In the wake of the presidential election, an alternate reality has taken hold among many Americans in which Joe Biden did not really defeat Donald Trump. While not shared by judges who have turned down over 50 cases brought by Trump and his supporters seeking to overturn vote counts in several states, it has been relentlessly promoted by the man who helped popularize the term “fake news,” and whose close aide Kellyanne Conway put forth the idea of “alternative facts.”
On Wednesday morning, for example, Trump posted evidence-free tweets accusing Democrats of cheating in what he regularly calls a “rigged” election, demanding that the results be overturned to allow him to stay in office.
While it may be easy for some of Trump’s political opponents to discount his daily assault on an election that members of his own administration concluded was free of fraud, many of the 74 million people who voted for him have embraced his claims.
For instance, just 18 percent of frequent Fox News viewers believe that Biden defeated Trump, according to a Daily Kos/Civiqs poll released Wednesday, compared with 63 percent who think the opposite.
Among people who say they watch Fox “occasionally,” 43 percent say Trump lost to Biden, while 44 percent say he did not.
For those who responded that they do not watch Fox News, 70 percent say Biden won the election, while 24 percent say he did not.
While those figures may be unsurprising, given that several shows on Fox News have promoted Trump’s election claims, they tell only a portion of the story. Many of the president’s most die-hard supporters have, after all, turned away from the cable network owned by Rupert Murdoch for coverage on Newsmax and OANN, where the myth that the election was stolen by Democrats is even more deeply ingrained.
In the weeks since the election, Fox News’ daytime ratings have plummeted 32 percent, according to the Nielsen company. Perhaps even more astonishing, Newsmax posted a ratings win over Fox News for the first time in its history, with “Greg Kelly Reports” drawing more viewers than “The Story With Martha MacCallum” in the 25- to 54-year-old demographic.
On Tuesday, Kelly sought to soften the news that the U.S. Supreme Court had refused to intervene and overturn the election results in Pennsylvania, saying Trump’s chances of victory were increasing despite the string of legal defeats. “Getting warmer,” Kelly told his viewers. “These lawsuits are coming together. There are a lot of fake news headlines out there right now saying that the Pennsylvania situation is over. It is not. It is alive and well.”
Meanwhile, hours earlier on CNN, attorney, Trump critic and Kellyanne’s husband George Conway correctly predicted that the high court would not agree to take up the Pennsylvania case.
“There is no way that any court today, after these states, including Pennsylvania, certified their electors to the archivist of the United States, that they’re going to overturn the certification and order that a new election be held, which is essentially the relief that they’re seeking, which is completely insane, and they are not going to do that at any point in time,” Conway said.
Trump has now pinned his hopes on a case brought directly to the Supreme Court by the attorney general of Texas, and joined by 17 other red states, seeking to have the votes thrown out in four other states that voted for Biden. Conway’s opinion of this tactic was concise.
“The notion that the Supreme Court is going to have a litigation where states are attacking each other’s rules for choosing electors is insane,” he said.
“The biggest election fraud of the 2020 cycle, it didn’t happen in any voting booth or in any mail-in drop box. It’s happening now with these people peddling the lie that [Donald Trump] won the election,” George Conway says on House conservatives urging Trump not to concede. pic.twitter.com/sXnna49Ln3
— The Lead CNN (@TheLeadCNN) December 8, 2020
But Team Trump’s dismal postelection court record, and its long-shot hopes that the Texas case could reverse the president’s November defeat, almost seem beside the point for many in the MAGA tribe.
At a rally in Valdosta, Ga., on Saturday for Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, many Trump supporters echoed the president’s view that Biden’s victory was attributable to fraud.
“I don’t believe that Biden won [the election],” Miles Cook told Yahoo News. “I think it’s been cheated, and I think Trump will become the next president.”
On Parler, the upstart social media network to which Trump supporters have been migrating from Twitter and Facebook, the view that Trump won’t be leaving office after Jan. 20 remains widely shared.
“Biden’s only path to victory is if President Trump concedes,” Michael Flynn Jr. wrote on the platform Tuesday. “And President Trump is NOT conceding. The constitution is on our side. #holdtheline #fightlikeflynn”
Flynn, of course, is the son of retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, whom Trump pardoned on Nov. 26, despite his twice pleading guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts in 2016 with a Russian diplomat.
The hashtags used by Flynn Jr. mirrored a factually challenged call to arms the president posted Wednesday.
We will soon be learning about the word “courage”, and saving our Country. I received hundreds of thousands of legal votes more, in all of the Swing States, than did my opponent. ALL Data taken after the vote says that it was impossible for me to lose, unless FIXED!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 9, 2020
Three days earlier, armed protesters showed up at the home of Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, chanting, “Stop the steal.” The certified results in the state show Biden beat Trump by 154,188 votes.
The individuals gathered outside my home targeted me as Michigan’s Chief Election officer. But their threats were actually aimed at the 5.5million Michigan citizens who voted in this fall’s election, seeking to overturn their will. They will not succeed in doing so. My statement: pic.twitter.com/RSUnPSN4Aa
— Jocelyn Benson (@JocelynBenson) December 7, 2020
The Trump campaign’s arguments have relied on unverified accounts by poll watchers, Republican observers and ordinary voters who claimed to have witnessed malfeasance at the polls or in the ballot-counting process, and on complicated mathematical calculations meant to prove that a Biden win was statistically improbable. While there is no actual data, collected either before or after the election, that shows it was impossible for Trump to lose, or that Trump received more legal votes than Biden in swing states like Michigan, in an alternate universe where one person reserves the right to be the sole arbiter of what constitutes “fake news,” evidence itself seems beside the point.
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