NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Seven months after their party leader incited an insurrection to overthrow American democracy so he could remain in power, the Republican National Committee continued on Friday to echo Donald Trump’s election lies — the same ones that led to the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.
“We cannot talk about winning at the ballot box if we don’t talk about something we’re all hearing, as members: How do we restore confidence in free and fair elections?” RNC chair Ronna McDaniel asked at the party’s summer meeting.
“Every one of us knows we can never let what we saw in 2020 happen, ever again. Democrats waged war on election transparency, security and integrity — undermining our elections, and we at the RNC are using every tool at our disposal to protect the vote.”
McDaniel boasted about the creation of an “election integrity committee” and legal efforts to defend GOP-backed laws around the country that disproportionately make it harder for poorer, nonwhite voters to cast ballots.
She neglected, however, to mention the main reason for GOP voters’ lack of confidence in elections: All the lying Trump has done — starting in the wee hours of election night, running through his Jan. 6 pre-insurrection rally, and continuing to this day — in claiming that his victory had been “stolen” from him through massive voter fraud.
Trump’s own attorney general, William Barr, said publicly that there was no such fraud, a view shared by Trump’s head of election security at the Department of Homeland Security as well as Republican elections officials in counties and states all over the country.
RNC members have a responsibility to provide ethical leadership for the party. These comments are not only blatantly false, they are unethical and dangerous.
Jennifer Horn, former New Hampshire state Republican chair
Jennifer Horn, a former New Hampshire state Republican chair, said McDaniel was abdicating her duty to the party and the country.
“RNC members have a responsibility to provide ethical leadership for the party. These comments are not only blatantly false, they are unethical and dangerous. They represent a direct assault on the Constitution and democracy itself,” Horn said. “Chairwoman Romney-McDaniel is responsible for the RNC and should strongly condemn such reckless comments.”
Most RNC members queried by HuffPost refused to openly discuss Trump’s statements. Some, on condition of anonymity, repeated his long-ago debunked claims of fraud in Georgia, Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania. One claimed that Trump had reason to question the results, given that he was ahead in the vote count in Pennsylvania by hundreds of thousands of votes but wound up losing in the final tally. Another said that it was impossible to prove that some devious electronic vote switching had not happened, and therefore Trump could be correct.
Steve Duprey, a former RNC member from New Hampshire who was ousted in early 2020 for being insufficiently loyal to Trump, said the copy-cat statements are to be expected. “Given that many RNC members were elected because they were Trump supporters, it doesn’t surprise me,” he said.
The Republican Party’s focus on legislative attempts to restrict voting markedly contrasts with its response the last time the GOP nominee lost a presidential election. In 2013, the RNC commissioned an exhaustive “Growth and Opportunity Project” to analyze the loss. The authors urged broadening the party’s message to welcome nonwhite voters because of the nation’s demographic changes.
“Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections,” the report stated.
Since that report, Republicans have lost the popular vote twice more with Trump as their candidate: by 3 million votes in 2016, and by 7 million in 2020.
In her remarks, McDaniel did stress the importance of reaching out to Latinos and other minority groups and listed off RNC efforts to do so for the coming 2022 midterms, including by opening a Black community center in Cleveland and an Asian American center in Southern California.
And some RNC members said the party could not afford to get dragged into Trump’s continued attacks on the 2020 election.
“It’s not our focus. Our focus is taking back the House in 2022, maybe winning back the Senate,” said Oscar Brock, a member from Tennessee, who added that while Trump’s false claims may activate a segment of his base, they are “a distraction” overall.
Dallas Heard, the Oregon party chair as well as a state senator, said Trump’s complaints about the last election are not going to help his constituents or the party’s efforts in 2022. “I don’t pay attention to what he says,” he said of Trump. “It’s only one guy.”
Trump became the first president in 232 years of American elections to refuse to peacefully turn over power to his successor.
He spent weeks attacking the legitimacy of the Nov. 3 election he lost, starting his lies in the predawn hours of Nov. 4 that he had really won in a “landslide.” Those falsehoods continued through a long string of failed lawsuits challenging the results in a handful of states.
After the Electoral College finally voted on Dec. 14, making Joe Biden’s win official, Trump began urging his followers to come to Washington on Jan. 6 to intimidate his own vice president and members of Congress into overturning the election results and installing Trump as president for another term. The mob of supporters he incited attempted to do just that by storming the Capitol. They even chanted “Hang Mike Pence” after Pence refused to comply with Trump’s demands.
A police officer died after being assaulted during the insurrection, and four others have taken their own lives in the days and weeks since. One of the rioters was fatally shot as she climbed through a broken window into an anteroom containing still-evacuating House members, and three others in the crowd died during the melee.
Trump and his allies are now engaged in a campaign to portray the woman who was shot, Ashli Babbitt, as a martyr and the hundreds of others who have been arrested as victims of political persecution.
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