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A voter drops an election ballot off at the Pitkin County Administration box in Aspen, Colorado, on Nov. 6, 2018.Anna Stonehouse / The Aspen Times via AP

Some Republicans start following Trump's lead following defeats

The more Republicans follow Trump's lead in response to election defeats, the more it undermines public confidence in the U.S. electoral system.


After Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's Democratic presidential campaign fell short, he focused his energies on winning a third term as governor. Those efforts paid off: Inslee was re-elected with nearly 57% of the vote, the strongest showing he's had in any of his statewide victories.

But as the Seattle Times reported over the weekend, the Republican who lost Washington's gubernatorial race is taking aim at the election results he doesn't like, echoing a certain someone in his political party.

Loren Culp lost Washington's gubernatorial race by more than 545,000 votes, but he's not conceding — and says he's not going away. Culp, the Republican who took 43% of the statewide vote against Gov. Jay Inslee, has taken a page from President Donald Trump's playbook by attempting to sow doubts about the election results and lobbing unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud.

At face value, this might not seem especially notable. Losing candidates sometimes look for ways to remain relevant after a defeat, so perhaps this Washington Republican is engaged in these tactics to get attention.

But the larger concern is that we may be witnessing the start of a new normal: Donald Trump has decided election results he doesn't like need not be respected, and others in his party may be a little too eager to follow his lead.

In Maryland's 7th congressional district, Republican Kimberly Klacik lost her race by more than 40 points. She's nevertheless alleging that the race was "stolen" from her, in part because of a scheme involving Maryland's Republican governor, Larry Hogan.

The Atlantic's Anne Applebaum asked, "What if every losing Republican behaves the same way from now on? Once the 'respect the voters' norm is gone, then it's gone for good."

I'm reluctant to overstate matters. There were several hundred congressional and gubernatorial races in 2020, and in the vast majority of instances, the losing candidates didn't try to explain their defeats by pointing to conspiracies. It's entirely possible the Trump-esque examples will soon be forgotten as unfortunate and isolated incidents.

But as the president's autocratic tantrum continues, there's a threat that some, especially within the far-right GOP base, will come to expect efforts like these. Losing candidates will have to prove their "toughness" by claiming election irregularities and pointing to "fraud," even when there's no evidence.

The more this happens, the more it undermines public confidence in the U.S. electoral system.