CPAC conservative conference set to indulge lies about the 2020 election

The schedule for this week's Conservative Political Action Conference is yet more evidence that much of the conservative movement remains deeply committed to the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from President Donald Trump.

Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - MARCH 02: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during CPAC 2019 on March 02, 2019 in National Harbor, Maryland. The American Conservative Union hosts the annual Conservative Political Action Conference to discuss conservative agenda. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images) © Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - MARCH 02: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during CPAC 2019 on March 02, 2019 in National Harbor, Maryland. The American Conservative Union hosts the annual Conservative Political Action Conference to discuss conservative agenda. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

That lie continues to be a widespread belief among Republican voters.

It continues to be endorsed or at least humored by some Republican candidates seeking the support of those voters in party primaries.

It is fueling Republican state legislators' attempts to impose hurdles to voting.

And the CPAC agenda suggests it is about to be given another big public push at one of the most prominent gatherings on the conservative calendar -- which will feature not only speeches from Trump and son Donald Trump Jr. but seven separate panels or addresses under the title "protecting elections."


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These have not been set up as benign, educational discussions among experts. Rather, the sessions in Orlando appear designed to allow right-wing partisans to promote some of the same complaints Trump made in the highly dishonest January 6 rally speech that immediately preceded a mob of his supporters' attack on the Capitol.

One of the seven discussion subtitles is "Failed States (PA, GA, NV, oh my!)" (Those states held free and fair elections that happened to be won by Joe Biden.) Another subtitle is "Other Culprits: Why Judges & Media Refused to Look at the Evidence." (As journalists and judges have noted, there is no good evidence of widespread voter fraud or election malfeasance in 2020.) A third subtitle is "They Told Ya So: The Signs Were Always There." (This panel features lawyer Hans von Spakovsky, who, in fact, has previously said false things about voter fraud.) A fourth subtitle: "The Left Pulled the Strings, Covered It Up, and Even Admits It." (We're not yet sure exactly what this means, but there was no left-wing election conspiracy.)

The speakers on the "protecting elections" panels include Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks and Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin, both of whom, in the weeks leading up to the Capitol attack, echoed the lie that the election was stolen; Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly, who has uttered baseless fraud claims and unsuccessfully tried to get Pennsylvania's results invalidated in court; and Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who joined Trump on the January 2 phone call during which Trump asked Georgia's top elections official to "find" him enough votes to overturn Biden's victory in the state.

CPAC has long featured a hodgepodge of speakers, from anti-abortion activists to anti-tax activists to conservative celebrities. Since Trump took office in 2017, though, it has highlighted distinctly Trumpian themes and voices. This year's agenda -- which also includes discussions on some of Trump's favorite campaign subjects, from "Big Tech" to "The Angry Mob and Violence in our Streets" -- is a testament to the former president's grip on the party even after he was voted out of office.

It helps him, of course, that much of the party doesn't believe he was truly voted out of office. And CPAC seems to be trying its best to cement the conspiracy myth into party orthodoxy.

The American Conservative Union, the organization behind CPAC, did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. On Monday night, though, American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp went on CNN and perpetuated false election claims himself -- inaccurately saying, among other things, that "there was widespread voter fraud in the last election."

And why wouldn't he? In the Republican culture of early 2021, you get penalized for standing up against big lies, not for repeating them.

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