The “Stop the Steal” myth may be associated with Donald Trump, but it was a long-built narrative of Republicans that led to the current situation.
Undoubtedly, this myth got additional traction in Donald Trump’s era than in the previous elections, mostly due to his controversial regime, being overly vocal about it, putting Capitol Hill under siege, and refusing to step down from the presidency.
However, the origins of this stop the steal myth can be traced back to the roots of the current century as Republicans and voter fraud claims became part and parcel of each other.
Although the name “Stop the Steal” is a modern one, the concept behind the campaign is the alleged voter fraud for which Democrats have been accused of ages.
The latest wave of voter fraud allegations can be traced back to the highly controversial presidential election of 2000 when George W. Bush led Republicans to accuse Democrats of stealing the elections in the states of New Mexico and Missouri.
And then came the presidential elections of 2008 and 2012, where the voter fraud allegations started ramping up to an extreme level.
Donald Trump, in 2020, built on all of these allegations and coined the term “Stop the Steal,” the pinnacle of which came in the form of the Capitol Hill siege on January 6.
Let’s dig deeper into how all the former Republicans and voter fraud claims developed over time and how they are responsible for the final disaster which Trump triggered during his ending days of the presidency.
2000 Presidential Elections: A Beginning of Modern-day Republicans Voter Fraud Claims
George W. Bush lost New Mexico by a small margin of the vote, and the result of this defeat triggered the traditional Republican response, i.e., voter fraud.
Despite winning the election, George W. Bush pursued the voter fraud claims as his Attorney ‘General Ashcroft launched a crackdown against voter fraud by announcing,
“America has failed too often to uphold the right of every citizen’s vote, once cast, to be counted fairly and equally.”
(G.W. Bush Attorney General)
The Republican National Committee applauded this move, saying that thousands of voters cast multiple votes in the 2000 elections. Little did they know that they were setting the foundations of the campaign that would push the United States onto the brink of seizure.
Republicans’ Voter Fraud Conspiracy in the 2004 Elections
Republicans and voter fraud claims moved forward toward the 2004 elections when Republicans came into action as they started making the elections controversial once again.
ACRON was the organization working in the United States that helped thousands of unregistered voters, mostly low-income and underprivileged families.
Republicans in the swing states accused ACRON of “manufacturing voters” in a bid to propagate their voter-fraud narrative, a claim which remained unproven even after federal investigations.
As Republicans lost all their hopes of making ACRON controversial, Alberto Gonzales, George W. Bush’s Attorney-General, fired several US Attorneys for their failure of the meaningful investigations against ACRON.
Time and time again, it was proved that the Republican’s narrative was mere rhetoric, as all of these actions opened a scandal leading towards the resignation of the same Attorney General in 2007.
2008: Another Election, Another Voter Fraud Campaign by Republicans
Republicans remained skeptical about the role of ARCON in the upcoming elections also in 2008. Republicans and voter fraud allegations became prominent in the 2008 elections also.
As Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination, anti-ACRON movements once again started floating in the conservative circles, this time supported by the conservative media channels as well.
Most of these voter fraud claims were intended to disenfranchise the people of color, as they were more likely to vote for Obama than the Republican candidate, John McCain.
Even John McCain himself commented against the organization and accused them of voter fraud. McCain said,
(ACRON) is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.”
Not only this, but he also accused Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and the whole Democratic party of plotting the voter fraud campaign as he said,
“We’ve always known the Obama-Biden Democrats will do anything to win this November, but we didn’t know how far their allies would go.”
Republicans and Voter Fraud Claims: A Continued Rhetoric in the 2012 Elections
The voter fraud allegation also came into the limelight by the Republicans in the 2012 presidential elections.
As the elections were over, one of the surveys conducted concluded that almost 49% of Republicans believed that ACRON stole the elections from the Republicans. However, they did not know that ACRON was demolished by then.
ACRON came into the limelight in 2009 in a hidden recorded video controversy when some employees of ACRON were seen guiding people about how to evade taxes, promote human trafficking, and child prostitution.
In the aftermath of the scandal, Congress halted the federal funding of ACRON in a 345-75 vote, as 172 Democrats sided with 173 Republicans to vote against ACRON.
The US Senate also stopped funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to ACRON as 83 Senators voted against the organization.
ACRON was abolished in this way, but Republican supporters continued blaming the organization for voter fraud, even in 2012 which suggests that they just promoted their own version of stop the steal.
The former Republican Governor, Scott Walker, from Wisconsin, extended the allegations of voter fraud to his state, saying,
“I’ve always thought in this state (Wisconsin), close elections, presidential elections, it means you probably have to win with at least 53 percent of the vote to account for fraud.”
Trump’s Doctrine: A Pinnacle of Republicans’ “Stop the Steal” Claims
Then came the beginning of Trump’s doctrine, who continued claiming during his presidency that Hillary Clinton won the popular votes in 2016 only because of the millions of illegal ballots.
As he continued prolonging the voter fraud claims, he was fueling the fire that would soon take America in its grip.
Donald Trump tried to build on all the voter fraud claims that Republicans proposed in the previous two decades.
While it is true that Trump accelerated the claims, instantly walking a steeper path toward conspiracies than his predecessors, the Republicans who contributed to these voter fraud claims are equally responsible for the Congressional attack as Trump.
During his bid to promote the voter fraud claims of the former Republicans, Trump remained critical of the modern voting techniques, including mail-in ballots, and then filed unprecedented election lawsuits, cursed the Supreme Court, refused to step down from the presidency, threatened to impose the military, tried to orchestrate the electors, and most dangerously, incited a mob to attack the US Congress.
As he was impeached for the second time without conviction, the history books will remember him as a man who championed the broader Republican narrative of voter fraud and spun it in his own way just to give it a name; “stop the steal.”