In an editorial one year ago, in the immediate wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at our nation’s capital, we asked whether the Republican Party would be able to recover from its slavish devotion to a dangerous demagogue. “Can the party recover from the Trump cult of personality and begin to stand for something other than his own self-aggrandizement?” we asked.
One year later, the answer is clear.
The handful of Republican leaders who have placed their loyalty to the U.S. Constitution above loyalty to Donald Trump have been rejected and even sanctioned by their own party, while those who plotted with Trump to overthrow the government of the United States are firmly in control of the GOP. Across the country, the GOP is using its grip on a number of state Legislatures to rewrite election laws, in some cases making it far easier for radical, partisan legislators to strip their own citizens of their right to choose the President of the United States.
Far from the soul-searching we had hoped from Republicans in the wake of the Jan. 6 violence, the party is doubling down on its Big Lie about the 2020 election in hopes of blocking any future Democrat from occupying the White House.
The Big Lie, which has been disproven time and again, is being exploited by the GOP to engineer the same kind of coup that Trump narrowly failed to execute one year ago. Across the country, and particularly in swing states, Trump backers in the GOP are seeking to remove Republican officeholders who refused to overturn the free and fair election results in their own states. Secretaries of State, such as Brad Raffensberger in Georgia, who resisted Trump’s demand to “find” just enough Trump votes to reverse that state’s result, is almost certain to be ousted in favor of a candidate who will find those votes next time, even if they have to be invented from whole cloth. Under the guise of “fighting election fraud,” Republicans are changing election laws to commit actual election fraud through voter suppression and by allowing Legislatures to more easily toss legitimate election results in favor of their own pre-determined outcomes.
Democrats, hamstrung by archaic Senate rules, appear unable to defend Americans’ right to vote and have their votes fairly counted. At the state level, Republicans aren’t limited by things like the filibuster, which would otherwise allow Democrats to block their efforts to rig future elections.
We’d like to think that GOP voters themselves would oppose these efforts to undermine one of our most important Constitutional rights. Yet, the Trump fever won’t break as long as right-wing media continues to spread his falsehoods and bizarre conspiracy theories. As we saw, last week, that fever has spread to parts of the Eighth District, where the Crow Wing County Board voted earlier this month to ask the Minnesota Secretary of State to undertake an audit of the 2020 presidential vote in the county to look for signs that the count was somehow manipulated by unseen forces. It’s utter nonsense.
While the county board appropriately made clear that it has full confidence in its election process, they acknowledged that a considerable number of county residents were convinced that fraud must have occurred.
While one can certainly sympathize with the Crow Wing commissioners, they must realize an audit is a fool’s errand. There have been countless internal reviews, independent audits, and hand recounts across the country, all of which revealed what any sensible American already knows: that the 2020 presidential election was free and fair and accurately reflected the will of the voters. The Crow Wing County audit will reach a similar conclusion and it will prove exactly nothing to the legions of Trump voters who prefer make-believe to reality.
It would all be fodder for the late-night comics if the current state of the GOP weren’t so frightening. Donald Trump and his supporters are playing with fire, for both financial profit and political gain. Trump and his prominent supporters have raised millions of dollars peddling his Big Lie and much of that money ends up in their own pockets. He uses his election falsehoods to maintain political momentum, by generating anger on the right— anger he hopes will fuel another run for the White House.
Trump doesn’t care that his lies are badly eroding the very foundation of our system, by turning his supporters against free and fair elections. Recent polls have indicated that a significant plurality of Republicans now say they support the use of violence to achieve their political aims. There’s no soul-searching on America’s political right. There’s only a fever that seems to grow more dangerous by the day.
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