Just a couple months ago, GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stood in front of the White House and tried to sell the nation a steaming pile of crap.
"I don't think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election," McCarthy said, just a day after he had successfully booted Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming from her leadership post for not toeing the party line on Donald Trump's delusional fraud claims. "I think that is all over with."
It was a positively preposterous claim when Republican officials across the country were actively pushing Trump's election fraud claims to animate the GOP base and juice fundraising. Now, right on cue, a fresh crop of GOP candidates is emerging, eager to ride Trump's baseless lies about 2020 election fraud straight into office.
Take Wren Williams in Virginia, who recently won a primary against a GOP state House member who had insisted there was no evidence of systemic election fraud, according to The Washington Post. Williams actually joined Trump's crackerjack team of election lawyers who posted an epic string of losses in more than 60 trips to the courthouse. But somehow, Republican voters found that losing streak persuasive. “He wasn’t doing anything — squat, diddly,” Williams told the Post of his opponent. “He wasn’t taking election integrity seriously. I’m sitting here fighting for election integrity in the courts, and he’s my elected representative who can legislate and he’s not.”
And then there's Arizona secretary of state candidate, state Rep. Mark Finchem, who joined a QAnon talk show to express his hope that the state's sham GOP-led audit could somehow overturn the state's election results. But that wasn't all; according to the Arizona Mirror, Finchem also suggested President Joe Biden was in cahoots with the Chinese government, and former President Barack Obama was somehow linked to a "Chicago crime syndicate."
Just to be clear, there's zero chance the Arizona GOP's ridiculous audit is going to overturn anything. But that lie sure is a hell of a drug for GOP voters, with a majority nationwide believing these Republican fraudits could change the election outcome.
Naturally, Cheney has drawn a small cadre of a half dozen pro-Trump challengers, at least one of whom has declared "election integrity" his No. 1 priority. But there’s nothing surgical about this Republican attack—it’s widespread and pervasive.
According to the Post, "Of the nearly 700 Republicans who have filed initial paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to run next year for either the U.S. Senate or the House of Representatives, at least a third have embraced Trump’s false claims about his defeat."
More than half of that third, or some 136, are sitting members of Congress who voted against 2020 certification and indeed, dominate McCarthy's Republican caucus. Another 500 state GOP lawmakers who are running for reelection next year have openly pushed Trump's election fraud conspiracy theories.
It's a nationwide GOP assault on American democracy, but the most acute threats are coming in swing states where Republicans are trying to gain control over the administration of elections.
“What’s really frightening right now is the extent of the effort to steal power over future elections,” said Jena Griswold, the Democratic secretary of state in Colorado. “Literally in almost every swing state, we have someone running for secretary of state who has been fearmongering about the 2020 election or was at the insurrection. Democracy will be on the ballot in 2022.”
In that Virginia GOP primary, Williams just out and out lied to constituents to defeat his opponent. "I said that I had seen evidence [of voter fraud], because obviously I had played the role of lawyer for Trump in Wisconsin,” he explained. Yet no evidence of that fraud has ever emerged. In fact, the lawsuit Williams participated in was thrown out of court.
Trump has also personally browbeaten some GOP lawmakers into supporting his lie. After he took aim at Wisconsin House Speaker Robin Vos for failing to overturn the election outcome in his state, Vos orchestrated a supposed investigation helmed by a former state Supreme Court justice.
On the other side of the coin are GOP candidates who are actively sucking up to Trump in an effort to gain his endorsement. Arizona solar energy entrepreneur Jim Lamon, who hopes to win the GOP primary bid to take on Sen. Mark Kelly next year, recently bought ad space on Fox News in New Jersey with one target in mind: Trump, who is spending much of the summer at his Bedminster golf club.
Far from McCarthy's divorced-from-reality claims earlier this year, the picture that is emerging is one of a Republican Party very much at war with itself and the country over the legitimacy of the 2020 election.
Some Republicans still seem to believe that if Trump would just play nice and stay focused on a forward-looking message, the party could avoid voter backlash over its avid embrace of Trump's outlandish fraud claims. But frankly, any Republican who still believes Trump is the sole problem is living in a fantasy land. The entire party is now overrun with candidates peddling the Big Lie as a path to higher office and, in some cases, more control over the elections themselves.
Voting for any Republican now, regardless of what their personal beliefs may be, is tantamount to handing over control of government to an entire party living in an alternative reality.