The former president just won’t let his loss go, even if that means returning to long-disproven allegations about the outcome.
As originally conceived by its inventors, the concept of the “big lie” is supposed to be a tale so audacious and captivating that people can’t doubt it. Its unbelievability is its power — so impossible that it will change public beliefs. After three years, though, former president Donald Trump and his allies haven’t enlarged the lie about the 2020 election being “stolen.” Instead, they have resorted to merely repeating the same tired and long-disproven assertions. The once-fantastical lie that the 2020 election was somehow “stolen” from President Trump through voting-machine irregularities, foreign intervention, or out-and-out fraud has become repetitive, boring, and sad.
These fabricated assertions were certainly entertaining at first — like the water fixtures in front of the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Every 15 to 30 minutes, jets of water spray up, down, and rotate in a rhythmic and visually amusing pattern. But one can’t watch it for very long before the patterns become predictable and boring. The big lie about the 2020 election, repeated now for more than three years, has brought forward no proof and nothing that hasn’t been publicly known since January 2021. The current variations, on display regularly during Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign thus far, are merely part of the dancing fountain of lies that have been disproven by the count, the recount, and the audit of the 2020 vote in Georgia. Not one single shred of evidence has been offered in its support, in my state or in any other.
There was plenty of opportunity for Team Trump to back up its wild and audacious assertions with evidence. Courts of law would have been the appropriate forum to do so. Sixteen individual lawsuits were brought to challenge the validity of Georgia’s 2020 election results, of which twelve were dismissed, and four of which were withdrawn by Trump’s own legal team. Why withdraw? Even if it was too late to decertify the 2020 election, Trump or his allies could have argued before a judge — and potentially a jury — and possibly put some actual proof to any of the wild assertions made in the immediate aftermath of the 2020 election, some of which are still being made to this day. One need not be more than slightly cynical to understand why Team Trump would choose a tactical retreat from the truth. The lie was far more compelling than any sober analysis of election returns. One crucial element to any confidence game is summed up in the 2015 movie Focus with Will Smith and Margot Robbie. “Never give up the con,” says Smith’s character. “You die with the lie.” Anyone willing to go that far, the con man’s theory goes, must be telling the truth.
It gave me no joy to report to President Trump in January 2021 that he had lost Georgia in the presidential contest. I have been a conservative all my life and a Republican for the entirety of my elected career. I had voted for him twice. But during our phone call on January 2, 2021, President Trump told me he wanted me to find “11,790 votes, which is one more than we have . . .” I looked, and what I found clearly showed why he lost.
In Georgia in 2020, there were 33,527 voters who requested a Republican ballot in Georgia’s primaries but who also did not participate — at all — in Georgia’s general election. Georgia had 14 Republican candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives on the ballot in the 2020 general election. Those 14 candidates’ combined vote total was 27,559 more than President Trump’s Georgia total. Another 27,967 voters voted for down-ballot Republicans but left the presidential contest blank. There were more than enough Republican votes in Georgia for President Trump to carry the state. Republicans just didn’t cast them.
To describe the former president as polarizing is a profound and indisputable understatement. He’s a political magnetic pole that either attracts or repels people irresistibly, with nearly no one on the fence or in the much-coveted political “middle.” Trump forces people to take a side. In 2020, he pushed voters into a “you’re with me or against me” choice that tens of thousands of Georgians flatly refused to make. Many of them stayed home, and some of them left the presidential choice blank.
It’s important to emphasize that the key to Trump’s loss in Georgia was that the Georgians who didn’t vote for Trump were Republicans. The thousands of voters who made no choice in the presidential contest in Georgia voted for other Republican candidates on the same ballot. The former president’s power of polarization repels not only all Democrats but also enough independents and Republicans that he couldn’t win Georgia. The former president’s personality is unprecedented and so off-putting to some that it has created a cottage industry of “Never Trump” Republicans who gladly take millions in donations from angry liberals on the flimsy promise of “fighting Trump.” Plenty of people have been angry with other Republican presidents or nominees, but neither “Never Bush” nor “Never Romney” ever existed as significant political movements by the time the general election came around.
Former president Trump has released a “new” document he described as “fully verified . . . by the most highly qualified Election Experts in the Country.” Maybe, maybe not. The former president has been known to exaggerate. But the larger problem for this “new” document with its supposedly “definitive” proof is that it fails to deliver anything new or definitive at all. It’s nothing but recycled conspiracy theories and repetition of already disproven allegations. The three-ring circus that was once the Trump entertainment spectacle has withered away to a single decrepit pony, desperately performing its one trick, hoping to regain the audience it once held in thrall. Iowa showed that performance can still keep some people entertained. Others can make up their own minds.