Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican congressman from Illinois and an anomaly within his party for his frequent criticisms of former President Donald Trump, said this week that most GOP members within the House of Representatives don’t actually believe the election fraud lies that Trump has pushed since losing the presidential race last fall.
Speaking to CNN’s Jake Tapper about the issue, Kinzinger explained that most Republicans in Congress who peddle Trump’s falsehoods (in which the former president claims election fraud cost him the election to President Joe Biden) only do so out of a desire for self-preservation.
The number of true believers in the party, Kinzinger added, is actually quite small.
“How many actually believe it? Five, probably, if that, maybe?” Kinzinger said on the program. “I don’t know, but it’s in the single, it’s low.”
But because Trump’s base of supporters so ardently believe the former president’s lies about the election, it behooves lawmakers in Washington, whether they themselves believe it or not, to act like they do.
“People don’t believe it,” Kinzinger maintained. “But what they are doing is they’re sitting around saying, ‘I need to continue to exist in this job so that I can make an impact. I don’t have the courage or the strength or the ability to swing this party, so I’m going to just kinda put my head down and go along.'”
Kinzinger’s comments come as members of the GOP in the House are caught up in a battle among themselves over whether they should remove Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), who has also publicly stated that she doesn’t believe Trump’s election fraud lies, from her leadership position in the House GOP caucus. Cheney, who herself has put forward alarming and questionable claims criticizing the Obama administration, also voted to impeach Trump for his role in inciting a mob of his loyalists to attack the Capitol on January 6.
Kinzinger said he wasn’t sure if backing Trump’s lies now would help Republicans in the 2022 midterms, but he was certain it wouldn’t help his party in the long term.
“I guarantee you in the long arc of history, this is not going to bode well for Republicans,” he said.
Kinzinger’s rhetoric matches similar comments recently made by veteran Republican pollster Frank Luntz, who also believes that pushing Trump’s lies is detrimental to the party. But while Kinzinger sees it as damaging to the image of the GOP, Luntz believes pushing false claims of election fraud will foment distrust among the party’s base of voters.
“This could cost the Republicans the majority in the House in 2022. What Donald Trump is saying is actually telling people it’s not worth it to vote,” Luntz said during a New York Times podcast. “Donald Trump single-handedly may cause people not to vote. And he may be the greatest tool in the Democrats’ arsenal to keep control of the House and Senate in 2022.”
Although alarm bells like these are being rung by some in the party, others, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), have noted that Trump’s popularity among Republican voters makes it difficult to stand up to him and his lies.
“The most popular Republican in America — it’s not Lindsey Graham, is not Liz Cheney; it’s Donald Trump,” Graham said during an appearance on Fox News Monday night.
“To try to erase Donald Trump from the Republican Party is insane. And the people who try to erase him are going to wind up getting erased,” Graham added.