There’s a lot to choose from when you’re weighing the worst of Donald Trump. Calling and urging on the January 6 rioters. Telling so many lies that the meaning and power of truth has been eroded beyond recognition. His casual cruelty toward the weak and vulnerable, and his dishonoring of the honorable. The relentless effort to divide us against ourselves. His admiration for, and indulgence of, tyrants and thugs like Putin.
The list goes on. But to my mind the most dangerous thing Trump has done is undermine our elections and confidence in them. More than 300 Republican candidates nation-wide are “election deniers.” Of the 34 Republicans now running for the Senate, 22 have declined to say that they will accept the outcome of the election. That said, I am pretty sure that if they are declared the winner, they will accept that result.
In his very worthwhile book-length essay, Liberalism and Its Discontents, Francis Fukuyama notes the dangers of outright political violence, illustrated by last week’s attack on Paul Pelosi. But Fukuyama says that worse yet are Trump and Republican attempts to undermine our elections. Fukuyama:
“Conservative extremists have convinced themselves that violence may be the only way of protecting themselves from the left. It is very unlikely that this group will ever be able to enlist the US military in an anti-democratic seizure of power. But given the extent of gun ownership among this demographic, it is easy to anticipate outright violence becoming a continuing problem.
“The far more significant threat is the overt conservative effort to restrict voting rights and manipulate elections. This began well before the November 2020 election, but has become a central concern of the party based on Donald Trump’s false assertion that he was a victim of massive voter fraud. As Trump himself has admitted, if every eligible American voted, ‘you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.’” (emphasis added)
I agree on both counts. Sadly, we will see — are seeing — more political violence against citizens and politicians. But the greatest danger is the attack on the integrity of our elections, whether by election deniers or by state legislatures restricting voter access or by their on-the-ground armed minions intimidating voters. It is all unconscionable.
After all, Putin holds elections. Elections only mean something if people are free to vote as they wish and the voting process has integrity. Thank God for the many public officials who now risk their own safety to ensure election integrity. Thank God for the poll-workers who see their work as a sacred trust.
On the Supreme Court docket this term is a case that could make all the difference. The question it raises is whether state legislatures can overrule voters in their state and appoint their own preferred set of electors for the Electoral College. This is the strategy Trump tried in a number of states — slates of “alternate” electors — and which he hoped would prevail if the effort to interrupt the counting of the electoral college votes on January 6 had been successful.
The so-called “Independent State Legislature theory” to be tested in this case will be argued before the Supreme Court on December 7, though a decision will not be released until the following June.
We stand on the eve of another election. As Republicans declare their support of the Big Lie and prepare to question any results they don’t like, they are fueling a fire Trump himself laid, lit and throws gasoline on every chance he gets. All of us, and our country, are getting burnt. Whether we shall be utterly consumed by these fires remains to be seen.
In the meantime . . . vote, as I am sure you will. If you are in a state where you go to actual polls, report any voter intimidation you witness.
I’ve always loved the line, “Voting is a civic sacrament.” I actually used to enjoy going in person to the polling place and interacting with other voters and poll workers. No more, we’re all by mail in Washington State.
Keep the sacrament, hallowed by lives sacrificed in the cause of freedom. Bear witness to its sacred nature.