Conservative maps out the psychology of how Trump’s voter fraud claims became integral to his supporters’ 'tribal' identity
Countless liberals, progressives, centrists, independents and Democrats — as well as some right-wing libertarians and Never Trump conservatives — have wondered why so many Donald Trump supporters are gullible enough to buy into the Big Lie when, in fact, there is zero evidence that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. In an article published by The Atlantic on April 18, Never Trumper and conservative strategist Sarah Longwell analyzes the psychology of MAGA voters who still buy into the Big Lie — and according to Longwell, identity politics are a big part of it.
“Some 35% of Americans — including 68% of Republicans — believe the Big Lie, pushed relentlessly by former President Donald Trump and amplified by conservative media, that the 2020 presidential election was stolen,” Longwell explains. “They think that Trump was the true victor and that he should still be in the White House today…. For many of Trump’s voters, the belief that the election was stolen is not a fully formed thought. It’s more of an attitude, or a tribal pose. They know something nefarious occurred but can’t easily explain how or why. What’s more, they’re mystified and sometimes angry that other people don’t feel the same.”
New from me in the Atlantic:\n\u201cFor many of Trump\u2019s voters, the belief that the election was stolen is not a fully formed thought. It\u2019s more of an attitude, or a tribal pose. They know something nefarious occurred but can\u2019t easily explain how or why.\u201dhttps://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/04/trump-voters-big-lie-stolen-election/629572/\u00a0\u2026— Sarah Longwell (@Sarah Longwell) 1650284038
Longwell adds that she has been holding focus groups in order to “find out why Trump 2020 voters hold so strongly to the Big Lie.” And the types of comments she has heard include “I can’t really put my finger on it, but something just doesn’t feel right” and “something about it just didn’t seem right.”
“The exact details of the story vary,” Longwell observes. “Was it Hugo Chávez who stole the election? Or the CIA? Or Italian defense contractors? Outlandish claims like these seem to have made this conspiracy theory more durable, not less. Regardless of plausibility, the more questions that are raised, the more mistrustful Trump voters are of the official results. Perhaps that’s because the Big Lie has been part of their background noise for years.”
Longwell continues, “Remember that Trump began spreading the notion that America’s elections were ‘rigged’ in 2016 — when he thought he would lose. Many Republicans firmly believed that the Democrats would steal an election if given the chance. When the 2020 election came and Trump did lose, his voters were ready to doubt the outcome.”
Longwell laments that there is no shortage of MAGA politicians and right-wing media figures who are more than happy to keep promoting the Big Lie to Trump voters.
“The problem is that the Big Lie is embedded in their daily life,” Longwell writes. “They hear from Trump-aligned politicians, their like-minded peers, and MAGA-friendly media outlets — and from these sources they hear the same false claims repeated ad infinitum.”
Longwell adds, “Now, we are at the point where to be a Republican means to believe the Big Lie. And as long as Republicans leading the party keep promoting and indulging the Big Lie, that will continue to be the case. If I’ve learned anything from my focus groups, it’s that something doesn’t have to make sense for voters to believe it’s true.”
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