The Capitol riots of Jan. 6 were the high-water mark of false allegations that the 2020 election was stolen.
Since then, conservatives, with some exceptions (looking at you, My Pillow guy), have begrudgingly accepted the reality that President Joe Biden won.
Now a lengthy Time magazine article is reigniting their baseless conspiracy theories.
The piece, “The Secret History of the Shadow Campaign That Saved the Election,” posted Thursday afternoon with little fanfare. Spanning thousands of words, the article describes how a loosely affiliated bipartisan coalition worked together to stymy former President Donald Trump’s efforts to subvert democracy.
The dozens of sources Time spoke with, some for the first time, want Americans to know how close the country came to losing its democracy, in the hopes that fewer will take it for granted.
Their efforts included lobbying Congress for election funding, private philanthropy, voter outreach, public relations campaigns urging people to vote by mail, pressuring social media companies to crack down on disinformation, and more.
Another key strategy was keeping angry liberals from taking to the streets if and when Trump refused to accept the results. They believed the violence that could result from such would give him a pretext for sending in the National Guard, which they feared could end in a coup. This helps explain the complete absence of counter protestors during the Capitol riots.
Parties involved in what Time unfortunately, if accurately, calls a “conspiracy” to safeguard the election ranged from groups historically antagonistic to one another, such as the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Congress, to the Sierra Club, Women’s March, the National Association of Evangelicals, corporate America, and numerous voting rights organizations. A majority involved are liberal or Democratic, but many aren’t.
They were ultimately successful.
“Democracy won in the end,” the piece concludes. “The will of the people prevailed. But it’s crazy, in retrospect, that this is what it took to put on an election in the United States of America.”
Conservatives have a completely different takeaway. To them, the article says that the election was indeed stolen from Trump. They’re clinging to a single line to prove this theory.
The line reads: “That’s why the participants want the secret history of the 2020 election told, even though it sounds like a paranoid fever dream—a well-funded cabal of powerful people, ranging across industries and ideologies, working together behind the scenes to influence perceptions, change rules and laws, steer media coverage and control the flow of information.”
There was a conspiracy unfolding behind the scenes,” the article adds.
Twitter users mocked him; subscribers to his Telegram channel have done the opposite. Like the controversial freshman representative, they see the article as evidence of an insidious effort to take the election from Trump (never mind that it’s the same election that propelled Cawthorn into office).
Others on the right-wing have called it “concerning,” “the tactics of [former Russian dictator Vladimir] Lenin,” and “incriminating.”
They believe the article proves what they, and Trump, have been saying all along.
It seems to matter little that the article actually describes an effort to protect, rather than subvert, democracy. It’s giving conservatives the ammunition they need to work fans and followers into an angry lather.
Irrespective of its intentions, and the actual thrust of the story, Time magazine may have reignited the stolen election fire.