What occurred on January sixth was the results of years of planning – by the Republican Get together
The horse he rode
Trump spent months of the campaign claiming that "people who have been dead 10 years are still voting". That "millions of illegal immigrants vote". The "Election fraud is very, very common." That wasn't the 2020 campaign. That was Trump in 2016.
As FactCheck.org noted at the time, Trump spent weeks telling his supporters that the election had been rigged. He urged his followers to "monitor the polls" and "watch other communities". In other words, Trump sent his red hat thugs into the black quarters to intimidate voters because he said, "We don't want this election stolen from us. "
"The first thing Trump has to do is keep talking about it."
Election fraud was not an add-on to Trump's campaign. It was a core requirement. Just weeks after going down that golden escalator, Trump claimed that some voters kept voting, with some of them voting "about ten times". Trump was supported by members of his campaign such as Roger Stone. And in August 2020, Stone made the final statement that would shape the future of the Republican Party.
"I think we have widespread electoral fraud, but the first thing Trump has to do is keep talking about it," said Stone. "If there is electoral fraud, that election will be illegal, the winner's election will be illegal, we will have a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience, and the government will no longer be the government."
That was the coup that Trump and Stone prepared for launch in 2016. Only Trump surprised them both with a victory. Even so, Trump's team understood that maintaining the myth of electoral fraud was essential to their future plans. These plans have been to discredit any authority other than its authority. Even on election day 2016, Trump told Fox News that the election had been "rigged" and that there would be "great fraud".
When Hunter reported on Daily Kos, even after his election victory, Trump did not try to convince his supporters that democracy cannot be trusted. The polls were barely closed when Trump claimed there was "serious electoral fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California". As might be expected, it offered no evidence of any of these hat-chosen states.
But it was only part of a larger claim that Trump repeatedly made: So many people had voted illegally, Trump said that the results that showed Hillary Clinton won the referendum were false. "I won the referendum if you subtract the millions of people who voted illegally, "Trump said.
It was a claim that, like the exaggeration of the small crowd at his inauguration, was easy to laugh about as just another example of Trump's thin skin and expansive ego. It was not like that. It was a continuation of a key strategy for the future.
By the time the Republicans reached the 2020 election, they had literally failed to find an official platform. That didn't mean they didn't have an unofficial one, however: using claims of electoral fraud to end an effective democracy. That was the plan. It still is.
Lack of evidence is a good thing
Once in the White House, Trump launched an "electoral fraud commission" under the theoretical chairmanship of Mike Pence, but which featured the performance art of former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Why Kobach? As the Brennan Center wrote at the time, Kobach was already "one of the leading proponents of the myth of electoral fraud and the laws that restrict access to voting".
Kobach wasn't alone. The plan to discredit the American elections was also promoted by conservative organizations such as the Heritage Foundation and the Public Interest Legal Foundation. Both groups had been promoting voter identification laws for years. These laws, like the more than 300 “electoral security” laws that are now pending nationwide, had two goals: First, they suppressed democratic voices and made things difficult, especially for people of color. Second, they promoted the misconception that electoral fraud is a major problem.
"Despite considerable evidence of electoral fraud …"
When Trump came, Republicans were deeply immersed in the mythology of electoral fraud. That gave state lawmakers the support they needed to cut off black voters in the short term … and laid the foundation for the long term strategy.
Unlike the 9/11 Commission or the January 6 Commission, which is now being blocked by Republicans in the Senate, Trump's commission was in no way bipartisan. In theory it had some democratic members, but in practice they had no authority. You could not request a subpoena or contribute to a commission statement. In practice, Kobach ran the show, mostly without bothering about the pretext of holding commission meetings.
A year later, Trump quietly dissolved his electoral fraud commission after presenting exactly no evidence of something that does not exist. But in a strategy based entirely on conspiracy theory, a lack of evidence isn't a problem – it's an opportunity.
With the commission closed after not finding anything, Trump's White House sent an announcement saying: "Despite significant evidence of electoral fraud, many states have refused to provide the President's Advisory Committee on Election Integrity with basic information relevant to its investigation." Instead of providing any of this evidence or even naming the states, Trump's statement said he dissolved the commission to avoid, "endless litigation at the taxpayer's expense. “Apparently when there were millions of fraudulent votes it was not worth trying to fix.
In fact, Trump's commission had not even bothered to hold a meeting for months and found nothing worth investigating further. It didn't matter. Finding no evidence was the best possible outcome. Actual problems can be fixed. Finding nothing only allowed Trump – and other Republicans – to argue that there was even more need for legislation that suppressed voices.
And, of course, Trump made sure the commission's outcome was a lesser belief in electoral integrity. Which was the whole point.
Kobach would return to Kansas, where he would make various decisions in support of Republican candidates, act as a reviewer of his own failed campaign, and – in yet another 2020 reference – initiate a slew of lawsuits alleging massive election fraud. All lost in court.
But losing in court doesn't matter. In a conspiracy economy, losing in court – like not finding fraud in a commission – only offers more of what keeps such a system burning: enemies.
The art of using mass media
In the 2020 election, Donald Trump deliberately let over 300,000 Americans die because he believed it would benefit him politically. It was easy to see the everyday fools and moan about the false claims, misleading statements and lies. It was a little harder to see that Trump had deliberately abandoned plans for a national test and case management system, especially because he believed the deaths would mostly fall in blue states, which not only lowered the number of voters, but also caused problems for democratic officials created. So he made deliberate mistakes and allowed deliberate deaths for a very deliberate purpose.
But even in the middle of the pandemic, Trump did not drop his core topic. He could not. After all, the claim that democracy is failing is the only lever Republicans have to carry out their preemptive strike against democracy. For a party with a whole platform that consists of staying in power regardless of the cost, anything that disrupts the conduct of the democratic process is a good thing.
"This highly effective disinformation campaign … was an elite-driven, mass media-led process."
If the pandemic didn't change strategy, it still affected tactics. Looking at the impact of COVID-19 on voting, Republicans went all in to attack mail voting. Over a month before the election, Harvard published a detailed study showing how Republicans at all levels had partnered with right-wing media and conservative institutions to build on an issue where postal voting was inherently open to fraud.
This study found how effective the Republican strategy was in convincing its own voters. Half of all Republicans believed that "electoral fraud is a major concern of expanded mail-in voting during the pandemic."
This belief was promoted by what researchers referred to as a "disinformation campaign," which led to widespread acceptance of a false belief. The study showed that, contrary to what has been reported in many traditional media outlets, disinformation did not bubble out of social media. Instead, a consistent message was broadcast through highly standardized channels, with the center of that network being Trump's Campaign and Fox News – which were often very coordinated to get the same message out and work together to reinforce unsupported claims.
In fact, the study showed that by repeating Trump's false claims, other media outlets actually helped spread the lies rather than restoring trust in the system. “Our findings here suggest that Donald Trump perfected the art of using mass media to disseminate, and at times reinforce, his disinformation campaign, using three core practices of professional journalism. These three are: elite institutional focus (when the president says it is news); Find headings (if it bleeds, it leads); and balance, neutrality, or the avoidance of appearing on either side. "
Trump saw that he just had to make the claim and it would be covered. Fox News could exaggerate everything it said and reinforce lies. But the people who were supposed to shoot these lies often spent more time spreading them.
A dumpster fire
The suppression of black votes and dwindling confidence in the electoral process are good strategies on a grand scale. Suspicion of mail-in ballots was a more specific target. But to really sell the idea that the election was stolen, Trump had to feed the system with narrative, with details that gave color and clout to the bigger picture.
Researcher Kate Starbird has created a number of detailed posts and informational graphics that show how Trump managed to use what she calls "participatory disinformation". Just like in the Q conspiracy, in which believers feel a sense of accomplishment and superiority when their own guess, idea, or outright quackery is incorporated into the overall scheme of the great skyscraper country, Trump and his supporters could make voter cheating a sport in which the most outrageous claims were given the attention they needed – from supposedly reliable sources – to make them key components of the electoral fraud narrative.
"More than 1,000 postal ballot papers found in a dumpster."
For example, claims that China would "flood America with fake ballot papers" were circulated by Trump supporters, picked up by Trump, repeated endlessly in the media, and even now are driving "auditors" in Maricopa County, Arizona to collect ballots " to consider". Bamboo fibers. “This idea was no coincidence. Trump pushed it forward more than a year and seven months before the election.
In September 2020, a reporter from right-wing branch The Blaze claimed that over 1,000 ballot papers had been found in a California dumpster. These ballots were actually additional ballots that were discarded in a 2018 election. The Blaze didn't report it that way. Trump didn't step it up like that. Other right-wing sources have not repeated this. It got tremendous play and repeated attention from those within the Trump campaign, including Donald Trump Jr.
Claims of finding thousands of discarded ballot papers were repeated in several places during the election. It became a meme that could repeat itself over the back rooms of polling stations, the trash cans in counting systems, or the mysterious postmen working all over the country. At this point, few Trump supporters would likely identify the date or condition originally associated with any of these stories. They just know that it happened. Somewhere. And it was important.
The Blaze's report provided the Trump campaign with one of those thematic notes that could be repeated and adapted to any situation. Claims to rejected ballots only became more common after Trump was lost. Like ballot papers from China, they became something “everyone knows”. Even if it never happened.
The author of this story in The Blaze, Elijah Schaffer was there for the January 6th uprising. He was one of the people who broke into Nancy Pelosi's office.
The lie is all there is
On Friday, Republicans made it clear again that they would not support a commission investigating events relating to January 6, despite Democratic efforts to make that commission bipartisan. It's not because Republicans are disinterested. That's because they already know the answers.
January 6th was not just on that day. It is the result of years of efforts by conservative institutions, Republican politicians and right-wing media to undermine confidence in democracy. Donald Trump didn't build this train, he just jumped on.
The big lie isn't something Republicans are interested in because it's their big lie as well as Trump's. You took care of it. You gave him time and attention. And they have placed their future on the ability to implement the strategy based on that lie.
The purpose of voter suppression laws is to deter people from voting and to convince them that voting is unfair. Both. Win by breaking democracy on election day or win by breaking democracy after election day. It's still a win.
Republicans can only lose if someone throws a gear at the works. Let's say by examining the eve of January 6th so that these events become a one-time disaster rather than a warm-up exercise.