Win or lose, Trump is creating a “stab in the back lie” for his followers
Lacking any concrete evidence of widespread, massive voter fraud that would point to Donald Trump having been robbed of the election, he and his allies have continued to not concede defeat. Refusing to admit defeat after a lawful, fair election smacks of both immaturity and a serious misunderstanding of what a democracy looks like. It also is exactly the move that dictators use when they have lost popular support. They claim victory in face of evidence to the contrary and expect other to be complicit in their lies.
The mere questioning of a fair election and refusal to commit to a peaceful transition of power is dangerous enough on its face, but with Fox News commentators and right wing social media continuing to layer on the lies for Trump and his backers, they are creating a beast that will outlive this president, whether he leaves the White House in January or sometime in the future. Trump has been “stabbed in the back” by defeatists who refused to acknowledge his victory when he needed it the most. Trump will not be the first leader to use such a lie to his advantage.
When Germany capitulated at the end of World War I, those at the Home Front in Germany were shocked at their defeat. The German propaganda machine had kept the folks at home satiated with a steady diet of claims of German victory. When Germany did surrender, it was an unbelievable shock for folks who had heard nothing but WINNING for years. How could Germany be defeated when it was stronger than ever? The German army must have been stabbed in the back by defeatists who weren’t true Germans!
Forget that the Allies had waves of fresh soldiers from the United States and that the German army was overwhelmed on the battlefield and out of recruits. Or that German soldiers were surrendering en masse as they saw the futility of the war and continuing to prop up the existing monarchy. Or that a years long blockade had severely weakened Germany’s ability to produce arms and food. The defeat had to be the fault of someone else.
Right wing parties found an answer that placed the blame for Germany’s defeat in the war. Germany could have won the war if only it hadn’t been for the communists and the Jews who betrayed Germany in its hour of need. The German people had been “stabbed in the back,” they said, by the Jews and Communists, who conspired to defeat Germany. Forget that Jews had served with honor and distinction for Germany during the war, and at a rate disproportionate to their size of the population, it must have been the Jews who were responsible for the defeat.
Now, I know some of you think this is a bit of a stretch. Trump is no Hitler you say. We aren’t that dumb. The problem is we are that dumb. Trump got more votes than he did last time, people looked at the dumpster fire of the last four years, and were like, “Hell yeah! Gimme more!” Currently a significant proportion of the people who voted for Trump believe the election has been stolen from him in spite of widespread evidence to the contrary. They cannot wrap their heads around a world where Trump did not win reelection, because they were promised he would win.
Even if Trump does leave the White House January 20, by not conceding and by spreading lies of election fraud, he is doing irreparable harm to our republic. If a significant proportion of people believe the election was stolen from Trump, if they believe he was robbed, they will need scapegoats to blame. They will otherize their perceived enemies and they have plenty. Democrats, socialists, immigrants, the media, people of color, higher education, Hollywood. It will also give them plenty of reasons to further stretch the rules to their own whims, because in their minds, if Joe Biden has already gotten away with this, we can do whatever we want in order to get ours.
Hitler and others built up the National Socialist Party by voicing the grievances of conservative, working class people, who thought the system was rigged and had been on the receiving end of economic upheavals caused by globalization, war reparations, and inflation. They saw the feuding politicians of the Weimar Republic and thought they were all corrupt, none could be trusted, and the whole lot of them should be thrown out. Sounds a lot like drain the swamp, huh?
For all those aggrieved Germans, the stab in the back lie provided convenient scapegoats for all their problems. After four years of propaganda about German victories, how could they lose except through treachery and sabotage, especially by those on the left and Jews.
Republican voters have been subjected to their own stream of non-stop-propaganda. Four years of Trump’s triumphs, his victories, making America great again. How could Trump do anything else besides win reelection?
And now their propaganda machine is full of stories about how the election was rigged. How it has been stolen. And who is stealing it? The radical left and corrupt officials! The media! The Jews!
Here’s Newt Gingrich on Fox News, talking above a banner that says Joe Biden won, saying that George Soros, that is the Jews, are behind stealing the election.
Ted Cruz said the media doesn’t decide the election, which of course they don’t, the people do, the media just reported on the numbers which all have pointed to a Biden victory. Lindsey Graham has lined up too, saying that if Republicans don’t change the election system, there may never be another Republican elected again. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said they are already planning for another four years of Trump in the White House. The more they act like Trump has won the election, the more they say it, the more they continue the charade the election has been stolen, the further it strengthens them and the Republican Party.
Trump could stay in power through a coup, but even if he does eventually leave the White House of his own will or in a straight jacket, in a padded van to the psych ward of Walter Reed, the lie the election was stolen from him will live on. His followers will have one more grievance, one more excuse to bend the rules, one more reason to not compromise or even talk or listen to the other side. Since they are incapable of reasoning with, to present facts, evidence and science to, they will get lost further down the rabbit hole of QAnon or the stolen election or Obama’s birth certificate.
The lie of the stolen election will get larger and larger, even as it has no basis in reality. Future Republican leaders, or Trump in 2024, will use it to rally their supporters, to egg them on, as an excuse to break whatever shreds of democratic norms are left in our country at that time. And just like Hitler used the lie that Germany had been “stabbed in the back” by communists and Jews, the Republicans will use the excuse that the election was stolen from them to perpetrate whatever sort of atrocities they want.