If you watched the last committee hearing of January 6 carefully, you could imagine a different Arizona over the past year and a half.
One could imagine a state in which political life was not dominated by a cycle of electoral fraud claims made month after month, only to be debunked and replaced with new allegations of fraud. One could imagine a little less madness and a little more stability.
But that didn’t happen, because of a choice Donald Trump made when he reached a crossroads on the night of Election Day 2020, the committee showed this week.
In previous weeks, internal campaign data had indicated to Trump that he could well lose, it was heard at Monday’s hearing. That night, his more restrained advisers, such as campaign manager Bill Stepien, were telling Trump to just tell the public that people should hold their ground and wait for the votes to be counted.
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However, Trump’s allegedly drunk lawyer friend Rudy Giuliani said anything short of claiming fraud and declaring victory would show weakness. Since Trump had been saying for months that he could only lose if he was cheated, perhaps the choice was as natural for him as it was consequential for us.
Trump went with the drunk. Arizona’s history has changed.
Trump “thought I was wrong,” Stepien told the committee in recorded testimony earlier. “He told me, and, you know, they were going to leave, and he was going to go a different direction.”
That night, Trump said in a televised address, “This is a fraud on the American public. It is a shame for our country. We were preparing to win this election. Frankly, we won this election.
He didn’t actually win the election. But just saying he lost to fraud convinced devoted Trump supporters that it was true while justifying massive fundraising campaigns.
Since his staunch supporters dominate the Republican Party and the Republican Party still rules in Arizona, the entire state was held hostage to Trump’s fateful choice on election night 2020.
Theories launched, rejected
Trump supporters protest outside the Maricopa County Elections Office November 4, 2020. On this day, the first false theory about how the election was supposedly stolen took off – that Sharpie pens were mistakenly used at polling centers in Maricopa County . This turned out to be wrong. A lawsuit filed in this regard was quickly dropped.
And off we went, with GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward driving the crazy train that the whole state still can’t seem to get off.
“We have the momentum, we have the activist community that will not allow this race to be stolen from President Trump or Republicans until the end of the ballot,” Ward said on November 5.
Soon his party organization and the Trump campaign filed suit after suit in Arizona, making overlapping claims all based on the belief that Trump could not have lost Arizona legitimately, even if he was a historically president. unpopular.
Among them was the idea that the Dominion Voting Systems machines, used in Maricopa County, were somehow programmed or tampered with to deprive Trump of votes. U.S. District Judge Diane Humetewa ruled the allegations baseless.
“Advancing several different theories, the plaintiffs allege that the Secretary of State and the Governor of Arizona conspired with various domestic and international actors to manipulate the results of the 2020 Arizona general election allowing Joseph Biden to defeat Donald Trump in the presidential race,” she wrote. “The allegations they have advanced to support their claims of fraud fail in their particularity and plausibility.”
The presence here of such a willingness to follow Trump into the breach has dragged all of Arizona into the gutter.
State Rep. Mark Finchem, the Oro Valley Republican, hosted a conference at a hotel in Phoenix on November 30, 2020. Rudy Giuliani attended and a host of self-proclaimed experts who would become familiar in Arizona claimed that fraud had happened here.
It helped launch the next stage of Finchem’s political career, bringing him to Trump’s attention. Currently running for secretary of state from Arizona, Finchem is likely the leading contender for the Republican nomination. At a minimum, he’s the top fundraiser, having raised $939,944 so far.
It is well known now that Trump raised $250 million after the campaign, saying the money would go to a non-existent “election defense fund”. The Arizona GOP has done something similar – raising money for itself through a so-called “Election Integrity Fund.”
Forget January 6
Jumping over Arizona’s involvement in the events of January 6 – the planning of U.S. Representatives Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs, the Arizona Proud Boys breaching the Capitol, Finchem’s appearance at the scene – and still our lives politics was dominated by the Trump decision made on November 3, 2020.
State Senate Speaker Karen Fann has split from House Speaker Rusty Bowers, embracing Trump’s fraud allegations and launching the audit that took up much of 2021. She hired an inexperienced and biased company called Cyber Ninjas to carry it out. Using high-powered cameras, these inexperienced ‘listeners’ searched the ballots for traces of bamboo – to test the story that ballots had been shipped from somewhere in East Asia .
They found no bamboo. They found nothing of importance.
But still the nibbling and grinding continues. The latest claim aimed at gripping Trump loyalists comes from the movie ‘2000 Mules’, which used cellphone location data to try to show that ‘mules’ carried ballots to drop ballot boxes repeatedly at Phoenix and elsewhere. It was already demystified but will no doubt be replaced by a new blockbuster claim soon.
Leaving aside the failed coup attempt of January 6, 2021, it was still a huge waste of time, effort and money for Arizonans. And it all goes back to that selfish, baseless, and utterly predictable decision Trump made at the crossroads of election night 2020.
Contact opinion columnist Tim Steller at firstname.lastname@example.org or 520-807-7789. On Twitter: @senyorreporter