The stolen election conspiracy theory has, in effect, become the adhesive holding the dominant Trump wing of the party in lock-step. This particular conspiracy theory joins the network of sub-theories that unite Trump loyalists, who allege that an alliance of Democratic elites and urban political machines have secretly joined forces to deny the will of the people, corralling the votes of illegal immigrants and the dead, while votes cast by Trump supporters are tossed into the trash....In a 2017 essay, Uscinski et al. recognized the central role of conspiracy theories in Trump’s rise to the presidency:
Trump, as a disruptive candidate, could not compete on the party establishment’s playing field...Trump’s solution is what we call ‘conspiracy theory politics.’... boiled down to a single unifying claim: Political elites have abandoned the interests of regular Americans in favor of foreign interests. For Trump, the political system was corrupt and the establishment could not be trusted. It followed, then, that only a disrupter could stop the corruption.
Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at N.Y.U.’s Stern School of Business, noted that spreading a lie can serve as a shibboleth — something like a password used by one set of people to identify other people as members of a particular group:
Many who study religion have noted that it’s the very impossibility of a claim that makes it a good signal of one’s commitment to the faith. You don’t need faith to believe obvious things. Proclaiming that the election was stolen surely does play an identity-advertising role in today’s America.