On his radio show yesterday, Fox News' Mark Levin told his listeners that former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe is "preparing to try and steal" next week's gubernatorial race in Virginia. The host added on his program, "This is very important to understand. So they're going to try and steal the election."
In reality, no one is actually trying to steal the election, though as Politico reported, such rhetoric is quickly becoming more common.
Former President Donald Trump and some of his supporters have already begun warning of voter fraud and laying the groundwork to question the veracity of Virginia's elections after undermining faith in the 2020 results with a series of baseless claims. "The Virginia governor's election — you better watch it," Trump said in an interview with John Fredericks, a popular conservative radio host in the state, in September. "You have a close race in Virginia, but it's not close if they cheat."
More recently, Virginia state Sen. Amanda Chase, a prominent Republican proponent of election conspiracy theories and a campaign surrogate with whom Youngkin has campaigned, also claimed she's aware of Democratic efforts to try to "steal" the gubernatorial race.
All of this is obviously misguided, but more importantly, it's also emblematic of the profoundly unhealthy point in which Americans find themselves.
There's a very good chance that Glenn Youngkin, the GOP nominee in the commonwealth, will win on Tuesday and Virginia will take a sharp turn to the right after years of progressive governance. But since it's at least possible that Republicans might fall short, some in the party are doing exactly what Donald Trump did ahead of his own 2020 defeat: GOP conspiracy theorists are making excuses by throwing around baseless fraud allegations.
In other words, if Youngkin loses, some in his party will tell Virginia's electorate that his defeat was the result of systemic wrongdoing that exists only in conspiracy theorists' minds.
They'll peddle these claims, of course, because in some Republican circles, election results they dislike must be delegitimized. The goal is to convince voters on the right that elections themselves are suspect because Democrats occasionally win.
Ideally, Youngkin would take steps to denounce such efforts, but as the editorial board of The Washington Post explained last week, the GOP nominee is doing largely the opposite:
Next month's elections in Virginia coincide with a singular moment in U.S. history, in which one major party has turned against accepting the results of free and fair elections. That momentous juncture poses a character test for all Republicans, which turns on this question: Will they stand against the assault on democracy's most basic precept, or will they tolerate it? Glenn Youngkin, the GOP gubernatorial nominee in Virginia, has failed that character test.
The Post's editors made the compelling case that Youngkin has "indulged and encouraged" proponents of his party's Big Lie: "Few stances could be more subversive to the American experiment or more corrosive to our pluralistic system's fundamental legitimacy. Few shine so bright a spotlight on a candidate's courage and commitment to the Constitution, or lack thereof."
The editorial board concluded, "[A]t a moment when democracy itself is under assault, Mr. Youngkin chose to dignify a fundamental fiction that is subverting our system, rather than stand up squarely for the truth. In so doing, he proved himself unfit for office."