The talking points clearly went out among Democrats and their media allies to use the grammatically incompetent phrase “election denier” to smear any conservatives who express concerns about election security.
The phrase doesn’t logically work — no one is denying that an election happened, in contrast to people like “Holocaust deniers” who refuse to acknowledge that the Nazis’ genocidal purge of Jews and other groups ever took place. But that fact aside, some of the loudest voices decrying “election deniers” have some personal experience in the refusing-to-accept-election-outcomes department.
Former Clinton campaign lawyer Marc Elias chastised the Republican Party for “operating in the penumbra of the current stars of the election denier and voter suppression movement,” criticizing a “constellation of well-funded, right-wing groups that … range from mere vote suppressors to full-on election deniers.”
He also took to Twitter to make the obviously false claim that “all election deniers are Republicans.”
Elias’s newfound blind faith in American elections is especially ironic, since he has a history of trying to undermine elections not just with words but with illicit actions. It was Elias who helped commission and pay for the debunked Steele dossier as part of the Clinton campaign’s plot to sabotage then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016. Elias also “helped orchestrate the effort to change hundreds of election laws and processes in the months leading up to the 2020 election in order to flood elections with tens of millions of mail-in ballots.” Earlier this year, he was slapped down by a Clinton-appointed district judge in New York for trying to undermine “free, open, rational elections.”
California Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff told the Associated Press in 2017 that Russian interference “unquestionably” had “an influence on the election” of Trump in 2016. He spent Trump’s entire presidency insisting he possessed “ample evidence of collusion in plain sight” between Trump and Russia, undermining the legitimacy of the 2016 election.
Schiff himself even cast doubt on the 2020 election, saying earlier that year that “we cannot be assured that the vote will be fairly won,” and as such “the president’s misconduct cannot be decided at the ballot box.” Instead, Schiff attempted to subvert the voting process by impeaching the president.
Now, though, Schiff is lobbing the “election denier” smear at his opponents — and bizarrely, in the same breath, fomenting concerns about how Republicans are “working to rig the next election.”
Max Boot of The Washington Post has criticized “election deniers” in columns as well as on Twitter. “At least 23 supporters of the ‘big lie’ — which holds that the 2020 election was stolen from former president Donald Trump — are running for secretary of state posts to oversee elections in 19 states,” he wrote in May. “Other election deniers are joining election boards.”
But back in 2018, Boot wrote this headline, which sounds a lot like something that rhymes with “rejection pretrial”: “Trump is an illegitimate president whose election is tainted by fraud.”
The Washington Post’s resident fake conservative Jennifer Rubin shared Boot’s 2018 column with the caption “THIS.” She also wrote, back in 2018, that “if Trump didn’t have illegitimate/illegal help he’d have LOST.”
More recently, however, Rubin has taken a break from her own election conspiracy theories to calling her opponents “election deniers” numerous times. Discontent to do simply that, she wrote a column titled “How to cover election deniers? Try calling them election liars” because “election deniers” as a term “underplays the menace they pose.”
Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who lost the state’s most recent gubernatorial election to Republican Glenn Youngkin, accused Youngkin of “bankrolling far-right election deniers” in the final days of the campaign. But back in 2004, discussing the 2000 election of President George W. Bush, McAuliffe told a crowd “Let’s go back to Florida. We actually won the last election, folks. They stole the last presidential election.”
There’s also Democrat Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who infamously has still refused to concede that she lost the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election. Abrams, however, had harsh words for those who held concerns about the execution of the 2020 election, calling audit attempts “schemes designed to perpetuate not only the big lie but more concerning to me, to perpetuate the insurrection.”
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote in a condescending op-ed titled “Republicans Can’t Handle the Truth” that “you really shouldn’t be surprised by [Republicans’] willingness to indulge malicious, democracy-endangering lies” about the 2020 election. It was only six years ago, though, that Krugman said the 2016 presidential contest was “rigged” by everyone from the Russians to Fox News to then-FBI Director James Comey. In January 2017, he fretted, “how will this presidency ever be considered legitimate?”
Just as they have with the phrases “Russian collusion” or “insurrection” or “threat to democracy,” Democrats in media and politics alike are using “election denier” to slander their opponents into silence, no matter how often they themselves have voiced election skepticism. It’s a brazenly hypocritical strategy and a stupid phrase, but if Republicans mindlessly regurgitate it instead of pushing back, it’ll work — and Democrats know it.