FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
The constant drumbeat of "the big lie" — that last year's presidential election was either fraudulent or illegitimate because Donald Trump didn't win — has implications reaching beyond the Jan. 6 violence on Capitol Hill.
Conspiracy theories and disinformation about the election system have undermined trust at all levels of government. The lies and misinformation not only undermine American democracy but may lead to further acts of political violence.
A Department of Homeland Security warning regarding one of the most persistent theories — that Trump is going be reinstated — has increased calls for violence if the former president is not returned to the White House.
ABC News obtained the department bulletin, which said: "Some conspiracy theories associated with reinstating former President Trump have included calls for violence if desired outcomes are not realized." Many on the right are becoming more and more comfortable with violence as an acceptable mechanism for obtaining their political ends.
The University of Chicago Project on Security and Threats has been tracking insurrectionist sentiments in U.S. adults, most recently in surveys conducted in June. They found that nearly 1 in 5 respondents agree with the statement that "the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and Joe Biden is an illegitimate president." Of those, nearly 1 in 10 respondents also agree that "use of force is justified to restore Donald J. Trump to the presidency."
It is scary to think that so many Americans would be willing to resort to violence. If the sample is representative of the overall population, it means tens of millions of American think it's OK to reimpose Trump's rule by violence, regardless of the vote count.
Republican elected officials continue to promote the narrative that the election was stolen, though recount after recount has affirmed it wasn't. Missouri's disgraced former governor, Eric Greitens, now a U.S. Senate candidate, traveled to Arizona as the results of a Republican audit were announced declaring that Biden had won the state by more than 300 votes over the official results. Greitens immediately tweeted, "Arizona must decertify!"
The other Missouri Senate candidates are doing their part to advance the vote-fraud myth. Missouri Reps. Billy Long and Vicky Hartzler voted against certifying Biden's electoral win. State Attorney General Eric Schmitt participated in lawsuits challenging the 2020 results.
In January, lawyer Mark McCloskey tweeted, "There is no question that the election was the result of massive fraud. There is no question that Donald Trump won the legitimate vote."
Republicans who still care about democracy need to ask themselves how much of this destructive talk is enough, and whether the stolen-election drumbeat by candidates and elected officials — who know better — is encouraging talk among rank-and-file Republicans to support acts of political violence.
Republican politicians are playing with a loaded gun, recklessly aiming it at America's democratic future.