Because it is socially unacceptable to explicitly call for voter suppression, Republicans use the rhetoric of “voter fraud” instead.
As expected, Trump’s CPAC speech doubled down on the big lie that the election was stolen from him — and then some. Aaron Rupar tallies up at least five different ways he told this lie, which drew at least one standing ovation.
But embedded in that big lie was an unintentional truth. It was revealed when Trump uncorked an extended riff suggesting that the GOP’s future prospects depend on what he called “election reforms.”
“Another one of the most urgent issues facing the Republican Party is that of ensuring fair, honest, and secure elections,” Trump declared. “We must pass comprehensive election reforms, and we must do it now.”
By “election reforms,” Trump actually meant a redoubled commitment to making it harder to vote. We know this, because he said so: He went on to declare that Democrats had used the “China virus” as an “excuse” to make vote-by-mail easier.
“We can never let that happen again,” Trump said. “We need election integrity and election reform immediately. Republicans should be the party of honest elections.”
This is absurd (GOP legislatures also facilitated vote-by-mail) and full of lies (the election’s legitimacy was upheld in dozens of courts). But that doesn’t change its underlying meaning, which is unambiguous: Trump lost because voting wasn’t hard enough; Republicans must push as forcefully as possible in the opposite direction; this is “urgent.”
The rub of the matter is that all across the country, Republicans are acting on exactly this reading of the situation.
In a good piece, the New York Times reports on the extraordinary new barrage of efforts by GOP lawmakers to make voting harder in many states. These include sharp cuts to early voting; restricting vote-by-mail in numerous ways; and in the most extreme cases, proposals to allow state legislatures to appoint presidential electors in defiance of the state’s popular vote.
Meanwhile, in numerous states, Republicans are gearing up to use this year’s decennial redrawing of electoral maps to entrench extreme gerrymanders. They have openly declared that this will help them win back the House in 2022, and some experts believe redrawn maps might ensure that this happens even if Democrats again win the national House popular vote.
Crucially, these efforts are increasingly animated by the same lie about the election’s illegitimacy that Trump told at CPAC. As the Times reports, they are “led by loyalists who embrace” Trump’s “baseless claims of a stolen election.”
In other words, Republicans are widely acting upon this lie as their excuse to continue entrenching anti-democratic and anti-majoritarian advantages wherever possible.