When I have conversations with folks who work outside of politics and media, I often hear an understandable question: What will it take for Republican voters to accept the legitimacy of election results?
I know Donald Trump lost in 2020. Chances are pretty good that you know it, too. But for a ridiculously large chunk of the population, it only looks like the former president lost — and anyone who says otherwise by pointing to evidence must be lying.
Part of the challenge is identifying sources these voters might find credible. Obviously, rank-and-file election deniers are unmoved by election results. And the conclusions of state election officials from both parties. And court rulings. And journalists’ investigations. And the assurances of congressional leaders from both parties. And the findings of former Vice President Mike Pence’s team. And even the judgment of Trump’s Republican attorney general.
But maybe these folks will listen to Trump’s own campaign operation? The question came to mind watching a video that Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, the ranking member of the Jan. 6 committee, released earlier this week. If you missed it, the Wyoming congresswoman said:
“Yesterday, the select committee’s hearing showed all Americans that President Trump’s claims of a stolen 2020 election were, to use former attorney general Barr’s words, ‘complete nonsense.’ We heard this from Donald Trump’s own campaign experts, his own campaign lawyers, his own campaign manager, his attorney general, and others Donald Trump appointed to leadership positions in the U.S. Department of Justice. President Trump’s advisers knew what he was saying was false, and they told him so directly and repeatedly.”
Now, the point Cheney intended to drive home related to the investigation and Trump’s legal culpability, but these truths also have broader applicability — because they serve as a reminder that Trump really did lose.
For the absurd percentage of GOP voters clinging to the idea that President Joe Biden’s election was illegitimate, all of this probably ought to matter. They may not believe vote tallies, election officials, judges, journalists, and members of Congress, but maybe they’ll believe Donald Trump’s own campaign manager, Trump’s own campaign lawyers, and Trump’s own campaign data team?
Are election deniers really prepared to make the case that Trump’s political operation was filled with nefarious RINOs who were secretly in on a mysterious conspiracy against their boss?
The answer is, yes, they probably are. HuffPost noted yesterday, “Republican senators who objected to the 2020 election result on Jan. 6, 2021, are standing by their votes even as several people from Donald Trump’s inner circle admitted in depositions that claims of widespread election fraud were a sham.”
Around the same time, a CNN reporter added, “House Republicans who objected to the certification of the 2020 election results are digging in and defending their votes on January 6, despite Donald Trump’s inner circle testifying that there was no merit to the former president’s stolen election claims.”
The House Jan. 6 committee is holding its third public hearing on Thursday, June 16 at 1 p.m. ET. Get expert analysis in real-time on our liveblog at msnbc.com/jan6hearings.