Convention circuit of delusion gives forum for election lies

Republicans Conspiracy Theories

NEW RICHMOND, Wis. (AP) — For a few hours last weekend, thousands of Donald Trump’s supporters came together in a field under the blazing Wisconsin sun to live in an alternate reality where the former president was still in office — or would soon return.

Clad in red MAGA hats and holding “Trump 2021” signs, they cheered in approval as Mike Lindell, the MyPillow creator-turned-conspiracy peddler, introduced “our real president.” Then Trump appeared via Jumbotron to repeat the lie that has become his central talking point since losing to Joe Biden by more than 7 million votes: “The election was rigged.”

Lindell later promised the audience that Trump would soon be reinstated into the presidency, a prospect for which there is no legal or constitutional method.

In the nearly five months since Trump’s presidency ended, similar scenes have unfolded in hotel ballrooms and other venues across the country. Attorney Lin Wood has told crowds that Trump is still president, while former national security adviser Michael Flynn went even further at a Dallas event by calling for a Myanmar-style military coup in the U.S. At the same conference, former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell suggested Trump could simply be reinstated and a new Inauguration Day set.

Taken together, the gatherings have gelled into a convention circuit of delusion centered on the false premise that the election was stolen. Lindell and others use the events to deepen their bond with legions of followers who eschew the mainstream press and live within a conservative echo chamber of talk radio and social media. In these forums, “evidence” of fraud is never fact-checked, leaving many followers genuinely convinced that Biden shouldn't be president.

“We know that Biden’s a fraudulent president, and we want to be part of the movement to get him out,” said Donna Plechacek, 61, who traveled from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, with her sister for the event. “I know that they cheated the election. I have no doubt about that. The proof is there.”

State election officials, international observers, Trump’s own attorney general and dozens of judges — including many Trump appointed — have found no verifiable evidence of mass election fraud. Indeed, Trump’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency called the election “the most secure in American history” and concluded there was “no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”

But Plechacek is not alone. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that two-thirds of Republicans, 66%, think Biden’s victory was not legitimate, while CNN found in April that 70% of Republicans do not think Biden won enough votes to be president. Half, 50%, said there is solid evidence to support that claim.

They are people like Deb Tulenchik and Galen Carlson from Pequot Lakes, Minnesota, who recalled the shock they felt after the election as Trump’s early election night lead faded as additional ballots were counted.

Thanks to the country’s polarization, many Trump supporters didn’t know anyone who voted for Biden and only saw Trump-Pence signs lining the roadways as they drove around their neighborhoods. Carlson, 61, said he went to bed believing Trump won. He didn't heed warnings that mail-in votes take longer to count, so early returns would likely skew toward Trump, who urged his supporters to vote in person and not by mail.

“I was asleep early cause it looked like it was