Post-Election Truthers

At Slate yesterday, election-law wizard Rick Hasen raised a question that’s been in the back of a lot of minds lately: will conservatives accept an adverse result on November 6, or begin more or less radical efforts to deny its legitimacy?

The question isn’t far-fetched. For several weeks, we have seen Republicans challenge the veracity of a number of election-related facts, and the outcome of the presidential election may be no different.

Hasen goes into one particular conspiracy theory that hasn’t gotten a lot of MSM attention, but is a live wire in the wingnutosphere:

This week features what conservative blogs are touting as an “explosive” new report suggesting that the Obama campaign is illegally accepting massive foreign contributions via credit card. The so-called proof comes from a number of foreign visits to the Obama campaign website, the lack of any federal requirement to publicly disclose contributions from individuals who give less than $200 overall, and the Obama campaign’s supposed failure to use credit card verification tools to make sure the contributions are coming from inside the United States.

Never mind that the Obama campaign has denied similar reports in the past and has confirmed it does use the verification tools; that an extensive Federal Election Commission audit of the 2008 Obama campaign found no evidence of illegal foreign contributions; that foreign visits to the website does not mean that foreign contributions are being made; and that U.S. citizens (including those in the military) living abroad have the right to contribute to federal campaigns. The claims are a way to delegitimize the Obama campaign, even as Republican leaders in Congress stymie efforts to fix our broken disclosure laws and argue for less disclosure of campaign finance information.

Hasen doesn’t come out and say it, but it sometimes seems these conspiracy theories are aimed less at the world outside the closed information feedback loop of the Right, and more at conservatives themselves: to fortify their belief that Obama and company are slowly extinguishing democracy and freedom, and must be resisted. It’s as though they are talking themselves into a revolutionary posture. The kindling is obviously already there in the form of the “constitutional conservative” conviction that there is a sole “American” governing ideology that no election should be allowed to modify, along with the “47% theory” that Democratic voters are either vicious parasites or helpless dupes of Godless Big Government.

I’m not predicting any post-election disorders, but they wouldn’t surprise me. And without question, those who are “post-election truthers” in the making have every incentive to support and participate in voter suppression efforts right now.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.