Andrew Bjelland and Brian Wangsgard: Trump’s Big Lie is no small fib, Yet 78% of Republicans Buy It

Yet 78% of Republicans buy the lie that Donald Trump really won the 2020 election.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) A Trump protester leads the crowd in "Stop The Steal" as a small crowd of Trump protesters gather at the capitol with signs, flags and guns on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.

After his election loss on Nov. 3, 2020, then-President Donald J. Trump promulgated his Big Lie that a Big Steal had occurred. He branded Joe Biden’s upcoming presidency as illegitimate. Trump refused to concede defeat and facilitate a peaceful transfer of executive power to his duly elected successor.

Since the Civil War, no other presidential candidate has refused to formally acknowledge defeat. No other modern president has failed to ensure an orderly transfer of presidential authority. Since 1869, no American president has boycotted his successor’s inauguration.

Trump continues to promulgate his Big Lie. In an interview released on Nov. 11, ABC’s Jonathan Karl invited Trump to comment on the Jan. 6 insurrectionists’ chant: “Hang Mike Pence!” In his garbled response, Trump evoked his Big Lie and dismissed the chant as an expression of justified outrage: “Well, the people were very angry. Because it’s common sense, Jon. It’s common sense that you’re supposed to protect. How can you — if you know a vote is fraudulent, right? — how can you pass on a fraudulent vote to Congress? How can you do that?”

The Big Lie spawned the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. This attempted coup failed, but it successfully interrupted certification of the Electoral College vote. Even after the restoration of order, seven Republican senators and 138 representatives objected to the certification of election outcomes of one or more key states. They thereby lent credibility to the Big Lie.

By means of his Big Lie, Trump achieves key objectives. The Big Lie diminishes trust in our electoral processes and provides a pseudo-justification for hampering progress toward multiracial, one-person-one-vote representative democracy.

According to a Sept. 7 CNN poll, only 24% of Republican respondents are confident “American elections reflect the will of the people”; 78% of Republicans believe that Biden did not win; 57% believe a future election is likely to be overturned for partisan reasons. [6]

In 19 states — including such key states as Georgia, Arizona, Texas, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — recent Big-Lie-inspired election “reforms” further obstruct voters’ access to the polls.

Trump was “practically and morally responsible” for the assault on our nation’s Capitol. Nonetheless 67% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents believe Trump should retain his leadership role within the GOP; 44% hope he will run again in 2024.

Consider the following and then ask yourself: Is Trump’s Big Lie credible?

The former president’s lawyers filed 62 suits challenging the 2020 election results. One suit resulted in an inconsequential ruling favorable to Trump. The other 61 wholly failed.

Recounts in Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin revealed no significant differences from the previously certified results.

A year ago, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) set a bounty of $25,000 to $1,000,000, payable to anyone who could substantiate claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election. In mid-October 2021, Patrick made his first and thus far only payout: an award of $25,000 to a Pennsylvania election official who reported a Trump supporter for voting twice.

No one has identified the individuals who masterminded the supposed multi-state fraud. No one has explained how those phantom “suspects” recruited the many agents required to reprogram voting machines, purge election rolls, discredit mail-in ballots and destroy ballots.

Not even one person, in an unguarded moment, has bragged about playing a key role in accomplishing the alleged “steal.”

Rigged elections are alleged only in those states Trump lost — Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia. Many down-ballot Republican candidates in those states won. Why would conspirators rig elections against Trump, but not against other GOP candidates?

By their oaths of office, political leaders consecrate themselves as defenders of the U.S. Constitution against “all enemies, foreign and domestic.” They pledge to call out and oppose would-be autocrats, their Big Lies, and the seditious actions of Big-Lie-inspired domestic terrorists.

No politician who promulgates the Big Lie or who by silence tacitly endorses it can claim to be a political leader.

Andrew G. Bjelland

Andrew G. Bjelland, Ph.D., is a professor emeritus, Philosophy Department, Seattle University. He lives in Salt Lake City.

Brian Wangsgard

Brian Wangsgard, a resident of St. George, Utah, is a retired engineer and consultant.