Two years ago, at this time, there was a national conversation speculating about what would happen if Donald Trump lost the 2020 election. Barton Gellman, in a much-discussed piece in Atlantic Magazine, posed several scenarios of what might occur if Trump refused to concede.
Gellman was more than prescient, but it all seemed faintly ridiculous at the time. The article quotes Joe Biden, who suggests that Trump might be briskly escorted from the White House if he was refusing to leave, providing us with a mental picture of two big dudes in dark suits and earpieces, frog-marching Trump out of front portico. Bye-bye.
The reality, of course, has become so, so much worse. And it’s still with us. Growing, even.
A majority of Republican nominees on the ballot this November for the House, Senate and key statewide offices — 291 in all — have denied or questionedthe outcome of the last presidential election, according to a Washington Post analysis. Although some are running in heavily Democratic areas and are expected to lose, most of the election deniers nominated are likely to win: Of the nearly 300 on the ballot, 171 are running for safely Republican seats. Another 48 will appear on the ballot in tightly contested races.
There’s been a steady drumbeat of concern—the collapse of our faith in free and fair elections means the collapse of American democracy. This election could go horribly wrong.
But—like Gellman’s and others’ warnings in 2020, it’s hard to wrap your head around the idea that one party would blithely destroy 250 years of confidence in voting as the democratic means to access political power.
Republican candidates are talking about overturning an election held nearly two years ago that every audit has concluded was fair, transparent and free of systemic fraud. These conclusions include a Michigan Senate Republican report and an analysis by conservative Republican legal experts.
As a Democratic candidate for local office—the County Commission—it’s disconcerting to see that election denial has filtered down to local politics. Several statewide and congressional candidates are deniers or skeptics, but suggesting that local elections were deliberately corrupted is a new wrinkle.
For the past few months, the County Commission has been hearing from local election deniers during public commentary. It’s a lot of the same people, showing up again and again, repeating stuff they found ‘doing their own research.’ And now, they’re organizing—meeting with the sheriff, calling themselves ‘Patriots.’
Even worse—one of their ringleaders emailed 251 County employees and 336 educators with the following message:
Hi to 336 Leelanau County Educators:
I’m forwarding this message to you that I sent to the Leelanau County Commissioners on October 4, 2022. I got all of your email addresses as directed from the Leelanau County Government website. I have been attending all the Leelanau County Board Meetings since March, and have given the Commissioners [plus all other listed government leaders (262 total)] 13 Flyers showing the massive voter fraud in the 2020 election, which you can read on my [ ] website. I know that you all are very concerned about protecting children. With that in mind, Founding Father Thomas Paine said: “To take away (voting) is to reduce a man to slavery.” I’m also concerned about adults marketing the false foundation ‘LGBTQIA+’ to children.
There was lots more, including crazypants attachments, but you get the picture: Election denier (and gay-basher) gets access to all public employees to spew baloney.
It’s one thing for the County Commission to patiently listen to yet another election denier direct them to a random website or to consider the Sheriff’s role in secure elections. It’s another for a local crank to disrupt the work of teaching children about civic values and their personal worth.
Really—teaching is hard enough without having to be harassed by election deniers.
Deniers locally seem to be fixated on Dominion machines, and the need for hand counting paper ballots. The county already uses paper ballots, which are always available for hand counting. Our voting jurisdictions are small—a couple thousand voters, at most. Any race can be (and often is) re-counted by hand. As a candidate who won by a single vote in the primary, I’m all for ‘trust but verify’ in local elections.
And plaudits to Dominion for fighting back:
Dominion’s $1.3 billion lawsuit against Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, who was a leading figure in pushing the lies that the voting machines were rigged, is also moving forward, although in March she asked a federal judge to dismiss the case against her, saying that “no reasonable person would conclude that [her] statements were truly statements of fact.” On September 28, a federal judge dismissed her countersuit, in which Powell claimed Dominion was suing her “to punish and make an example of her.”
You can’t vandalize fairly run, democratic elections without damaging communities.
A significant majority of Americans see Trump and the MAGA movement as a threat to democracy. Those folks need to act in November.