Normalizing political corruption
Published November 19, 2020
By Thomas Mills
I’ve been trying to distract myself from following the aftermath of the presidential election. Donald Trump lost and Joe Biden will be president on January 20. However, Trump and his supporters are going to make a lot of noise in between now and the inauguration. I just want to ignore all the drama, but I can’t stop watching. What’s happening to our country is too disturbing.
Yesterday, we learned that South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham called the Georgia Secretary of State and encouraged him to throw out legitimate ballots. In Wayne County, Michigan, where Detroit is located, Republican members of the Board of Canvassers initially voted not to certify the election results. In Nevada, the GOP electors are suing to have the election results annulled or overturned because of “irregularities or voter fraud.” Rudy Giuliani is asking a federal court to block Biden’s win in Pennsylvania. And Trump fired the election top cybersecurity expert for denying Trump’s claims of election fraud.
The goal is to discredit the election, casting doubt on the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s election and his presidency. The response from Republicans is disappointing but not surprising. Their silence is tacit approval of the president’s actions, while giving them plausible deniability that they’ve done anything to damage our democracy. It’s really a continuation of attempts to discredit elections since they began making accusations of voter fraud in the wake of Barack Obama’s election in 2008.
Republicans use doubt about elections to pass laws that restrict access to the ballot box. In North Carolina, they carefully targeted minority voters with efforts to make voting harder. Fortunately, the courts threw out the laws, though Republicans are intent on putting them in place. They want to rig elections because they increasingly have difficulty winning them on ideas.
In North Carolina, GOP operatives are pushing a false equivalency narrative as Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley called for a recount and contests discarded absentee and provisional ballots. Beasley trails in the race by about 400 votes out of more than 5.5 million cast. That’s about .00007% difference between Beasley and Newby. Of course the votes need to be recounted. But GOP hacks are accusing Beasley’s campaign of acting in bad faith and accusing local boards of elections of discarding Republican provisional ballots. They’re comparing Beasley’s request to Trump’s attempt to undermine election results in states across the nation. There’s no legitimate comparison and Republicans are trying to normalize Trump’s bad behavior.
Elections are messy and, by nature, contentious. From the Florida recount that resulted in Bush v. Gore to the Franken-Coleman contest in Minnesota that drug out until mid-summer of 2009 to the Commissioner of Agriculture race in North Carolina that lasted until February of 2005, uncertainty hangs over very narrow elections. But those elections have not cast doubt on the entire system of choosing our leaders.
Trump, on the other hand, is clearly trying undermine our democracy on a national scale. Thankfully, he’s failing and our institutions are holding. However, conservative commentators on right-wing outlets and social media are echoing Trump’s claims, giving life to his lies in the minds of the malleable GOP base. The party that once called itself conservative passively watches a blatant, if incompetent, attempt to steal an election and insists that Trump’s actions are either legitimate or unconcerning. Republican leaders’ refusal to rebuke him and operatives’ lame comparison of the presidential race to elections that are actually close sets the stage for a continued assault on our democracy, undermining the elections of the future. It’s the normalization of political corruption.