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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
In a surprise to absolutely no one, former President Donald Trump used his first post-presidency speech to rehash mistruths about the 2020 election.
At the Conservative Political Action Conference this past weekend, Trump said the election he lost was 'rigged,” lashed out at the Supreme Court and his GOP detractors in Congress, and again hinted at another presidential campaign.
'I may even decide to beat them for a third time,” Trump said, wrongly implying he actually won last November's contest and drawing a standing ovation from his faithful followers gathered at the conference.
Iowa Republicans didn't need the reminder. They've already heard the message loud and clear, and they're acting on it.
Republican legislators last week passed a bill to place new restrictions on voting, especially absentee voting. It fits neatly into Trump's conspiracy theory that both early ballots and mail-in ballots counted after Election Day are vehicles for Democrats to fraudulently tally votes in their favor.
Some states do have messy elections, although that wouldn't have been nearly enough to tilt the 2020 election.
Here in Iowa, advocates for the new limits on early voting aren't even trying to make the case that there is a real problem with fraud or miscounted ballots. Trump won the state's electoral votes by about the same margin as he did in 2016. The problem, they sort of admit, is in voters' minds.
'The ultimate voter suppression is a very large swath of the electorate not having faith in our election systems. For whatever reason, political or not, there are thousands upon thousands of Iowans who do not have faith in our election systems,” said Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, Republican chairman of the State Government Committee.
'For whatever reason,” Kaufmann said, as if any reason is just as valid as any other. In this case, though, the reason is that Trump lies and his supporters foolishly believe him.
Republicans crammed the election bill through in breakneck speed, with just a little over a week between filing and final passage, including hastily crafted amendments along the way. Asked last week if she'll sign the bill, Gov. Kim Reynolds was characteristically noncommittal but waded into the rigged election fantasy.
'The fact of the matter is there are Americans across this state who have concerns about what happened in this last election. Again, I think it's imperative that it's not just understood but that they feel that there's integrity in the election process and they feel it's fair and done in an equitable manner,” Reynolds said at a news conference.
A week earlier, Reynolds' mentor, former Gov. Terry Branstad, sat for a CNN interview in which he repeatedly sidestepped questions about whether the 2020 election results were real. The best he could muster was that he 'accepts” Joe Biden is the president, saying nothing about the legitimacy of the election.
It is a self-perpetuating cycle - Republican elites lend credibility to Trump's lies. When his grassroots supporters actually believe the lies, GOP lawmakers say they have to legislate to allay voters' concerns, which they themselves helped instill. It makes for good job security.
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