NEW RICHMOND, Wisconsin (AP) – For a few hours this past weekend, thousands of Donald Trump supporters gathered in a field under the scorching Wisconsin sun to live in an alternate reality where the former president was still in post – or would return soon.
Dressed in red MAGA hats and holding “Trump 2021” signs, they cheered when Mike Lindell, the creator of MyPillow turned conspiratorial hawker, introduced “our real president.” Then Trump appeared via Jumbotron to rehearse The lie which has become his main topic of discussion since his loss to Joe Biden by over 7 million votes: “The election was rigged.”
Lindell subsequently promised the public that Trump would soon be reinstated as president, a prospect for which there is no legal or constitutional method.
In the nearly five months that have passed since End of Trump’s presidency, similar scenes took place in hotel ballrooms and other venues across the country. Lawyer Lin Wood told crowds Trump is still president, while former national security adviser Michael Flynn went even further at an event in Dallas by calling for a military-style coup. Burmese in the United States. At the same conference, former Trump attorney Sidney Powell suggested Trump could simply be reinstated and a new inauguration day set.
Taken together, the rallies morphed into a convention circuit of illusion centered on the false premise that the election was stolen. Lindell and others are using the events to deepen their connections with legions of followers who eschew the mainstream press and live in a conservative echo chamber of talk radio and social media. In these forums, “evidence” of fraud is never verified, leaving many followers genuinely convinced that Biden shouldn’t be president.
“We know Biden is a fraudulent president and we want to be part of the movement to bring him out,” said Donna Plechacek, 61, who traveled from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin with her sister for the event. “I know they cheated the elections. I have no doubts about it. The proof is there. “
State election officials, international observers, Trump’s own attorney general and dozens of judges – including many named Trumps – found no verifiable evidence of mass electoral fraud. Indeed, Trump’s Cyber and Infrastructure Security Agency called the election “the safest in American history” and concluded that there was “no evidence that a voting system suppressed or lost votes, altered votes or was compromised in any way”.
But Plechacek is not alone. A recent Quinnipiac University survey found that two-thirds of Republicans, 66%, believe Biden’s victory was not legitimate, while CNN found in April that 70% of Republicans don’t think Biden won enough votes to be president. Half, 50%, said there is strong evidence to support this claim.
It was people like Deb Tulenchik and Galen Carlson of Pequot Lakes, Minnesota who recalled the shock they felt after the election as Trump’s early election night lead faded as ballots additional were counted.
Thanks to the country’s polarization, many Trump supporters did not know anyone who had voted for Biden and only saw Trump-Pence signs lining the roads as they drove through their neighborhoods. Carlson, 61, said he went to bed believing Trump won. He ignored the warnings that postal votes take longer to count, so early returns would likely be skewed in favor of Trump, who urged his supporters to vote in person and not by mail.
“I fell asleep early because it looked like it would be a done deal. And then when we woke up I couldn’t believe it, ”he said.
“Disbelief,” echoed Tulenchik, 63.
Trump spent months guarding against possible defeat, insisting he could only lose if there was massive fraud. It’s a lie he’s sure to repeat as he steps up his public schedule in the weeks to come.
But the tale was already ringing in the beating sun of the MAGA rally in Wisconsin, where attendees came decked out in Trump gear, including many shirts declaring, “Trump Won!”
While Lindell has repeatedly described the event as a free speech festival – paid for by him – it had all the attributes of a Trump rally, including several of his frequent warm-ups and a large flag American hoisted by cranes.
It was a carnival atmosphere: a make-up tent for the children; stalls selling corndogs, fresh cut fries and ice cream; a flyby of old military planes. The 2020 campaign has endured, with vendors selling old campaign merchandise – as well as Lindell’s pillows. An older man with a cane was walking around shirtless, wearing a glittering cowboy hat and Crocs and using a Trump flag as a cape. A young woman wore a helmet with horns – reminiscent of the headgear worn by an Arizona man who calls himself the shaman QAnon and who participated in the insurgency at the U.S. Jan 6.
Indeed, several people said they were at the United States Capitol that day, even though they were vague about their roles.
While some were devotees of the Trump rally, traveling the country to see the former president in person, many said they were attending their first political event. Some said they paid little attention to politics until the election or started getting involved because they opposed the restrictions linked to the pandemic.
Time and time again, participants insisted that Trump won the election. And several have said they genuinely believe he will be reinstated in the coming months – a belief that has been pushed by Lindell and privately repeated by Trump, even though there is no legal framework within which to do so. could be accomplished.
“Not all Democrats are mean. They will see the truth. Whether they like it or not, they will see the truth, ”said Beth Kroeger, 61, who lives in Sussex, Wisconsin, and said she expects Trump to return to the Oval Office at the same time next year, “No doubt about it. “
Some have suggested that the military would be involved; others are convinced that he remains in control today.
Most attacked the mainstream media and said they got their news instead from people like Lindell and former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, as well as conservative Newsmax, radio and media platforms. social.
Few went further than Lindell to convince the American public that the election was stolen. According to his own account, he spent millions of dollars organizing election-related events, hiring private investigators and creating films that claim to document the alleged fraud – not to mention the $ 1.3 billion libel lawsuit which was filed against him by Dominion Voting Systems. (He counterattacked.)
He now claims to have evidence that China and other countries hacked voting machines to pass votes from Trump, a Republican, to Biden, a Democrat, in “a cyberattack of historic proportions.” But the evidence he cites in his most recent film, which features an anonymous and hazy cyber expert, has been repeatedly debunked for failing to demonstrate what he claims.
Yet participants repeatedly referred to his videos as clear evidence of fraud.
“There is so much evidence that Mike Lindell has,” said Lynda Thibado, 65, who traveled with her husband, Don Briggs, from Menomonie, Wisconsin, in a motorhome and spent the night at a campground. adjacent.
“I mean, such positive proof,” Briggs agreed.
The couple said they hoped the election would be called off, but were less confident it would happen.
“I don’t know if they can legally do anything now,” Briggs said. Still, he said: “I don’t think Biden will be the president in 2024, one way or another.”