The Erosion of Democracy Continues

Sowing doubt in the absence of evidence is corrosive.

Source: The White House

The willingness to damage American democracy by undercutting public trust in the system continues unabated. For example, via WaPo: Top Republicans back Trump’s efforts to challenge election results.

McConnell (R-Ky.) said from the floor of the Senate that the president is “100 percent within his right” to pursue recounts and litigation. McConnell did not repeat Trump’s baseless assertions that fraud had cost him the election, but he said he had met with Attorney General William P. Barr earlier in the day and supports the president’s right to investigate all claims of wrongdoing.

“We have the tools and institutions we need to address any concerns,” McConnell said. “The president has every right to look into allegations and request recounts under the law.”

On the face of it, McConnell is correct. But the problem is, he full well knows that there is no credible evidence for any of this, that Trump is behaving abnormally, and that this is not the appropriate way to proceed.

All this does it give solace to fact-less, baseless claims and provides fodder for the erosion of trust in the integrity of our elections.

This is like saying the “congregation is 100 percent within its rights to pursue an investigation of sexual malfeasance by the pastor” when there is no evidence of any such malfeasance. The mere suggestion causes mistrust. Or “We have every right to look into allegations and request an audit of the books to see if Bob in accounting is embezzling.” But, of course, if we have zero evidence that Bob is embezzling and we launch an investigation aimed nonetheless Bob’s reputation in the company will be damaged and he may have a hard time getting another job if he leaves.

Bizarrely, this desire to attack was manifesting in Georgia, where the two current sitting Senators are accusing the Secretary of State, a fellow Republican, of mismanagement of the election:

Meanwhile, other GOP officials also rushed to bolster Trump’s case, including the two U.S. senators from Georgia, who demanded the resignation of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, after his office said there was no evidence of widespread fraud in the state.

This is in the absence of, you know, evidence.

And there is the US Attorney General (via the NYT): Barr Hands Prosecutors the Authority to Investigate Voter Fraud Claims.

Attorney General William P. Barr, wading into President Trump’s unfounded accusations of widespread election irregularities, told federal prosecutors on Monday that they were allowed to investigate “specific allegations” of voter fraud before the results of the presidential race are certified.

[…]

Mr. Barr said he had authorized “specific instances” of investigative steps in some cases. He made clear in a carefully worded memo that prosecutors had the authority to investigate, but he warned that “specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims should not be a basis for initiating federal inquiries.”

Now, if one reads the memo, one realizes that charges are actually quite unlikely. The memo basically says that if there are real and major problems, the DOJ would act. Issuing a memo was not necessary, but it adds to the overall atmosphere of distrust and damages faith in our electoral system.

And note the following:

Mr. Barr’s authorization prompted the Justice Department official who oversees investigations of voter fraud, Richard Pilger, to step down from the post within hours, according to an email Mr. Pilger sent to colleagues that was obtained by The New York Times.

See, also from NBC News: DOJ’s election crimes chief resigns after Barr allows prosecutors to probe voter fraud claims.

Back to the WaPo piece:

Trump aides, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly, said there was little expectation inside the campaign that litigation would overturn Biden’s win — and said advisers have told Trump this directly. But they also said the campaign will pursue the cases to their conclusions, in part to sustain an argument about the risk of voter fraud. The campaign has also urged allies to publicly encourage people to report evidence or firsthand accounts of suspicious voter activity.

Ultimately this just plays into long-term efforts by Republicans to undercut trust in elections and to feed the electoral fraud narrative. This is not something that a healthy political party does. It certainly isn’t something that a party that believes it can win elections fairly does.

And if it was just Trump and his administration doing it, that would be bad enough. That McConnell and other Republicans are participating indicts the whole party, plain and simple.

To conclude, I guess Covid, Covid, Covid didn’t go away on November 4th:

further complicating their effort: David Bossie, tapped to lead the campaign’s legal effort, tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a person familiar with the situation.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Democracy, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. mattbernius says:

    Bizarrely, this desire to attack was manifesting in Georgia, where the two current sitting Senators are accusing the Secretary of State, a fellow Republican, of mismanagement of the election

    Is it really bizarre though? The Republicans see control of the Senate in the balance and the reality that even with all the friction placed on voting there, GA turned blue. This really is a strategy of working the ref in the hopes that the SoS will either take steps to make it harder for Democrats to vote (under the guise of election security) or step down and have someone take over the position who will do so.

    ReplyReply
    4
  2. Jen says:

    This is ALL being done to damage a Biden presidency. ALL of it. This is appalling behavior and is frankly unsafe.

    As has been repeatedly pointed out, the delayed transition of George W. Bush may well have had an effect on national security, leading to 9/11 just 9 months into his first term.

    The Majority Leader and Barr are being too cute by half playing these semantics games with the American public. And there’s literally no one around who can tell them to knock it off.

    ReplyReply
    11
  3. ptfe says:

    Some of them have explicitly noted that increased voting will make it impossible for Republicans to hold the presidency, presumably because their twin messages of servicing the wealthiest and stoking fear of melanin are increasingly not appealing to the under-50/not-a-neo-Nazi set.

    Regardless, this fits right in: GOP fraud claims are always about majority-Black districts and undocumented immigrants. If you’re white and can take a random Tuesday in November off, your vote should take 3 seconds at the local community center and be presumed valid; if you’re Black and have a business to run, maybe we can figure out a way to force you to drive across town, stand in line for several hours, and present 3 forms of ID, and be shoved into the provisional pile because you just can’t be too careful with Those People.

    ReplyReply
    14
  4. charon says:

    A bit OT to the primary topic,

    To conclude, I guess Covid, Covid, Covid didn’t go away on November 4th:

    Measured by new case diagnoses, it’s worse than ever in most states and nationally, and still getting worse rapidly, with holiday season approaching.

    ReplyReply
    2
  5. Scott says:

    I wonder when all this is going to elevate to: Dolchstosslegende

    I’m sure it already has in darker corners but now I wonder how long it will take to mainstream.

    ReplyReply
    6
  6. JohnMcC says:

    In their eyes, no Democratic vote is legal and no Democratic government is legitimate. Period.

    They do not believe as most of us here do, that ‘power flows from the people’; all their experience with power points the opposite direction: Power flows from the money.

    ReplyReply
    6
  7. Kathy says:

    The next AG hopefully will let us know the DOJ is well within its rights to pursue an investigation of McConnell for bribery and corruption.

    ReplyReply
    9
  8. Jay L Gischer says:

    Yeah, McConnell is making contingent statements that, if you parse them carefully, are uncontroversial, but are intended to fan the flames. That’s a bit different than the unfounded slanders against the GA SoS. (A friend of a friend worked as a poll worker in GA. I’m sure you can imagine how he feels about this, as well as Trump’s remarks about GA. We live in an age of slander)

    Meanwhile, on election night the sitting president said that they should stop counting the votes. I don’t get why we are talking about anything else.

    ReplyReply
    9
  9. Jay L Gischer says:

    The whole “announce an investigation” thing was at the heart of last years Ukraine affair.

    ReplyReply
    13
  10. charon says:

    Ultimately this just plays into long-term efforts by Republicans to undercut trust in elections and to feed the electoral fraud narrative. This is not something that a healthy political party does. It certainly isn’t something that a party that believes it can win elections fairly does.

    They understand the demographic headwinds they are facing, so they have existential fear that on losing power they will never get it back, especially if vote suppression etc. get taken away as available tactics.

    ReplyReply
    5
  11. Scott F. says:

    Ultimately this just plays into long-term efforts by Republicans to undercut trust in elections and to feed the electoral fraud narrative. This is not something that a healthy political party does. It certainly isn’t something that a party that believes it can win elections fairly does.

    Considering that the Republican Party has been pushing voter suppression since at least Goldwater, we have further evidence that Trumpism isn‘t late onset anti-majoritarianism and the Republicans haven‘t been healthy for some time.

    And Barr isn‘t a Trump guy, he‘s an imperial presidency guy. And he‘s been on his mission for decades.

    It‘s Barr’s interest in promoting an authoritarian executive to bypass the inconvenience of compromising with a representative legislature, coupled with Trump‘s complete comfort with claiming himself a monarch, while further aided by a party system that incentivizes supplicants that‘s puts us in this uniquely dangerous situation. But, the undemocratic disease is genetically predisposed in conservatism’s DNA.

    ReplyReply
    9
  12. drj says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    I don’t get why we are talking about anything else.

    Because downplaying reality is generally easier than facing uncomfortable truths.

    The reality is that Trump is trying to organize a coup (badly and incompetently, but still); and while the GOP leadership is not (yet?) on board, they are fanning he flames instead of shutting it down.

    ReplyReply
    8
  13. @mattbernius: I will agree that that is the only explanation for the move (and it is reasonable to infer that McC is trying to keep GOP voters agitated for the run-off).

    But this could backfire. Indeed, the reality is that the GOP will almost certainly win those run-offs. The only thing that will stop it is if there is equal enthusiasm of Dem voters in the state as happened last week.

    Regardless, the GOP’s willingness to damage confidence in the system to increase the odds of winning is disgusting.

    ReplyReply
    9
  14. @charon:

    Measured by new case diagnoses, it’s worse than ever in most states and nationally, and still getting worse rapidly, with holiday season approaching.

    Indeed, and of course.

    ReplyReply
    3
  15. Scott F. says:

    Regardless, the GOP’s willingness to damage confidence in the system to increase the odds of winning is disgusting.

    Depends on where you sit I suppose. Lindsey Graham just Sunday said the quiet part out loud when he stated, “If we don’t challenge and change the U.S. election system, there will never be another Republican president elected again.” You know he wasn’t saying we should change the U.S. elections to be MORE democratic.

    Since the GOP has no path to making their core preferences popular in a country with a shrinking white majority and a shrinking middle class, damaging confidence in the system is existential. I find it interesting, Steven, with all that you’ve written about how the current system advantages the minority that the Republican position now is that the current system doesn’t advantage them enough.

    ReplyReply
    6
  16. Sleeping Dog says:

    Let me indulge in a little narcissism and repeat what I wrote @James’ Not as Bad… post, as it is appropriate here.

    Yes, the most dire predictions of a trump loss have not occurred and trump’s attempt at a coup has been more comedic that serious, but that is only due to trump’s incompetence that it won’t be more successful. Imagine if the incumbent were Ted Cruz or Tom Cotton?

    There is evidence that again, that the governmental leadership of one political party will refuse to engage with a president from the opposing party and will do whatever is possible to obstruct that president. The fact that we are facing such a situation again, shows that the American system of governing is irretrievably broken and there is little evidence of a desire to fix it.

    ReplyReply
    5
  17. gVOR08 says:

    I guess Covid, Covid, Covid didn’t go away on November 4th:

    But I fear Pfizer’s vaccine announcement a week after the election will become part of the Stolen Election narrative.

    ReplyReply
    1
  18. gVOR08 says:

    @Kathy:

    The next AG hopefully will let us know the DOJ is well within its rights to pursue an investigation of McConnell for bribery and corruption.

    That might be over the top, although the KY Russian aluminum plant deal certainly has an odor. But I think the House Commerce committee would be well within it’s charter to investigate Elaine Chao’s tenure as Secretary.

    ReplyReply
    1
  19. ImProPer says:

    “On the face of it, McConnell is correct. But the problem is, he full well knows that there is no credible evidence for any of this, that Trump is behaving abnormally, and that this is not the appropriate way to proceed.”

      Trump behaving abnormally is not abnormal in the least. His behavior is, and has been reliably predictable, like the effects of gravity on a falling stone. McConnell knows this, as well as us. I’m afraid we are at the absurd conclusion of the American legal system being weaponized for political, and financial power. While not new, it is worse than ever.
      Recently the masses have been pulled in, fed from the cup , and are drunk with it as well. Thank you 24 hr. “news” and social media.
    We are in the midst  of a cultural nightmare that has been at a full crescendo for some years now. This craziness is not going to get fixed at the ballot box, or in  our deservedly maligned courts. Dr. Taylor you are right about
    McConnell being  “correct” on the face of this thing, but it will pan out under superficial legal scrutiny. Bluster disguised as evidence is still ephemeral in even the most corrupt courts that are under intense public scrutiny.
      President Biden, will have his work cut out for him, as will those who want to get America back on course. I am most heartened by the incredibly broad coalition of people that appear to be up to the task. The one good thing that Trump has accomplished, even if it wasn’t his goal.

    ReplyReply
    2
  20. ImProPer says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    “There is evidence that again, that the governmental leadership of one political party will refuse to engage with a president from the opposing party and will do whatever is possible to obstruct that president. The fact that we are facing such a situation again, shows that the American system of governing is irretrievably broken and there is little evidence of a desire to fix it.”

    Simple and elegant, glad you reposted from the other thread. I would add that the desire to fix it seems to be getting stronger. As to whether we can put our feelings and prejudices aside and capitalize on the large and broad coalition of concerned citizens, remains to be seen. One has reason to hope though. Certainly the pain of remaining the same, must be worse than changing.

    ReplyReply
    2
  21. Teve says:

    @michaelhattem
    The f*****g nerve it takes to not only benefit from an already imbalanced system but to then gut the Voting Rights Act, engage in unprecedented gerrymandering, remove voting machines to cause hours-long lines, pass voter ID laws, cripple the USPS & then claim YOU’VE been cheated.

    ReplyReply
    8
  22. Kathy says:

    A quote from Futurama encapsulates Trump’s claim:

    My cheating unit malfunctioned. I want a do-over.

    ReplyReply
    1
  23. David M says:

    We remain on the same path we’ve been on. Norms and accountability for one side only, while the other gleefully complains about the fire they just set.

    The Republican opposition to the very concept of democracy continues to increase. Given the GOP behavior AFTER Trump lost, I’m not sure how we right the ship.

    ReplyReply
  24. Scott says:

    Appropriately,

    Here is what is on PBS (at least on KRLN in San Antonio) tonight.

    Rise of the Nazis

    In 1930 Germany was a liberal democracy. Just four years later democracy is dead, Germany’s leader is a dictator and its government is in the hands of murderers. This series tells the story of how this happened. Leading historians and experts get inside the heads of some of the key players, whose political plotting, miscalculations and personal ambitions helped to destroy democracy and deliver control to Hitler.

    Then there are those who were prepared to make a stand in order to try to stop the Nazis. With the intensity of a political thriller, the series sets out the plots and intrigues at the heart of the government, which transformed the Nazis from a fringe political group to the most powerful party in the Reichstag. It outlines the power struggles between prominent Nazis, which transformed Germany into a brutal police state that exercised state sponsored detainment and murder, allowing Hitler to go from being chancellor to all powerful Führer of the Third Reich. Powerful drama and stark use of archive brings an immediacy to this gripping and resonant story.

    ReplyReply

Speak Your Mind

*