Trump threatened that his voters will stay home in 2022 and 2024 if the GOP doesn’t back election lies.
One expert on extremism and democracy told Insider that his statement is “mostly a power play.”
The former president has tried this technique before in the Georgia runoffs, which Republicans lost.
Nearly one year after his defeat, former President Donald Trump is still proselytizing about the unfounded and untrue election “fraud” that he claims resulted in his loss of the presidency to President Joe Biden in November 2020.
But this time the GOP figurehead has attached an ultimatum to his sermon; one aimed at fellow Republican lawmakers: Repeat Trump’s election lies or supporters of the polarizing politician will refuse to vote in upcoming pivotal elections.
On Thursday, Trump published a statement to his political action committee website, Save America, conveying the threat.
“If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented), Republicans will not be voting in ’22 or ’24. It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do,” the statement said.
Official audits and election experts have concluded there was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election, and the Department of Homeland Security declared the election the “most secure in American history.”
The ousted president has been hinting at a 2024 run for president, and maintaining claims of a “stolen election” has become a central narrative in GOP discourse as he attempts to further erode trust in the entire political system, according to Cas Mudde, a professor of international affairs at the University of Georgia who specializes in extremism and democracy.
The former president, though gone from office, still holds sway over the Republican party, and his ominous message creates a problem for the party, Mudde said.
“Now GOP candidates have to find a balance between saying they are pro-Trump and pro-vote,” Mudde told Insider.
But despite the messaging problem Trump has left Republican lawmakers with ahead of impending elections, Mudde said he believes Trump’s most recent threat is “mostly a power play.”
“He wants to remain at the center of GOP politics and prevent the party from moving on without him,” Mudde said.
In a Thursday analysis piece, Washington Post National Correspondent Phillip Bump theorized that the former president’s ultimatum was not, in fact, a threat to withhold his passionate supporters from other Republican candidates, but instead, a preemptive explanation for why he may not be able to energize his base in elections to come.
And indeed, Trump has made this threat before, Mudde pointed out, with regard to the 2021 Georgia Senate run-offs, which saw Democrats flip the Senate in a blow to both Trump and the Republican party. Before voting began in the January election, Trump did eventually walk back his threats to keep his base from voting, and Mudde said he believes the former president will likely downplay his most recent threat in a similar way as the critical 2022 and 2024 elections draw close.
Still, Mudde said the former president’s remarks could decrease the GOP vote a bit, though not by much. But margins are already small in several of the races and many politicians are gearing up for what will likely be tight races.
Some strategists have suggested that Trump’s rampant claims of voter fraud did hurt GOP voter turnout in the Senate runoffs earlier this year, but the former president, along with several other senior Republican figures, has expressed confidence that Republicans will be able to retake Congress in 2022.
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