More than 100 Republican nominees for statewide office or Congress this year have falsely claimed that election fraud helped defeat Donald Trump in 2020. Almost 150 members of Congress — more than half of the Republicans serving there — went so far as to vote to overturn the 2020 election result.
These claims of election fraud have become the mainstream Republican position. In some places, winning a nomination virtually requires making such statements. In other places, the claims appear to carry little political cost, at least in the primaries. And very few elected Republicans have been willing to denounce the falsehoods.
Given the prominence of the issue, it’s jarring to see how little effort its proponents have put into making an argument on behalf of their claims. They have offered no good evidence, because there is not any. They have also failed to offer even a logically consistent argument. Consider:
If anything, the rare examples of cheating from 2020 tend to involve Trump supporters. Prosecutors charged three registered Republicans living at The Villages, a Florida retirement community, with voting more than once in the presidential election. One of them has since pleaded guilty: he both voted in Florida and cast an absentee ballot in Michigan.
Trump and his allies have never explained how other Republicans could have done so well if fraud were widespread. In the 2020 House elections, Republicans gained 14 seats. In the Senate, Democrats did win a 50-50 split, but the party lost races in Maine, Montana and North Carolina that it had hoped to win. In the 2021 elections, Republicans did well again, winning the governor’s race in Virginia. It’s hardly a picture consistent with Democratic election rigging.
During the 2022 primaries, most Republican candidates have accepted the results without claiming fraud. That’s been true even of candidates who lost their races, as my colleagues Reid Epstein and Nick Corasaniti have reported. Examples include Representative Madison Cawthorn in North Carolina; Representative Mo Brooks in the Senate primary in Alabama; and two Trump-backed candidates in Georgia. When Trump supporters lose to other Republicans, they generally accept defeat.
Loyalty, not logic
Of course, the claims of voter fraud are not going away. If Trump runs again, he will probably allege cheating in any election that he loses. At least some other Republicans now seem likely to do the same, perhaps in response to close or unexpected losses in 2022.
But the lack of any substantive argument to back up these claims suggests that even some of the people making them may not believe them. The claims have instead become a way for many Republicans to show loyalty to their party and to signal that they consider Democrats to be inherently illegitimate holders of power.
Sometimes, these signals are tinged with racism, as Brandon Tensley of CNN has noted: The fraud claims often involve cities with heavily Black or Latino populations, like Detroit, Philadelphia and Milwaukee. Rudy Giuliani, for example, alleged — without any evidence — that residents of Camden, N.J. (roughly 90 percent of whom are Black or Latino) illegally vote in Philadelphia (which, unlike Camden, is in a swing state). In Alabama, Brooks has said fraud occurs largely in Birmingham and other heavily Democratic cities.
The spread of such lies has left many historians and political scientists anxious about the future of American democracy. There is no shortage of subjects on which Democrats and Republicans can reasonably — even passionately or angrily — disagree: How much should the country restrict abortion? What about gun use? Or immigration? How high should taxes or government benefits be?
All those issues are valid matters of debate in a democracy. When one side loses a struggle, it can look for ways to regroup and win the next one.
But a concerted campaign to delegitimize political opponents — through falsehoods and without much of an attempt at logical argument — is something quite different. It’s an attempt not to win a democratic contest but to avoid one.
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Gen Z geography
The premise of the online game GeoGuessr is simple: You’re dropped somewhere in the world, seen through Google’s Street View, and must guess where you are. Often that means clicking to move through the landscape and scanning for clues.
Trevor Rainbolt, 23, has found online fame posting videos in which he locates himself in seconds, The Times’s Kellen Browning writes. His geography skills verge on wizardry — he can identify a country by the color of its soil — and his highlights regularly get millions of views on TikTok.
“Candidly, I haven’t had any social life for the past year,” Rainbolt said. “But it’s worth it, because it’s so fun and I enjoy learning.”