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Voters fill out their ballots at a school gymnasium on Election Day in Lansing, Mich.
Voters fill out their ballots at a school gymnasium on Election Day in Lansing, Mich.John Moore / Getty Images

GOP points to misled Americans to bolster bogus allegations

The GOP is simultaneously misleading the public about the election and marveling at the percentage of Americans who lack confidence in the election results

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Over the weekend, Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) sat down with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos and peddled some deeply unfortunate election nonsense, including discredited claims that he's seen boxes of Georgia ballots "coming out from underneath the table."

But as part of the same interview, the Indiana Republican added that "half of the country" feels "uncertain about what just happened" in the 2020 presidential election.

Braun didn't seem to appreciate the disconnect: he was simultaneously misleading the public about the election and marveling at the percentage of Americans who lack confidence in the election results.

This came to mind yesterday, as Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), after indulging his anti-science instincts during a pandemic, announced plans for a hearing next week on election "irregularities." The far-right Republican argued in a press release:

"I am mindful that many of the issues that have been raised have been, and will continue to be, appropriately resolved in the courts. But the fact remains that a large percentage of the American public does not view the 2020 election result as legitimate because of apparent irregularities that have not been fully examined."

To the extent that reality matters, there are no "apparent irregularities." Donald Trump, his lawyers, and his allies have had more than a month to produce any kind of evidence to substantiate these claims, and they've failed spectacularly, both in the courts and in the public discourse.

But more to the point, note that Johnson feels justified in pursuing the matter because so much of the public questions the legitimacy of the election results.

What we're left with is an example of mendacious partisans eating their own tail:

1. Republican officials launch an aggressive effort to undermine public confidence in their own country's electoral system.

2. Far-right voters, discouraged after a defeat, believe transparent lies.

3. Republican officials insist their lies have merit because of the number of far-right voters who believe them.

This is mind-numbing, but more importantly, it's not a coherent approach to a political debate.

As Jamison Foser put it yesterday, "A political party that spends a month falsely encouraging its supporters to see an election result as illegitimate cannot honestly use the resultant concern about illegitimacy to overturn the election, or to change election rules going forward."

Quite right. If Ron Johnson and his allies have evidence of election "irregularities," they are, of course, welcome to present that evidence and invite scrutiny. But for now, Republicans seem a bit too eager to lie to the public, and then use the resulting public confusion as the basis to looking for "irregularities" they can't otherwise find.