Democracy is really endangered when Georgia’s once heroic Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who voted for Donald Trump but nonetheless stood up to him, gives in to forces that would overturn the election. For months, the state’s top election official withstood pressure to find votes in a river somewhere (a mere 11,870, Trump specified) to flip the Peachtree State from Joe Biden to the former president.
But this week, after a judge in Fulton County granted a motion to allow absentee ballots to be unsealed and examined for fraud, Raffensperger, up for re-election himself, cracked. Another recount, beyond his three, is OK with him. “From day one, I have encouraged Georgians with concerns about the election in their counties to pursue those claims through legal avenues,” he tweeted, later agreeing that “the county in question has a long standing history of election mismanagement” (not that his audits found it) “that has understandably weakened voters’ faith in its system” (the one he pronounced solid). The audit thus “provides another layer of transparency and citizen engagement.”
And so Georgia joins Arizona in a rogue effort to prove Trump was a victim of massive fraud.
To be fair, Raffensperger is hardly the only Republican who knows better but has decided not to care. In Washington, Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell both got over their initial concern with fulfilling their duty and certifying the rightful winner of the 2020 election and now only care about winning elections to come—something they don’t think they can do if they hurt Trump’s feelings with the truth.
With each passing day, they go further past the point of no return in coddling a sore loser and his furious followers. Sure democracy is the best policy but if an election doesn’t go their way, how about a little anarchy? They’ve been recounting for six months, what’s a few more weeks? Even supernumerary counts are “legal avenues” according to the once heroic Raffensperger, part of a party hellbent against any examination of the mob of “lovely people” who smeared blood and feces on the halls of Congress as they proceeded to occupy the Speaker’s office as part of what one Republican congressman called a “normal tourist visit.”
This gang that can’t count straight also seems to think that Arizona’s vigilante “cyber ninjas”—kicked out of a high school gym in Maricopa County for a graduation and now resuming their fruitless search to get their amateur hands on sealed ballots supposedly made of bamboo from Southeast Asia—are legitimate election officials.
Every day it’s clearer that recounts are never going to end and a commission to investigate what happened on Jan. 6 is never going to begin. After Republicans watered down the commission to their liking, Trump blasted it anyway and congressional leaders did too. So much for looking back.
Looking ahead, Republicans want to make sure they never have a squish like Raffensperger foiling their plans again. They’re busy packing races for election officials with partisans more susceptible to pressure, choosing candidates who publicly supported Trump’s specious claims. This raises the real possibility that politicians still trying to undermine the vote in 2020 will do more than try the next time around.
That’s the back-up plan now, just in case the party’s massive state law voter-suppression effort isn’t enough to ensure that the “right” person is elected. The party has proposed and passed 400 laws to improve the integrity of an election system that, in fact, just passed the most stringent, intense test a presidential election has ever undergone with flying colors.
There’s no end in sight. Next week McConnell will kill the Jan. 6 commission with a filibuster, if need be, so as not to be distracted from his “100 percent focus on stopping this new administration.” His number two, Sen. John Thune, said that “anything that gets us rehashing the 2020 elections is a day lost on being able to draw a contrast between us and the Democrats’ very radical left-wing agenda.”
But these recounts prove that all they want to do is rehash the election, only on their terms. For a few minutes on Jan. 6, it looked like there would be agreement, except among deniers like Marjorie Taylor Greene, to condemn the mob and take steps to see that it never happened again. But it turns out that as long as Trump’s not giving up on proving he won, neither are Republicans.
Indiana Rep. Greg Pence is a case study in the Trumpism that befouls the party. Just after his brother came within a few minutes of being attacked for carrying out his constitutional duty as vice president—to count the elector’s votes certifying that Biden won—Greg voted, as the insurgents wanted, to stop the count. Last week he voted against the inquiry into what happened on that day, absurdly calling it a “cover-up for a failed Biden administration.”
The Republicans who want to relive Nov. 3 over and over again until it comes out the way Trump wishes it had are the same ones who insist on burying Jan. 6 and never speaking of it again. They’re in good standing with the party, while those who believe the election was valid and the insurrection actually happened are censured and disappeared by the party.
The 10 House Republican who voted to impeach Trump announced this week that they’ve formed their own caucus because, Illinois congressman Adam Kinzinger says, “misery loves company.” Member Liz Cheney, out of leadership, deflected one primary challenge to get her out of Congress when a challenger dropped his bid after being exposed for a dalliance with a 14-year-old.
There’s some comfort in the thought of how worse matters might have been had Raffensperger and a few other Republicans not found the courage to do their jobs without fear or favor. What he seems to have forgotten since then, as he’s lost fair-weather political friends and faces the possibility of losing an election, is that doing the right thing has its own rewards: a clear conscience, the respect of your children, a full night’s sleep.
Winning an election is cheap by comparison.