The Republican Party doesn’t have a platform. Or a policy agenda. Or substantive issues it’s eager to work on. Or compelling leaders who are ready to govern.
What defines the contemporary GOP — the one thing that animates the party more than anything else — is an unshakable belief in a ridiculous lie about Donald Trump’s 2020 defeat. The former president boasted at an Iowa rally this past weekend, “It’s the single biggest issue, the issue that gets the most pull, the most respect, the biggest cheers is talking about the election fraud of the 2020 presidential election.”
Much of the party’s base agrees. A national CNN poll released a month ago found that most Republican voters agreed that the party’s absurd Big Lie is considered “an important part of their own partisan identity.”
It was against this backdrop that Trump issued a new written statement yesterday. It was a two-sentence declaration:
“If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented), Republicans will not be voting in ’22 or ’24. It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do.”
Right off the bat, it’s worth emphasizing that the former president’s assertions continue to be delusional. In reality, President Joe Biden won fair and square, and by a relatively healthy margin. What’s more, the idea that Trump and his team have “documented” their false claims is plainly bonkers.
But just as notable is the fact that this is a rare Trump ultimatum that Democrats are likely to celebrate. Remember, it was early this year, with control of the U.S. Senate on the line, when Republicans publicly fretted that Trump’s ridiculous lies and conspiracy theories would depress turnout in Georgia’s special elections, gradually convincing GOP voters that their votes would go uncounted in a rigged system.
The then-president’s rhetoric wasn’t true, but the party’s fears proved prescient: Democrats won both of the Georgia races, securing a narrow Senate majority, thanks in part to Trump’s lies about the integrity of the electoral system.
That was the start of 2021. As the year nears its end, the former president is sticking to the same misguided, counterproductive script.
Complicating matters for Republican officials, who will likely be reluctant to publicly disagree with Trump’s latest nonsense for fear of retribution, it’s not altogether clear exactly what he expects them to do.
According to Trump’s statement, “the single most important thing” for Republicans to do is “solve” his defeat. Failure to do so will cause GOP voters to sit out future election cycles.
To be sure, the former president is often unfamiliar with how government works, but the fact that American voters rejected Trump is not a problem his party can “solve” a year after the fact.
Maybe he wants more Republicans to endorse his Big Lie? Maybe he’s looking for another round of sham audits? Perhaps he genuinely believes that GOP officials in key states can decertify the results of last year’s elections?
Whatever Trump’s strange expectations, his message is the opposite of the one his party wants to hear a year ahead of the midterm cycle.