How Lies and Propaganda Hurt Democracy

Donald Trump has ludicrously claimed that millions of illegal votes were cast in last year’s election and he and his enablers have backed up that claim with nothing but lies. Today we found out the cost of that kind of dishonest propaganda as it paves the way for a possible constitutional crisis.

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After a series of initial questions, respondents were asked whether Trump won the popular vote, whether millions of illegal immigrants voted, and how often voter fraud occurs. These questions evoke arguments frequently made by Trump and others about the integrity of the 2016 election.

Then the survey asked two questions about postponing the 2020 election.

  • If Donald Trump were to say that the 2020 presidential election should be postponed until the country can make sure that only eligible American citizens can vote, would you support or oppose postponing the election?
  • What if both Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress were to say that the 2020 presidential election should be postponed until the country can make sure that only eligible American citizens can vote? Would you support or oppose postponing the election?

Nearly half of Republicans (47 percent) believe that Trump won the popular vote, which is similar to this finding. Larger fractions believe that millions of illegal immigrants voted (68 percent) and that voter fraud happens somewhat or very often (73 percent). Again, this is similar to previous polls.

Moreover, 52 percent said that they would support postponing the 2020 election, and 56 percent said they would do so if both Trump and Republicans in Congress were behind this.

This is an extraordinarily dangerous finding. A postponement of a presidential election has never happened in our history, not even during times of war. If this were to happen, there would be riots in the streets. It would rightly be considered an authoritarian coup by all but the most blinkered Republican tribalists (who would instantly see through it if a Democrat were in office, of course). If anything is going to spark another civil war, that might well be enough to do it.

There is no provision in the Constitution for postponing an election (or for a do-over, as some liberals have demanded due to Russian interference; that simply isn’t going to happen because it can’t). It’s not the kind of thing that can be improvised. It would require a declaration of martial law, which would lead to massive social unrest — and justifiably so.

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