Opinion: Trump’s election lies go way back and are a true threat to democracy

Donald Trump standing on stage at a rally in Waukesha

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally, May 1, 2024, in Waukesha, Wis. Just six months before Election Day, President Joe Biden and Trump are locked into the first presidential rematch in 68 years that is at once deeply entrenched and highly in flux as many voters are only just beginning to embrace the reality of the 2024 presidential election. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, File)

By Terry Hansen

May 21, 2024

The former president will repeat a message over and over until it becomes believed, even if it’s wrong.

At recent campaign rallies in Michigan and in Waukesha, former President Donald Trump doubled down on his false claim that the 2020 election was stolen. He has also refused to commit to accepting the 2024 presidential election results or to disavow violence if he should lose.

Notably, Trump has a more than 10 year history of claiming election fraud.

Regarding President Barack Obama’s reelection in 2012, he tweeted, “This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy!” Some of his other tweets about that election day should sound familiar:

“More reports of voting machines switching Romney votes to Obama. Pay close attention to the machines, don’t let your vote be stolen.”

“We can’t let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty.”

“Lets fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice! The world is laughing at us.”

“We have to make America great again!”

Trump also accused Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) of fraud in the Iowa Caucuses, said he wouldn’t accept the results of the 2016 election unless he won, never accepted that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, and said months ahead of the 2020 election that the only way he could lose is if the election is rigged.

Remarkably, “False or misleading statements by Donald Trump” and “List of conspiracy theories promoted by Donald Trump” have their own extensive Wikipedia pages.

It’s no wonder that Trump has been called a “master propagandist.” He has honed his craft over decades. A 1991 profile of Trump in Vanity Fair quotes his lawyer as asserting: “Donald is a believer in the big-lie theory. If you say something again and again, people will believe you.”

Our democracy is built on a foundation of truth and trust. How can you say you love America if you continually lie to its people?

And Trump’s lies cause harm. Wisconsin’s top election official, Meagan Wolfe, is receiving extra security because of baseless accusations by Donald Trump that she would “try to steal another election.”

In one of the most egregious cases, Donald Trump called innocent Georgia election worker Ruby Freeman a “professional vote scammer.” This false charge, amplified by his former attorney Rudy Giuliani, led to threats so severe that Freeman was forced to move out of her home.

Her tearful testimony, a scathing indictment of Trump, should be read by every American: “There is nowhere I feel safe. Nowhere. Do you know how it feels to have the President of the United States target you? The President of the United States is supposed to represent every American, not target one.”

Yet Trump continues unabated. His pervasive election lies have become woven into the fabric, not only of the GOP, but of our society. Perhaps this is the “poisoning the blood of our country” that we should be most concerned about.

There have been irregularities in many elections, and it is true that Stacey Abrams, Hillary Clinton and other Democrats have objected to election results in the past. But their supporters didn’t beat police officers to within an inch of their lives with flag poles.

Then-Vice President Al Gore graciously presided over the Electoral College vote in 2001, a disputed election which he lost to George W. Bush. After he announced the vote count, Gore asserted, “May God bless our new president and our new vice president, and may God bless the United States of America.”

In contrast, a contentious election 20 years later resulted in Donald Trump defending January 6 rioters’ “Hang Mike Pence!” chants.

President Joe Biden and Donald Trump are accusing each other of being threats to democracy. According to Daniel Ziblatt, co-author of How Democracies Die, the choice is clear: “To be a politician committed to democracy, there are two cardinal rules: One must accept election outcomes, win or lose; one must not threaten or use violence to gain power. Donald Trump has clearly violated both rules, while President Biden never has.”

Related: What to know about Trump’s legal issues




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