Trump and his supporters continue to claim that Biden won because of widespread election fraud. While Sidney Powell wove an international conspiracy too crazy even for Rudy Giuliana, some of Trump supporters have embraced this theory. Another conspiracy theory claims, falsely, that the US seized election servers in Germany in an armed raid. The pardoned (by Trump) criminal Michael Flynn has called on Trump to suspend the Constitution and impose martial law in order to re-do the election. Officials in Georgia are now receiving death threats for accepting the election results and when a fellow Republican pleaded with Trump to address this, Trump doubled down on his conspiracy theory. As such, the conspiracy theories are still going strong (despite being empty shells).

At this point, the various conspiracy theories seem to be claiming that all election officials in areas won by Biden were involved in the alleged fraud. It must be noted that these include Republican election officials who supervised elections in which down-ballot Republicans often won. As always, the entire mainstream media (except perhaps Fox News) is said to be in on the conspiracy against Trump. Social media companies, voting machine companies and fellow travelers have been accused of being in on the conspiracy.  Even the Secretary of State and the Governor of Georgia seem to have been cast into the conspiracy by Trump—his followers certainly think they betrayed Trump for Biden. Attorney General Bill Barr has disputed Trump’s claims of fraud; Lou Dobbs is already suggesting that Barr has been “compromised.” Based on this evidence and these trends, it is reasonable to infer that as more Republicans publicly accept the results of the election, they will also be seen as “compromised” and in on the alleged conspiracy against Trump. This ever-growing number of people alleged to be involved in election fraud to help Biden seems to lead to an interesting conspiracy paradox. But first, a bit more set up.

About 34% of registered voters identify as independents, 33% identify as Democrats and 29% identify as Republicans. Independents tend to lean towards a party and 49% of all registered voters are either Democrats or lean that way. 44% identify as Republicans or lean that way. The party members and leaners do not always vote based on their affiliation or lean; 2016 provides a relevant example here. 5% of the Democrats and Democrat leaners jumped party to vote for Trump while 4% of Republicans and their leaners jumped party to vote for Hillary. Hillary did, after all, get millions more votes than Trump in 2016—she just got them in the wrong places.

After four years as President, Trump has had low approval ratings and his handling of the pandemic has been horrible. Polls show that 52% of Americans are satisfied (18%) or happy (34%) that Trump lost the election. Biden currently has a 55% approval rating. While not conclusive, this information provides evidence in support of the legitimacy of the election. That is, there are good reasons to believe that millions more people voted for Biden than voted for Trump and this time enough of the votes were in the right place to also win the electoral college. But for the sake of the conspiracy theories, let us suppose that this view is mistaken. Given the 2016 results, the best that can be done for Trump’s side is to consider that Biden had millions more popular votes but not enough to beat Trump in the electoral college. As such, the conspiracy theory claim would be that widespread election fraud was what enabled Biden to win.

As noted above, Trump and his supporters consider an ever-growing number of people to be involved in the conspiracy. While they obviously think Democrats are involved, they are adding in Republicans as well. This number, it would seem, can only continue to grow. As noted above, when Barr said that the election was legitimate, he became a suspect in the conspiracy. The same will presumably hold for other Republicans as they accept the results. As such, Trump and his supporters will need to claim that all these people are somehow involved to maintain their conspiracy theories about widespread voter fraud. After all, if these Republicans are not in on the conspiracy, then that would suggest that the election is legitimate. At a certain point, the alleged conspiracy will be so large that Biden would have won if the alleged conspirators had simply voted for him in a legitimate election. This, then, is the paradox: Trump and his supporters must expand the membership in the alleged conspiracy but doing so undermines the theory of fraud. At a certain point, the conspiracy becomes so large that if everyone in on the alleged conspiracy voted for Biden, then Biden would have easily won legitimately.

 

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