People For the American Way

This Week in “Trumptastrophe”: Trump’s “Big Lie” and the Damaging Effects it Has Had on Our Democracy. 

News and Analysis
This Week in “Trumptastrophe”: Trump’s “Big Lie” and the Damaging Effects it Has Had on Our Democracy. 

Welcome to our weekly “Trumptastrophe” series, that will serve to remind us all of the destructive policies, decisions, and actions we encountered during the Trump presidency and the threats that he and others in the MAGA movement still pose – and to keep those moments clear in our memory as we fight to defeat Republican extremists during the upcoming elections. 

This week’s recap focuses on Trump’s refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election, choosing instead to promote the “Big Lie” that the election was stolen from him – by spreading wild claims about voter fraud, hacked voting machines, and more. We can’t forget the damaging effects Trump’s Big Lie has had on our elections across the nation and our democracy as a whole: 

On the night of Nov. 3, 2020, the results of the presidential election held that day were not yet known, because votes were still being counted in more than half a dozen states. Even though he had not won, Trump falsely declared victory a little after 2:00 a.m. on Nov. 4 while making bogus claims about voter fraud and mail-in ballots.  

We now know that some senior Trump advisers argued against making the false election night claim, but Trump was urged to declare victory by a possibly drunk Rudy Giuliani. We also know that political dirty trickster Roger Stone had been arguing in advance for claiming victory even if the election was up in the air. Trump adviser Steve Bannon had also telegraphed in advance that Trump would declare victory as a political strategy. Right-wing activist Tom Fitton, head of Judicial Watch, sent Trump a memo on Oct. 31, 2020 urging Trump to declare victory on Election Day, and he spoke with Trump about it.  

On Nov. 5, Trump addressed the White House press corps, again proclaiming the Big Lie that would ultimately lead to the violent attack on the Capitol two months later: “If you count the legal votes, I easily win. If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us.”  

Two days later, on Nov. 7, Biden was projected to win Pennsylvania and Nevada, putting him over the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. Trump, of course, refused to acknowledge that he had been defeated, as he continues to do. 

Trump’s false claim of victory on election night, and his ongoing refusal to give up the lie three years later, remind us why it would be so dangerous for our democracy for Trump to return to power:

  • The truth means nothing to Trump if it stands in the way of getting and exercising power. He has made it clear that if he gets the chance, he will use his power as head of the executive branch to turn the federal government into a weapon for personal revenge against anyone he doesn’t believe is sufficiently loyal to him.
  • Trump’s lies about the election have generated so much hostility toward election workers that many experienced election officials are quitting in droves. Others have struggled to deal with organized right-wing efforts to inundate local election officials with document requests. A panel of election officials testified before a U.S. Senate committee on Nov. 1, 2023, where Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes said, “As a former county recorder myself, I can attest that the pre-2020 world for election administrators is gone. We don’t feel safe in our work because of the harassment and threats that are based in lies.”
  • Trump and his MAGA movement have so intimidated Republican Party officials that House Republicans unanimously elected as Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Johnson, an architect of efforts by Trump’s hard-core congressional allies to overturn the election. 
  • No future election would be safe with Trump overseeing a purged and politicized Justice Department and a House of Representatives led by Johnson, who promoted a far-right legal theory that would have let state legislatures override the will of the voters without any interference from the courts.
  • Trump and his supporters continue to pump out election related conspiracy theories that undermine trust in democracy and foster support for political violence.  

These are just some of the reasons we need YOU in this fight. So, find your favorite way to unwind after reading through this week’s recap, and then make a plan for how you will fight back THIS week, this MONTH, this election cycle.


Big Lie, Donald Trump