Like many things about the Trump era and its lingering remnants, the news that a voting machine maker is suing a pillow executive for $1.3 billion sounds faintly ridiculous—but is part of a very serious effort to undermine democracy. The big lie, pushed by Donald Trump for months, is that the election was stolen, that President Biden won only through theft. The specific lie involved in this lawsuit is that voting machines made by Dominion Voting Systems deleted votes for Trump or double-counted votes for Biden or were manipulated by foreign governments.
But the specific lie matters—in the world at large, not just to Dominion—because of the power of the big lie. Trump spent months pushing the claim that the election was stolen, delegitimizing Biden’s presidency, and polls show that large majorities of Republicans—65% in one poll, 76% in another—believe there was widespread fraud or that Biden’s win was not legitimate. And in this, as in so many things, Trump continues to lead the institutional Republican Party. On Sunday, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise went on ABC’s This Week and repeatedly insisted that Biden’s win was related to there being “a few states that did not follow their state laws.”
That right there is all the evidence you need that Trump has made the effort to undermine U.S. democracy mainstream in the Republican Party.
Dominion’s lawsuit against MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, which also names MyPillow, relates to a less establishment-friendly form of the big lie, but it’s all part of the same effort, and Lindell wasn’t pushing his Dominion claims alone. This lawsuit follows similar ones by Dominion against Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, and voting company Smartmatic similarly sued Giuliani, Powell, Fox News, and some Fox hosts for $2.7 billion.
In the lawsuit, Dominion alleges that “Acting in concert with allies and media outlets that were determined to curry favor with one of their biggest sponsors and to promote a false preconceived narrative about the 2020 election, Lindell launched a defamatory marketing campaign about Dominion that reached millions of people and caused enormous harm to Dominion.”
As for those media outlets, Lindell paid to air his lies about the election and Dominion in a two-hour documentary that ran on One America News. OAN offered an extensive disclaimer about how the documentary was just Lindell’s opinion, “not the product of OAN’s reporting.” But it also promoted the show as “a never-before-seen report breaking down election fraud evidence & showing how the unprecedented level of voter fraud was committed in the 2020 Presidential Election.” The video was subsequently pulled from YouTube for violating the platform’s presidential election integrity policy.
OAN, one of Trump’s current favorite media outlets since he turned against Fox News, has been the target of a defamation suit by a Dominion executive and, following cease and desist letters from Dominion itself, quietly removed a bunch of election-related conspiracy theory coverage from its website in January.
So this is very much not just a voting machine maker suing a pillow maker. Lindell, as absurd as it may seem, is part of a much bigger effort to overturn or at least throw doubt on the results of a presidential election, an effort that started with someone who, as absurd as it may seem, was then the sitting president of the United States. It was pushed in its extreme forms by the latter’s lawyers, including a once-respected former mayor of New York City, and widely aired on more than one right-wing television news network. The big lie led directly to a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol aimed at stopping Congress from certifying the election results. The lie continues, in a slightly watered-down form, to be spread by one of the top Republicans in the House of Representatives on a major network’s flagship Sunday news talk show. The veneer of absurdity does not make this any less serious.