Republicans have been laying the groundwork for claiming election fraud in California's recall for weeks before polls open, and one legal expert argued this post-Donald Trump dynamic is driving the party even further to the right.
GOP candidate Larry Elder has already said he believes there will be "shenanigans," and Trump has baselessly claimed the vote is "probably rigged," while Fox News broadcasters have hinted or outright claimed Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom could only survive the recall challenge through "voter fraud" -- and the efforts continue an alarming trend from the last election cycle, wrote attorney Teri Kanefield for NBC News.
"Trump thus taught the Republicans the game: When the polls are in your favor, boast that you have it in the bag," Kanefield wrote. "When the polls show that you are losing, begin spreading lies about election fraud so that you can declare yourself the winner no matter the result."
Those lies provoked the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection and badly wounded democracy, Kanefield wrote.
"If enough people distrust the results of elections, democracy fails," she wrote. "Those who want democracy to fail are those who cannot win elections but refuse to recalibrate their message and policy to win widespread support."
The Republican Party's boldly anti-democratic direction also sends its candidates and voters down an even more radicalized path.
"This has created a cycle of radicalization: Republicans find they must play to their base by adopting unpopular policies — such as coming out against vaccines and masks in a pandemic and holding up Confederates and insurrectionists as heroes," Kanefield wrote. "As this happens, the moderates flee, driving the Republican Party farther to the right."