Arizona, Elections & Delusion
Terry H. Schwadron
Sept. 25, 2021
When does enough evidence or lack of it suffice to acknowledge a loss, that the futile, continued tilting at windmills is just a waste of everyone’s time and money?
If you’re Donald Trump and the issue is your fate at the ballot box, the answer obviously is “never.”
Even as news leaked that the overwrought Republican-commissioned, and conspiracy theory-led review of nearly 2.1 million ballots cast last year in Arizona had confirmed the accuracy of the official results and Joe Biden’s win in Maricopa County, Trump was successfully pressuring the state of Texas to launch similar “forensic audits” in its most populous counties.
The New York Times and The Washington Post obtained the draft report of the flawed-from-the state review of Arizona votes by a partisan, unprofessional Cyber Ninjas company late in advance of its planned public release that blew the conspiracists’ hopes for widespread fraud out of the water.
Indeed, the report said that Biden collected marginally more votes, and Trump fewer than previously attested by the secretary of state. More importantly, it found what every other recount, audit, court case and sane review has found, namely that there was no widespread fraud in the vote or the count.
Nevertheless, the Big Lie persists, with more Republican state legislatures lining up to order ever more expensive and endless reviews to show the same — all in pursuit of a blessing from Trump as he considers another run at the presidency. Cyber Ninjas also claimed that factors like people moving from one county to another without eliminating their old address, even if not voting twice, raised questions — most of which are contested by reputable election experts.
Trump said everyone had misread the report, and, citing these registration numbers, that “The audit has uncovered significant and undeniable evidence of FRAUD!”
The Legal Woes Deepen
At the same time, we’re suddenly running into a flood of new disclosures about what Trump and team knew and when they knew it that this election had no sizeable fraud.
Trump’s own inner circle knew for months that the argument for the Big Lie was unsustainable.
Just this week, journalistic reports revealed that that:
- Trump had blueprints that the Republicans tried to use to prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s victory in a memo that laid out a plan for then-Vice President Mike Pence to thwart election results. The memo was reported in the new book “Peril,” by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. Trump’s own campaign staff knew that outlandish claims of fraud made by Trump’s lawyers were false, according to a report in The New York Times. But they did nothing to stop his dangerous allegations.
- Trump sent a letter full of false information to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, asking him to start the process of decertifying the 2020 election.
- “Peril” also contains a passage that shows Trump cared little for truth, what voters decided in November or bedrock constitutional values — but agonized about his reputation and mused that accepting defeat would brand him as one of history’s losers. Indeed, interviews in the book show that some people around Trump believed that a U.S. election could simply be disregarded if the president didn’t like the result — the very antithesis of democracy.
- The House select committee on Jan. 6 planning has moved to subpoena four Trump in and out of the White House to learn what he was doing as the insurrection was organized and as it was occurring.
- Last month, it emerged that Trump had tried to pressure the Justice Department to declare election fraud and leave the business of stealing power to him and his congressional allies. And, we’ve seen more than 20 Republican states adopting voter restrictions in the name of election integrity when there was no evidence of substantial election abuse.
Words like “coup” are being thrown around to describe the Trump obsession with the election, a campaign that refuses to disappear even in the face of probes, reports, audits and the like that show there was no problem.
The point is that the issue is not going away. It’s accelerating.
Insisting on Being Right
Psychologists call this lingering ability to recognize contrary evidence “confirmation bias,” the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information that confirms or supports prior beliefs or values.
People display this bias when they select information that supports their views, ignoring contrary information, or when they interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing attitudes.
We even especially favor the persistence underdog who claws his or her way back to competitiveness.
That may explain the support from the Trump base or even rejection/acceptance of reports from different news outlets, but for Trump himself, stubbornness, extreme narcissism or some kind of insistent delusion seem to come closer. From strictly a lay understanding of psychology, on some level, Trump must have to be right in his views — or he just doesn’t exist.
Even this partisan-driven audit shows that the actual votes were accurate, leaving Trump to fume about whether voting by mail or car or without having eliminated old voting addresses (which is true for himself and his family as well) are examples of “fraud.”
Even his legal advisers are feeling these contrary pulls, and are leaving him, just as the legal challenges from the election and from any number of personal lawsuits are building. A number of the ex-president’s longtime, high-profile lawyers have recently parted ways with Trumpworld, notes The Daily Beast. Courts and bar associations are moving against lawyers including Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who also face mighty big lawsuits themselves from companies like Dominion, makers of election equipment, who claim they were defamed in Big Lie efforts.
The emergence of this report on Arizona voting, mired in unprofessional practices, secrecy, and partisanship, should be a sign to Team Trump. It’s time to move on from the Big Lie, not to double- or triple-down on it.