[Analyse] In the United States, Donald Trump’s « big lie » survives the midterm elections

The counting of the vote had barely begun Tuesday evening in Arizona when Kari Lake, dubbed by Donald Trump as a candidate for the post of governor of this state, was already talking about… electoral fraud.

» It’s the groundhog day “, she said in the middle of the night, referring to the film signed by Harold Ramis in 1993, which places Bill Murray at the heart of an endlessly repeating day. “We had incompetence on November 3, 2020 [lors de la dernière élection présidentielle aux États-Unis] “, she added, while implying – without proof – that this “corruption” was being reproduced during the mid-term elections, of which several results are still awaited four days after the poll.

« We need honest elections and we’re going to bring them to you, Arizona, I promise you that. » The system we currently have is not working,” said the candidate in front of preliminary results quickly confirming, after the closing of polls across the country, that the red wave – the color of the Republican Party – was not in materializing.

In Arizona, Kari Lake, who spoke for the conspiracy theory constructed from scratch by the ex-president to justify his defeat, then trailed behind Democrat Katie Hobbs.

Elections follow each other in the United States, and now they also repeat baseless attacks on the integrity of the electoral process. And this, even if this last process has just brought to power several promoters of this plot and that the Republican Party is moving towards a takeover of the Lower House of Congress.

“The conspirators will certainly not stop making themselves heard after the mid-term elections”, summarizes in an interview with the To have to political scientist Lorraine Minnite of Rutgers University in New Jersey. “In fact, this conspiracy has even been a winning strategy for about 200 Republican candidates elected this year to various federal and local positions, which does not bode well for the level of confidence in the elections in the United States. coming. »

Thursday, on his social network Truth, Donald Trump put a log in the hearth of the rumor by denouncing – always in contradiction with the facts – the “corrupt voting system” of Clark County, Nevada. The late vote count there could ultimately give Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto victory, though so far her Republican opponent Adam Laxalt has a slight lead. The region, which encompasses Las Vegas, is a Democratic stronghold. There is also a formidable political machine, the union of hotel and restaurant workers, which has stimulated the progressive vote for several years.

The populist also claimed that the backlog in ballot counting in Maricopa County, Arizona—a younger, more liberal urban area of ​​Phoenix—which was the focus of attacks by Republicans in 2020 to try to invalidate the presidential election, only aimed at one thing: « They want more time to cheat! » Ironically, four of the five election commission officials there are Republicans.

Legitimize electoral constraints

« Electoral fraud has been a propaganda element of Republican political campaigns since 1996 in the United States », summarizes in an interview Yochai Benkler, co-director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University and author of several essays on the networks of propaganda. “Its main function is to legitimize a series of measures in order to suppress the electoral participation of minorities, in particular that of African-American voters. »

The trend was accentuated in the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election, after George W. Bush won the election by a homeopathic lead of 0.009 points over Democrat Al Gore, after a chaotic hand count. in Florida. “It made Republican strategists realize that the party risked becoming a permanent minority if rules to limit ballot access to more Democratic voters in pivotal states were not adopted to reverse the national trend,” Ms. Benkler.

For the record, it was precisely this endless counting of votes in Florida in 2000 that gave the idea to John Poulos, a Toronto entrepreneur, to found Dominion Voting Systems, whose faster, more efficient and more precise in the counting of the ballot boxes have become in 2020 the target of Donald Trump and Republicans dissatisfied with the result of the presidential election.

“There has never been credible evidence of the existence of significant electoral fraud over the past 20 years, adds Yochai Benkler, but that has never stopped Republican politicians from denouncing this fraud, from l use to pursue their policies and get Republican voters to believe them. »

Last October, in the final miles of campaigning for those midterm elections, 65% of Republican voters still called Joe Biden’s presidency illegitimate, according to a poll conducted by the NBC network. Against 100% of Democrats and 74% of independent voters who felt the opposite.

“We must put an end to this fraud”, dropped the Republican activist Linda Galka, met a few days ago south of Cleveland, Ohio, while exposing the “evidence” broadcast on the conspiracy networks of which she seems to be a big consumer. “It will destroy the country, it is terrible. We know that it’s by cheating that they win and that’s what we have to vote against. »

Trump, the X factor

In Ohio, on Tuesday evening, the Trumpist candidate JD Vance, the choice of the ex-president, obtained his ticket to enter the Senate. He campaigned largely on this electoral fraud fabricated by the Republican camp, a message that visibly appealed to voters in the American « Rust Belt ». Pennsylvania resisted another of these extremists, Mehmet Öz, defeated by Democrat John Fetterman.

“With the mixed results of these midterm elections and the delay in the counting of votes, the conspiratorial rhetoric will intensify,” assures political scientist Brian Fogarty, who conducts research at Notre Dame University on the perception of fraud among the American electorate. “Donald Trump is the X factor in this equation. These allegations have been used for 20 years to rally the Republican base, but Trump has taken the strategy to a completely different level. He mixed it with narcissism, feeds it with his bad loser nature, to make it something personal. »

He adds, « I think it’s going to be a while before these accusations of fraud fade from the American political landscape, and I don’t think that’s going to happen as long as Donald Trump remains on the national stage. »

The populist invited the press next Tuesday to his Florida residence in Mar-a-Lago, from where he plans to make a “special announcement”. The event could be orchestrated to formalize his candidacy for the presidency of 2024. And this, even if in the wake of Tuesday’s election, several critical voices are heard within the Republican Party and the conservative media, voices that hold the populist responsible for the party’s underperformance in the midterm elections.

This report was financed thanks to the support of the Transat International Journalism Fund.The duty.

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