(CNN)In the face of President Donald Trump’s wild and fact-free claims about supposed voter fraud in the 2020 election, congressional Republicans — and other elected GOP leaders — have stood largely silent. And that silence has a price.
Witness two new national polls released on Wednesday that suggest that a majority of self-identified Republicans simply do not believe that President-elect Joe Biden won the 2020 race fair and square.
* Seven in 10 Republicans in a new Monmouth University poll said they believed that Biden only won the election because of “voter fraud.” (Overall, 60% of those surveyed said Biden won “fair and square.”)
* 52% of Republicans in a Reuters-Ipsos national poll said that Trump had “rightfully won” the election while less than 3 in 10 (29%) said Biden had won.
Which, wow. Because, as anyone who has followed the election on any mainstream media outlet knows, there is simply zero evidence of actual voter fraud or malicious machine malfunction anywhere in the country.
The problem is that lots and lots of Trump’s most loyal supporters don’t consume ANY news or information from ANY outlets that are not either the President’s own Twitter feed or TV networks he has wrapped around his finger — One America News Network, Newsmax and, to a slightly lesser extent, Fox News Channel.
And so, the information they are getting on this election comes in the form of misinformation. Trump tweeting about voting machine fraud (not true) or ballots being burned (not true) or Republican poll watchers being thrown out of voting sites (not true).
Trump will not stop. In fact, he is likely to make more and more outrageous claims as it becomes more and more clear to more and more people that he has lost. The firing of a top election security official on Tuesday night who by all accounts did his job extremely effectively, suggests that Trump’s dictatorial instincts are less and less constrained.
Given that reality, it is incumbent upon Republican elected officials to speak up. To say that the outgoing President is simply not telling the truth. That there is absolutely zero evidence of any sort of widespread voter fraud in the just-concluded election. That this President is entitled to his own opinions but not his own facts.
That, uh, hasn’t happened yet. Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt told CNN’s Manu Raju and Ali Zaslav earlier this week that he was not “overly concerned” with Trump’s false claims about voter fraud and repeated insistence that he actually won the election. Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer said that Trump can “say whatever he wants.” Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley said that he was “not concerned about the President saying that he thinks he won the election. I think that’s totally fair game. He can go out and make his argument.”
This laissez-faire attitude is no longer acceptable in the face of data that makes clear that Trump’s misinformation campaign is having its intended effect with Republican base voters. And without pushback from elected Republicans on the information streams that Trump voters watch, we are nearly certain to see a sizable chunk of the country believe that Biden cheated his way into the White House. And therefore that they don’t really need to listen to him or even recognize him as the duly elected president.
This amounts to a direct threat to the peaceful transition of power that all of these Republican elected officials have long touted as the root of our American democracy. Now is the time to put some action behind those words. Because there can’t be a single Republican elected official who can now claim with any credibility that this whole thing will resolve itself in the near future without active intervention on their part.
Trump is poisoning democracy with his baseless claims about the election. And the core of the Republican Party is believing the lies. It’s past time for Republican elected officials to get out of their defensive crouch and tell their base voters that enough is enough.
If they don’t, it’s not clear what the future of GOP will even be. A party that refuses to accept democratic elections that don’t go their way? That’s not how democracy works. Not at all.