Seven out of ten Republicans — like seven of ten Democrats — believe that American democracy is in danger of collapse.

Both sides correctly fear the end of our democracy. But they see the danger very differently.

As Democrats see it, GOP candidates are mouthing Donald Trump’s “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen and supporting the January 6 rioters at the Capitol as “patriots.” Democrats see Republican legislatures attacking the right to vote based on phony claims of election fraud — and they see GOP plans to steal elections if they lose.

By contrast, as Republicans see it, there was a big steal. Indeed, hundreds of Republican political leaders claim that Trump won the 2020 election in a landslide, but that it was stolen by massive election fraud.

Trump and his supporters have asserted a bewildering range of claims of wrongdoing, convincing fully 70 percent of Republican voters that President Biden was not legitimately elected. And now they’re fighting mad. “It may be necessary at some point soon for citizens to take up arms against the government,” 36 percent of Republicans agreed in a recent poll.

How do you figure out which side is right?

Actually, it’s not all that difficult. You can decide by asking yourself a few questions.

If the 2020 election was marred by voting fraud on a massive scale, why did Trump’s own attorney general, Republican William Barr, say that “we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election”? If there had been a “steal,” what reason could Barr have had to hide the facts?

Similarly, if Trump won the key battleground states, what reason could Republican election officials in those states have to deny the truth?

Why, for example, would Georgia’s Secretary of State, Republican Brad Raffensperger, deny the fraud claims if there were any reason to believe there had been large-scale election wrongdoing? Isn’t the truth that he investigated and, like Barr, found no evidence of election cheating?

Likewise in Arizona, if Trump really won, why did a Republican official responsible for voting records call Trump’s claims “insane lies”? If Trump won Arizona, why did a Republican-sponsored “audit” of the Arizona vote — as even Fox News reported — conclude that Biden actually won by an even larger margin than originally reported?

And if there was electoral misconduct in states across the nation, why did every judge who considered any of Trump’s dozens of election lawsuits — including many appointed by Trump himself — throw out every single one?

Ask yourself, how could the Democrats pull off a massive fraud, in state after state, involving millions of ballots — and leave not a trace of evidence? Trump judges found there was no evidence supporting Trump’s claims because the election wasn’t stolen.

It just makes no sense to claim that all these Republicans — Trump’s attorney general, Republican election officials, Trump-appointed judges, and Trump White House lawyers too — were part of a giant, sinister conspiracy to steal the election for a Democrat.

The alternative is easier to believe: Joe Biden won the election fair and square. And Trump, like a would-be dictator, lied about losing.

And then it’s easy to see the danger: Trump and his GOP supporters prefer overthrowing American constitutional democracy to allowing voters to decide who should be president. And next time, they could succeed.

Republican candidates in key states who claim to believe in the big lie are running to become the election officials who count the ballots next time. What will happen if they refuse to certify the actual results come 2024, or if state legislatures try to ignore what the voters in their states decide?

The brutal truth: Republicans have given up on democracy. And American voters must decide whether they can trust a party that no longer trusts them. 

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Mitchell Zimmerman

Mitchell Zimmerman is an attorney, longtime social activist, and author of the anti-racism thriller Mississippi Reckoning. This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.

Mitchell’s full-res headshot is available here.

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