On one of Fox News’ Sunday morning shows, it was host Maria Bartiromo who pushed the premise that Democrats “are willing to do anything to stay in power” and asked seditionist House leader Kevin McCarthy if “enough has been done,” in changing the voting laws of 18 states based on Trump-fueled hoax claims, “for a free and fair election” in the 2022 midterms?
It is a frame that Fox News has been pushing: Not just the last election, but the next elections are also under threat due to unspecified, invisible supposed fraud unfairly cheating Dear Leader’s party and minions out of their rightful places in office. That each of the Giuliani-pushed, Powell-pushed, Trump-pushed claims of fraud have been proven hoaxes at this point makes no difference to Bartiromo or the others. The goal of Bartiromo and other insurrection-backing Fox pundits is to use the false claims to create an overriding belief, in their audience, that the next elections will either be won by Republicans or will be “illegitimate.” The Big Lie is not meant to be proven. It is a weapon. It is the knife that top members of new Republicanism will threaten each new election with, if the nation dares vote against them.
We can see how important the election hoax is to Republican Party strategy in the absolute unwillingness of Republican leaders to concede its falseness. What Trump and his top Republican allies claimed, in their attempt to overthrow the government outright, was all a hoax. It was all disproven early on, in every courtroom and investigation. It was made-up nonsense—an anti-democratic, anti-American propaganda effort and nothing more.
House Republican Steve Scalise was, however, the second member of House Republican leadership to stand by the hoax this Sunday. The states did not follow their own “rules,” insists Scalise. This is false; again, the courts weighed in on every issue Scalise is abstractly invoking, and each state certified the validity of their election according to the same Constitution the man is attempting to dress his hoax in. His argument is substanceless; his only goal is to leave Republican viewers with the general sense that our democratic elections are or might be invalid, as strategy.
The man is backing a seditious, anti-American hoax. Whether he is doing so out of cowardice, because he is quivering over the thought of Trump publicly criticizing him if he does not toe the hoax line, or truly believes the hoax is irrelevant. He is an enemy of democracy either way.
The Big Lie is speeding up, not slowing down. Donald Trump held a Saturday rally in which he regaled his followers with lie after lie after lie claiming his loss was the result of “election fraud.” The party, from Fox News to McCarthy to Scalise to Trump, is relentless in reminding their base of the supposedly “stolen” election that drove their incompetent leader from power, and relentless in suggesting, without evidence, that future elections will be stolen from them unless the base rises to take drastic action.
Trump did not scream into a void, on Saturday. He was on an Iowa stage with Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds. He was there with ex-acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, and with the head of the Iowa Republican Party. These were the voices partnering with Trump as he yet again promoted a deadly and traitorous hoax.
Trump made a point of endorsing Grassley, who for a brief moment after running from the insurrection crowd had a few harsh words for Trump, for reelection. And Grassley, in turn, cowed utterly.
“If I didn’t accept the endorsement of a person that’s got 91 percent of the Republican voters in Iowa, I wouldn’t be too smart,” Grassley told the crowd. Grassley returned the favor even more explicitly, taking to Newsmax to erase whatever words of courage he once had and fall, humiliated and slovenly, to Trump’s defense.
There will almost certainly be another insurrection. It may be in one of the state capitols, rather than inside the U.S. Capitol itself. It may again be violent, or it may consist of a state’s Republican lawmakers simply nullifying an election outright with claims no more substantive than Rudy Giuliani’s seditionist hoaxes. Everything Republican leaders are doing, from new election laws to the drumbeat of “fraud” rhetoric clogging the Fox News arteries, has the toppling of elections themselves as necessary end point.
There is no point to Steve Scalise continuing to make fraudulent claims defending the hoax unless the party finds it useful or necessary for that hoax to continue. There is no point in Grassley attempting to redeem Trump after a violent coup unless “violent coup” is a tool the party wishes to keep in its arsenal.
It is not cowardice. Fox News, other conservative “news” outlets, top party leaders, top House and Senate leaders are all loudly screaming the new Republican game plan for the next elections. They are going to claim victory if they win, and claim fraud if they lose, and the party is purging state parties of each state official who did not go along willingly and aggressively with the Big Lie last time around. Not only do they intend to use the Big Lie again—they are taking all possible steps to ensure that this time, they will be able to genuinely nullify elections by removing the obstacles that previously appeared.
This is a tremendously dangerous movement, and current press conventions are to sluggish and encrusted to treat it with even a quarter of the alarm it deserves. There will be another attempt to nullify our constitutional elections, and the Republican Party is taking each systemic step necessary to do so.