool/Getty Images)

The evidence cited by Trump supporters was, to put it generously, anecdotal. In Nevada, the Trump campaign called a press conference to introduce “a Clark County voter in Nevada, [who] says her mail-in ballot was stolen so she was denied access to vote in person.”

A tweet with the hashtag #StoptheSteal said that was only half the story: “She said someone also took her roommate’s ballot.”

James O’Keefe, notorious for his gotcha Project Veritas videos, posted a “Breaking” alert about “a 2nd Pennsylvania @USPS whistleblower [who] claims Postmaster ordered late ballots picked up and separated; believes they will be BACKDATED to 11/03/20.”

“Believes” is the key word there, obviously. In fact, Pennsylvania officials announced they would segregate ballots that arrived after Election Day, as a precaution in case a court later disallowed them.

A frustrated Lou Dobbs, one of Trump’s most vehement backers on Fox Business, complained that the party leaders were shrinking from the battle. “The president is facing a fight that increasingly looks like a lone wolf to deal with all of this,” he said, berating campaign official Ric Grenell in a contentious interview. “Where the hell are Mitch McConnell? Where is the Republican Party? Where is Ronna McDaniel? Why isn’t the Republican Party en masse demanding the Department of Justice move in here?”

McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, has since fallen in line, giving a number of press conferences and calling to Dobbs’s Fox show to echo unsubstantiated allegations of “irregularities” in the ballot-counting process in several key states.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., gives his assessment of the GOP's performance in the election as he speaks with reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo)
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy gives his assessment of the GOP's performance in the election as he speaks with reporters at the Capitol on Nov. 4. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

There were dark warnings from Trump’s inner circle about the consequences for Republicans who failed to join the call by his eldest son, Donald Jr., for a “total war over this election.”

“The total lack of action from virtually all of the “2024 GOP hopefuls” is pretty amazing,” Don Jr. tweeted. “They have a perfect platform to show that they’re willing & able to fight but they will cower to the media mob instead. Don’t worry @realDonaldTrump will fight & they can watch as usual!”

Matt Schlapp, who runs the annual CPAC conference where rising Republican stars vie for attention from influential conservatives, issued his own threat against backsliders, tweeting, “Dear GOP Republicans: if you ever want to be featured @cpac or grow this movement get out now and defend the counting of every compliant ballot w full transparency. We need every one of you.”

But some seem to be driven simply by their own conspiratorial views and devotion to the president. Louisiana Republican Rep. Clay Higgins posted a video on YouTube, in the self-consciously ominous style of “The Blair Witch Project,” claiming to have “inside data” proving that the presidential election “is compromised.”

Trump, an “anointed blessing to our nation,” won the election, said Higgins, who was reelected to the House of Representatives for a third term on Tuesday.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican nominee for Georgia's 14th Congressional District, speaks during a campaign event with Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., who is running for reelection, at J.D.s on the Lake in Canton, Ga., on Saturday, October 31, 2020. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican nominee for Georgia's 14th Congressional District, speaks during a campaign event with Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., on Oct. 31. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Among the first, and most aggressive, elected officials to jump on Trump’s “fraud” bandwagon has yet to be sworn into office. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a supporter of the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory, was elected on Tuesday to represent Georgia’s 14th Congressional District in the House of Representatives and immediately commenced to use her social media feeds to accuse “the Democrats, Big Tech and the Fake News Media” of trying to steal the election. Several of her posts about the election have been blocked by Twitter for containing misleading content, which in turn have only fueled her own claims of “censorship” by social media platforms, which she’s been making since the spring, when Facebook removed a campaign ad that showed her wielding a rifle and warning “antifa terrorists” to “stay the hell out of northwest Georgia."

Greene has not only taken it upon herself to lead the charge against the supposed coup against the president, she has also attacked other Republicans, such as Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw for not taking an aggressive enough stance against what may be Trump’s inevitable defeat. In a tweet Friday, Crenshaw echoed the party message about “irregularities” and lack of “transparency” in the electoral process. Still, he wrote, “If Trump loses, he loses. It was never an impossible outcome and we must accept the final results when it is over.”

“The time to STAND UP for @realDonaldTrump is RIGHT NOW! Republicans can’t back down,” Greene tweeted in response to Crenshaw. “This loser mindset is how the Democrats win.”


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