Since Election Day, Trump’s stretch goal has been a second term in office: unlikely, but, hey, who knows? The immediate and attainable goal, on the other hand, is simpler. Trump wants to be able to spend the rest of his days insisting that he didn’t lose the 2020 election. He wants to march around Mar-a-Lago and have people nod as he grumps that President-elect Joe Biden committed unidentified crimes that denied him a second term in office.
That second goal has already been obtained.
Monmouth University has been tracking confidence in the 2020 election for months. In a poll released Wednesday, the pollsters asked Americans whether they were confident that the presidential race was executed fairly and accurately. Most people said it was — but three-quarters of Republicans and Trump voters said that it wasn’t.
What’s interesting is that the percentage of people who expressed confidence that the election had been conducted fairly and the percentage who said it hadn’t been didn’t deviate much from what people said at the end of September. Then, 60 percent said they were very confident or somewhat confident it would be conducted fairly, the same percentage who now say they’re confident that it was.
But there were huge shifts by party and among those who expressed a great deal of confidence or cynicism about the outcome. The percentage of respondents saying they were very confident in the outcome was 20 points higher than the percentage who in September said they were very confident it would be. The percentage who expressed absolutely no confidence in its fairness rose 17 percent.
That was largely because Democrats and independents were more likely to express confidence after the election ended, while confidence among Republicans — most of whom were confident in September about how the election would be conducted — suddenly expressed broad discontent.
Asked whether there was enough information available to know who won, a majority of those polled said there was. But the vast majority of Republicans and Trump voters said that more information was needed, though it’s not clear what information that might be.
To be very clear: Nearly every vote has been counted in states that will determine the outcome of the race, and there is no serious question that Biden won. But, again, this is not the story that Trump wants to be able to tell while teeing off at Bedminster.
It’s likely that those with whom he’s playing will be sympathetic to his complaints about the election. Echoing a poll from the Economist and YouGov last week, most Republicans and Trump voters say that Biden won the election because of fraud.
This is obviously false, given the complete dearth of evidence presented by Trump’s campaign. There has been a wide range of allegations made but almost no actual demonstrated fraud, and certainly not enough to overturn the election results in enough places to grant Trump a second term in office beginning January.
But that’s the stretch goal, right? Trump clearly wants to try to rip victory away from Biden, but it’s also clear that he’ll accept gutting confidence in the election results as a consolation.
On that measure, he has been successful. His effort to retain power and save face has unquestionably done enormous short-term damage to the democratic system. Avoiding such damage, though, has never been one of his political goals.