The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion We’re trapped in a doom loop of Trumpian circular logic

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Donald Trump has found a new way to pretend the election was stolen from him. According to a remarkable report in The Post, he’s increasingly focused on a hand recount now underway of 2.1 million ballots in Arizona’s most populous county, to the point where he’s grown “fixated.”

This underscores an unpleasant truism we must all reckon with: This is never going to end. Trump will continue to insist the election’s outcome was illegitimate forever.

And Republican officials will continue feeding this lunacy, not necessarily by flatly agreeing that the election was stolen, but rather by murmuring that maybe Republican voters have a point in “lacking confidence” in the election’s outcome and, by extension, in our political system.

Which means it’s time more Republicans are asked directly: If GOP voters lack confidence in the election and in our electoral system, isn’t that because Trump and Republicans told them that they should lack confidence in them?

Take the situation in Arizona. Amazingly, the GOP-controlled state Senate has turned ballots and voting equipment over to a private contractor whose chief executive has promoted nonsense about fraud in the election.

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How are Republicans justifying this? You guessed it: By claiming GOP voters lack confidence in the outcome and need their confidence restored. As Karen Fann, the top Republican in the Arizona Senate, put it:

“When you’ve got half of the people who do not trust the electoral system anymore, rightly or wrongly, and they have questions, who is responsible for answering these questions?” Fann said Tuesday on KTAR News in Arizona. “This has been the sole thing, to get answers, so that if we have any problems, we can fix them.”

Isn’t that nice? Arizona Republicans just want to identify problems in the system and fix them. How saintly of them. Can’t you just see their halos glinting in the sun?

This is madness. It is exactly this sort of thing that continues to feed this “lack of confidence.” Don’t take my word for it: The Republican chief operating officer for the secretary of state in Georgia says this Arizona recount might not even be legal, and notes that, at a minimum, it will undermine confidence in future elections as well.

Of course, for Trump, that’s a feature, not a bug:

Ensconced at his private club in Florida, Trump asks aides for updates about the process multiple times a day, advisers said, expressing particular interest in the use of UV lights to scrutinize Maricopa’s ballots.

Here’s the thing: Every single Republican claiming that continuing to investigate fictional fraud claims is only about restoring voter confidence in our system is lying, and every one of them knows it.

Yet Republicans making this claim are almost never interrogated seriously about it. This has to change.

Fortunately, Politico caught up with a Republican lawmaker and did press on this point. Sen. Cynthia M. Lummis of Wyoming voted against certifying some of President Biden’s electors on Jan. 6. How does she justify this?

Say it with me this time: Because Republican voters lacked confidence in the outcome. As Lummis told Politico: “When 40 percent of the American people think an election was massively fraudulent, we’ve got a problem.”

Yes, a problem of your party’s creation! Politico’s Eugene Daniels then asked her about this niggling little detail:

I pressed Lummis on that point; that Trump’s false claims of mass voter fraud were the reasons his supporters believed that.
“Well, it probably was an overreaction,” Lummis added. “I do not believe that the fraud, that did occur, would have changed the election.”

See the problem here? Lummis does admit there’s no actual basis for saying there was fraud that would have made a difference.

But she continues falsely saying there was some fraud, and she continues to justify her Jan. 6 vote casting doubt on the results by claiming she’s representing her constituents’ doubts. Yet doing this, of course, only continues feeding those very same doubts.

Of course, we all know why Republicans are really playing this game. The claim that voters “lack confidence” in the results is widely being used to explain why Republicans must pursue more restrictions on voting all over the country — supposedly to restore that confidence.

But this is a justification, not a reason. And it’s a self-reinforcing one. As long as Republicans continue to believe voter suppression is in their interests, they will continue justifying it with this “confidence” canard. This doom loop of circular logic will continue, and Trump will keep feeding it.

We don’t have to allow that. Republicans should be pressed on this mercilessly, with an eye toward breaking that doom loop. This nonsense just has to end.

Read more:

Greg Sargent: The Big Lie has gotten so bad that even some Republicans are running from it

The Post’s View: Arizona Republicans’ desperate crusade to find nonexistent voter fraud

Brian Klaas: Republicans are undermining American democracy. Here’s how it could backfire on them.

Colbert I. King: The media’s horse-race narratives are covering up the big issue of voter suppression

Max Boot: The American right is becoming completely untethered from reality