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Republicans weaponize Trump election fraud claims ahead of new polls

Seventeen months after the US Capitol assault, Donald Trump's crusade to overturn the 2020 election has morphed into a rallying cry for Republicans seeking an edge at the polls and to drive more of their supporters to vote.

(FILES) In this file photo former US President Donald Trump speaks to the media prior to departing from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, September 21, 2020, as he travels to Ohio. – Donald Trump on May 5, 2021 reiterated his false claims that voter fraud caused his election loss to Joe Biden last November, shortly after a Facebook oversight board upheld the platform’s ban on the former US president. “Had gutless and clueless MINORITY Leader Mitch McConnell… fought to expose all of the corruption that was presented at the time, with more found since, we would have had a far different Presidential result,” Trump said in a statement following the Facebook ruling.Trump, who is mulling another run for the White House, repeated his insistence that there is abundant evidence of voter fraud, and urged his followers to “never give up.” (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)

Seventeen months after the US Capitol assault, Donald Trump’s crusade to overturn the 2020 election has morphed into a rallying cry for Republicans seeking an edge at the polls and to drive more of their supporters to vote.

Ahead of the midterm elections — in which the Democrats’ fragile hold on control of the Senate hangs in the balance, and with it the future of Joe Biden’s presidency — millions of Americans still support the crusade against what Trump and his supporters claim, against all evidence, was “massive fraud” in 2020.

That belief is helping Republicans to recruit poll workers, and to put forward candidates for elected positions with sway over how elections are carried out, experts say.

“Republicans are moving into a position in which they can exercise more influence over the conduct and the counting of votes,” says Christopher Arterton, a professor of political management at George Washington University.

“If you don’t think that the election was fairly conducted in 2020, then there’s a reason why you would get motivated to become a poll worker. And we see that going on in a number of states — under the radar, so to speak,” he says.

For his part, Trump fans the claims on social media — on the sites he’s allowed to post on, anyway — abundantly sharing content denouncing the 2020 contest won by Biden.

“The election was stolen, retruth if you agree” states one user’s post that was shared by Trump on Truth Social, the network that the former president created after being banned from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and a host of other mainstream social media for his role in instigating the violence at the Capitol.

– Relentless messaging –
Trump also hammers home the fraud claim — which has been repeatedly refuted by election authorities in multiple states — at his rallies, still attended by thousands of Americans every few weeks.

His supporters hold up “Stop the Steal” signs, the war cry of the movement born even as the ballots were still being counted in 2020.

A trailer for the film “2000 Mules” is also shown. The film bills itself as a documentary but makes false claims about the stuffing of ballot boxes in a series of states that were decisive in Biden’s 2020 victory.

Despite experts repeatedly questioning the methodology used by the film’s team, the movie has taken in more than $1.4 million at theaters across the country, according to Box Office Mojo.

Its relative success is yet another sign that the conspiracy theories and lies that drove Trump’s supporters to launch the Capitol assault remain embedded in the political mainstream and still have the power to win over fans.

‘Witch hunt’
Jim Wood, a Trump supporter and activist — who AFP first met on the lawn of the Capitol on January 6, 2021 — is among those who still believe.

He dismisses the Congressional investigation into Trump’s culpability for the Capitol attack as a “witch hunt” — a favored expression of the ex-president.

His language regarding the panel steering the investigation — made up mostly of Democrats along with two Republicans, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger — is slightly more colorful.

“The Democrats and RINOs (Republicans in name only) like Cheney and (Kinzinger) are butt smoothers for the establishment,” he states.

To channel his anger into action, Wood has joined a Facebook group that promises to “protect” the elections in his home state of New Hampshire and, again, to shed light on the alleged fraud of 2020.

Similar initiatives are surging across the country, with the midterms as their next target, says Arterton.

“I don’t think it’s going away any time soon,” he says.

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