Even in small towns, signs of divide
“There are a lot of people who believe what comes out of the president’s mouth.” — Ohio State professor Paul Beck
Using his presidential megaphone and social media platforms to spread his message, President Donald Trump duped millions of citizens into believing he had won the 2020 presidential election by a landslide and that it was being stolen from him.
Mr. Trump filed 60 lawsuits in state and federal courts alleging massive election fraud and asking the courts to overturn the election results in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Lacking credible evidence to support his claims, judges in all sixty cases rejected Mr. Trump’s big lie.
Nonetheless, other public officials in federal, state and local governments bought into the big lie.
In Texas the state’s Republican attorney general, joined by the attorneys general in 17 other states filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate 62 state-certified, electoral college votes won by Mr. Biden in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin and Michigan.
They claimed the election results were unlawful and should be declared unconstitutional. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case.
In Washington, Republican Members of Congress also bought the big lie. When a joint session of Congress assembled in early January to formally accept state electoral vote tallies naming Joseph Biden the winner, six Republican senators and 121 house members objected to, and voted against, certifying Biden’s electoral victory in Arizona. In a separate vote, seven Republican senator and 138 house members voted against certifying Biden’s electoral win in Pennsylvania.
And, in the weeks following the election, how did the actions of public officials in towns across America encourage pro-Trump voters to double-down on their belief in the big lie? I can offer one example: a small rural town, 425 miles from Washington — my hometown, the town of Colden, near Buffalo.
During prior elections Colden’s officials strictly enforced a local, town law that has long served to peacefully end the democratically inspired tug-of-war between candidates, and among town citizens, once the votes were cast on election day.
The law reads: “Nonilluminated political signs, shall not be located on public property and shall be removed within three days after an election.”
I know the town took this law seriously in the past because I once received a telephone call from the town’s code enforcement officer shortly after an election to remind me to remove my political lawn signs.
What was different after the 2020 presidential election?
The 2020 Biden/Harris lawn signs quickly disappeared while a large number of Trump/Pence lawn signs remained on display well after Mr. Biden took office in late January 2021.
Prior to the 2020 election, lawn signs served a single purpose: They allowed citizens a way to publicly endorse their favored candidates in an upcoming election.
But after the 2020 election, the renegade Trump/Pence lawn signs took on a very different purpose, as they were converted into symbols for Trump supporter to promote the big lie.
By failing to have the Trump/Pence yard signs removed, the all-Republican Colden town board allowed town citizens, months after the votes were counted — to continue to publicly erode trust in the election process by denying, without evidence, the legitimacy of the election results.
A self-rule form of democracy cannot exist if the people do not trust the results of their elections.
In the end, millions of American may have believed what came from Mr. Trump’s mouth — but not nearly the number of believers needed to hijack the 2020 presidential election. This time the rule of law trumped the big lie.
Ronald Fraser, Ph.D., the author of, “America, Democracy & You: Where have all the Citizens Gone?” can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.