“I think that we deserve fair and transparent elections. I think there’s a lot of people who have doubts about that.”
If your neck hurts, don’t worry. It’s just the whiplash from Noem’s tweet on January 20 and her statement to reporters just a week and a day later. Because they are utterly incompatible. Either Biden won the election fair and square or he didn’t. Unless Noem traveled to Washington to congratulate a president who she believed had cheated his way into office? Yeah, probably not.
The ability to hold two contradictory ideas in one’s head has become a necessity for ambitious Republicans politicians over the last four years. There’s what they know to be true (there’s absolutely no evidence of any widespread voter fraud or rigging of the 2020 election) and what they have to say in order to preserve their own political futures in a party that has spent the last several years being led by a pied piper of prevarication.
What Noem’s reversal on the election — congrats President Biden! → Many people say the election wasn’t fair! — suggests is that the price of admission for Republicans wanting to be major players in the 2024 race (and Noem absolutely wants to be one) is refusing to acknowledge that Trump actually lost in 2020.
This is all, of course, ridiculous. The election wasn’t stolen, Trump lost. But that top Republican politicians are still unable to admit that speaks to the hold that Trump — and his base — retain on the Republican Party.
Republican politicians spent four years cowering in fear from Trump’s wrath, worried that any hint of something short of utter fealty to his cult of personality would lead to a presidential tweet that could cost them their jobs in the next election. It appears that fear hasn’t abated, even with Trump out of office. And it also appears that the next Republican presidential primary will be heavily shaped by Trump — whether or not he decides to run again.