The upshot is that election trutherism very much lives on in today’s GOP. A look at Trump’s early 2022 endorsements shows just how intent he is upon making sure it defines the party even more moving forward.
CNN’s Daniel Dale last week wrote a must-read piece on how Trump’s endorsements are clearly aimed at installing loyalists as secretaries of state in key states. This could give them power over the kind of future election disputes that did not go Trump’s way in 2020.
But while Trump has clearly focused on these generally lower-profile races in an altogether conspicuous manner, those are hardly the only races in which he has lined up behind those pushing his extreme and false claims. In fact, it appears to be the overarching philosophy of his endorsement strategy.
Trump so far has endorsed around three dozen candidates for office in 2022, according to Ballotpedia. Many of them are unsurprising endorsements of incumbents. But among the others, virtually every one is aimed at either unseating a Trump critic or installing someone who has promoted some of Trump’s most far-flung false stolen-election claims — sometimes little-known candidates with scant political experience.
Of the 36 endorsements for 2022 Ballotpedia has tracked, 13 are either incumbents or have a personal tie to Trump, like former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders and former Interior secretary Ryan Zinke. Another six are challenging lawmakers who either supported Trump’s impeachment or criticized his false claims.
Among the other 16, virtually every one of them has promoted the bogus stolen-election claims, and three of them even attended the Jan. 6 rally that preceded the Capitol insurrection.
The latter three are Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), who is running for Senate, Wisconsin congressional candidate Derrick Van Orden and Arizona secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem.
Brooks spoke at the event and led the charge in the House to overturn the election results, claiming to this day there exists “massive voter fraud and election theft.” Before attending the Jan. 6 rally, Van Orden said in November, “In my heart of hearts I believe that there was a tremendous amount of voter fraud in this election.” Finchem was even in contact with Jan. 6 rally organizer Ali Alexander, and he tweeted the day of the riot that it’s “what happens when … Congress refuses to acknowledge rampant fraud.”
Others have been instrumental in the actual effort to overturn the election.
Two Michigan candidates Trump has backed — Matthew DePerno for attorney general and Kristina Karamo for secretary of state — have both pushed the bogus claim that voting machines in Antrim County, Mich., changed votes from Trump to President Biden. DePerno even served as a lawyer for a man suing over the claim, while Karamo served as a GOP poll challenger at TCF Center in Detroit. She has falsely claimed, “It has been proven that it was flipping votes from Trump to Biden.”
Among Trump’s other endorsements:
- Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker has promoted fringe, pro-Trump lawyers L. Lin Wood and Sidney Powell, while saying “there is no doubt there is serious Election Fraud!”
- Nevada Senate candidate Adam Laxalt has promoted multiple debunked theories, including about dead people voting and voters illegally casting ballots after moving.
- North Carolina Senate candidate Rep. Ted Budd signed a letter after the election asking the Justice Department to investigate voter fraud and irregularities, including “particularly in the vote counting process.”
- Pennsylvania Senate candidate Sean Parnell was one of two Republicans behind a far-flung and ultimately failed effort to prevent the counting of most mail ballots in that state.
- Alaska Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka, who is challenging Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), listed off a slew of debunked theories about Michigan, while labeling the Antrim County theory, in particular, “credible.”
- Florida House candidate Anna Paulina Luna treated debunked claims about voting machines switching votes as gospel. “The 2020 election is compromised due to this software/ the coding or ‘glitch’ to FLIP votes to Biden,” she said. “We MUST fix this for future elections!”
- Georgia lieutenant governor candidate Burt Jones was stripped of his state legislative chairmanship by current Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R) over his voter-fraud claims.
- And Georgia secretary of state candidate Rep. Jody Hice baselessly claimed as many as 1 in every 10 votes in Georgia was fraudulent.
Just about all of these claims have not only been debunked, but were never serious to begin with. They are the kinds of things most Republicans didn’t touch — even if they didn’t dispute them either. (Those Republicans generally spoke about “irregularities,” instead, or questioned whether expanded mail balloting was legal.)
But these are the kinds of figures Trump wants to lead the party into a new era. And the Republicans who have chosen not to speak up about such claims or to more harshly judge Trump’s promotion of them have paved the way for just such a scenario.