More on the Plot to Wreck America’s Elections

There is Big Money pushing the Big Lie. Charles Pierce of Esquire comments on a new report explaining how and why reactionaries with money are funding the attack on the 2020 election and elections to come: 

Jane Mayer of The New Yorker, indefatigable dark-money gumshoe, has made another major bust, this time in the area of The Big Lie and the lushly financed ratfcking infrastructure of the American right. She begins with the extended farce that is dragging on in Arizona, largely because it has been designed to drag on in Arizona, and elsewhere. She points to Patrick Byrne, the founder of Overstock.com, as one of the major sugar daddies behind this particular exercise in weaponized futility. But Mayer also emphasizes the fact that the entire conservative dark-money machine has been turned away from some of its traditional purposes and put behind a national effort not only to suppress the franchise, but also to delegitimize the electoral process itself. One engine supplies the power to the other.

Ralph Neas has been involved in voting-rights battles since the nineteen-eighties, when, as a Republican, he served as the executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. He has overseen a study of the Arizona audit for the nonpartisan Century Foundation, and he told me that, though the audit is a “farce,” it may nonetheless have “extraordinary consequences.” He said, “The Maricopa County audit exposes exactly what the Big Lie is all about. If they come up with an analysis that discredits the 2020 election results in Arizona, it will be replicated in other states, furthering more chaos. That will enable new legislation. Millions of Americans could be disenfranchised, helping D____ T____ to be elected again in 2024. That’s the bottom line. Maricopa County is the prism through which to view everything. It’s not so much about 2020—it’s about 2022 and 2024. This is a coördinated national effort to distort not just what happened in 2020 but to regain the House of Representatives and the Presidency.”

And, it should be said, to perpetuate that control for the purposes of shoving more of the national wealth upward and keeping it there. Because, for all the high-falutin’ talk about conspiracy theories and democracy, this is now and always has been about establishing a permanent oligarchy and, if a kind of fascism comes along with it, well, bonus, right, folks?

Although the Arizona audit may appear to be the product of local extremists, it has been fed by sophisticated, well-funded national organizations whose boards of directors include some of the country’s wealthiest and highest-profile conservatives. Dark-money organizations, sustained by undisclosed donors, have relentlessly promoted the myth that American elections are rife with fraud, and, according to leaked records of their internal deliberations, they have drafted, supported, and in some cases taken credit for state laws that make it harder to vote.

For example, the Heritage Foundation is in on the game, according to Mayer and to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who is bulldogging the money power in all our political institution. [Right-wing legal activist] Leonard Leo, not content with having warped the federal judiciary unto the generations, is now turning his dark arts to screwing with elections. But Mayer also follows the money back to its source, which happens to be in this case, the most usual of usual subjects.

These disparate nonprofits have one thing in common: they have all received funding from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. Based in Milwaukee, the private, tax-exempt organization has become an extraordinary force in persuading mainstream Republicans to support radical challenges to election rules—a tactic once relegated to the far right. With an endowment of some eight hundred and fifty million dollars, the foundation funds a network of groups that have been stoking fear about election fraud, in some cases for years. Public records show that, since 2012, the foundation has spent some eighteen million dollars supporting eleven conservative groups involved in election issues.

I know people in Wisconsin who have spent their entire public careers fighting the poisonous influence of the Bradley Foundation, the reek of which prevails in almost all of the state’s major institutions—including, alas, my beloved alma mater. It was one of the major engines behind the rise of Congressman Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny-starver from Janesville, and behind Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their midwest subsidiary once known as the state of Wisconsin, and behind Ron Johnson, the continuing blight of the United States Senate. So the Bradley Foundation has managed to damage the national government in so many different ways, including the promotion and election of woeful statewide candidates.

An animating force behind the Bradley Foundation’s war on “election fraud” is Cleta Mitchell, a fiercely partisan Republican election lawyer, who joined the organization’s board of directors in 2012. Until recently, she was virtually unknown to most Americans. But, on January 3rd, the Washington Post exposed the contents of a private phone call, recorded the previous day, during which Trump threatened election officials in Georgia with a “criminal offense” unless they could “find” 11,780 more votes for him—just enough to alter the results. Also on the call was Mitchell, who challenged the officials to provide records proving that dead people hadn’t cast votes. The call was widely criticized as a rogue effort to overturn the election, and Foley & Lardner, the Milwaukee-based law firm where Mitchell was a partner, announced that it was “concerned” about her role, and then parted ways with her. Trump’s call prompted the district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, to begin a criminal investigation.

Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing. Jane Mayer has found the taproot. It isn’t about Donald Trump, or about the My Pillow dumbass, or even the people who attacked the U.S. Capitol. It’s about the money, and who has it, and who wants to keep it, and, here’s a revelation, it’s probably not you.

Here are the closing words of the New Yorker article:

Polls show that, although the Arizona audit is wildly popular among Republican voters in the state, it alienates independents, who constitute approximately a third of the state’s electorate—and whose support is necessary for statewide candidates to win.

For now, though, conservative groups seem to be doubling down on their investments in election-fraud alarmism. In the next two years, Heritage Action plans to spend twenty-four million dollars mobilizing supporters and lobbyists who will promote “election integrity,” starting in eight battleground states, including Arizona. It is coördinating its effort with the Election Transparency Initiative, a joint venture of two anti-abortion groups, the Susan B. Anthony List and the American Principles Project. The Election Transparency Initiative has set a fund-raising goal of five million dollars. Cleta Mitchell, having left her law firm, has joined FreedomWorks, the free-market group, where she plans to lead a ten-million-dollar project on voting issues. She will also head the Election Integrity Network at the Conservative Partnership Institute, another Washington-based nonprofit. As a senior legal fellow there, she told the Washington Examiner, she will “help bring all these strings” of conservative election-law activism together, and she added, “I’ve had my finger in so many different pieces of the election-integrity pie for so long.”

Back in Arizona, where the auditors are demanding still more time, [Republican member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors] Bill Gates believes that the Big Lie has become a “grift” used to motivate Republican voters and donors to support conservative candidates and political groups. “The sad thing is that there are probably millions of people—hardworking, good Americans, maybe retired—who have paid their taxes, always followed the law, and they truly believe this, because of what they’ve been fed by their leaders,” he said. “And what’s so dispiriting is that the people who are pushing it from the top? They know better.” 

In No Uncertain Terms

What kind of language does the current moment deserve? Some prefer measured, unemotional words. Others prefer something more. 

Steve Schmidt is a conservative political strategist who is severely critical of today’s Republican Party. He was John McCain’s senior strategist in the senator’s losing presidential campaign (should we blame Schmidt for the rise of Sarah Palin?). He was one of the founders of the Lincoln Project and is active on Twitter. Here’s some of what he had to say this weekend:

Please watch this and share. I am absolutely fucking outraged and enraged by the nihilistic vandalism of our country for the sake of sustaining T____s’ ONGOING campaign to hold political power at the price of burning it all down. (Twitter)

The immorality of it all is beyond grotesque. It is depraved. It is cowardly. It is shameful and despicable conduct at an epic level. There is a rot, a deep rot within our politics that can only be fixed by purging people like @marcorubio from public life by rebuking them in an election and then silencing them with shame.

No healthy country can have @GOPLeader @marcorubio @mattgaetz @tedcruz @laurenboebert @RepMTG and too many more to conceivably mention in positions of public trust. The cynicism, lying, extremism, weakness, insanity and cowardice combines to create a putrid stench that simply beggars belief. It’s despicable fucking conduct that’s so breathtaking there is no word that comes to mind. The depraved indifference and utter, shocking disregard for the lives of the American people is an act of corruption unequaled in American history.

There are hundreds of Thousands of dead Americans who would be alive but for the stupefying incompetence, carelessness and stupidity of T____, his government, his cabinet secretaries, aides, propagandists, financiers and congressional accomplices. 620.000 Americans are dead yet, the assault on sanity continues unabated. It never ever fucking never ever EVER takes a day off, ever.

Here we are today, the Delta variant raging, the pandemic reignited by an unvaccinated population that has been lied to, deceived by, disoriented by and confused by the deliberate, purposeful premeditated lying of Murdoch, Fox News, Carlson, and hundreds of lesser demagogues and liars. More will die because of this nihilism. Evil.

The country will be consumed by Covid again so that T____, @GOPLeader and all the rest of his nest of nationalists, autocrats, extremists, Racists, fascists and conspiracy loons can blame it all on Biden. They are happy to burn everything down around them for power, including us. Every normal person in this country should be deeply frightened by this. Deeply. I know I am. We have to fight back against the lies and malice that have become virtues to our elected political arsonists. They call themselves Republicans, but that is a disguise for what they have become.

The snarling white faces frozen in photos, screaming in rage and spitting on black children trying to walk into a schoolhouse would no doubt be awestruck at the capacity of technology to allow their children and grandchildren to virtually spit on the greatest champion in the history of her sport, all the way to Tokyo. They would be slack jawed at the progress we have made in America. Their kids and grandkids don’t even have to call black Americans the N word anymore. They just say CRT [Critical Race Theory].

The next chapter of the story, a tragic and deadly farce will be the Blame it all on Biden part. The arsonists will be gleeful in their attacks on the firefighters who are fighting to save lives and extinguish the conflagration. We have to bury this in the next two elections. If we don’t , we lose the country. We will lose it to madness, nihilism; cynicism, greed, hate, racial animus. We will lose it to terrible people, the depraved and extreme, the corrupt and sinister. We will lose it to the T____ family and we won’t get it back next time.

Next:

I’ve driven 1000 miles this week . . . and thought about a lot of things. I’m not sure this is a fair criticism as I’m working through the wretchedness of this dishonest moment and the nihilistic craziness of the overwhelming majority of elected Republican leaders (Twitter).

Many news stories and a great deal of present moment journalism cover our political free fall through a lens that captures each appalling moment, often deeply and compellingly. The stories are framed around an event, something that just occurred, rather than as a puzzle piece, which gives context to a larger, fluid story unraveling before our eyes.

Let’s look at two people as examples. Each has spoken out against T____ in the past. They were precise in their worry and condemnation of his exquisite awfulness. Each knew exactly who T____ was. The one thing T____ deserves great credit for is his absolute consistency, steadfastness and commitment to the truth of sharing who he really is. They all knew what T____ was because they told us. Then they collaborated and discarded every principle they claimed to hold.

We all know this is true. I know it. You know it. They know it and every journalist who ever interviews them knows it.

They are titanic frauds, elected weasels who share a talent for shamelessness, built on a foundation of cynicism and stone cold belief that their supporters are marks, a type of feeble prey that are either too stupid to notice the contradictions and hypocrisy of literally every spoken word or are too lazy and slug-like to care about being abused by constant gaslighting.

How should this be covered? Lie by lie, or is the story the journey of the liar and their deepening commitment to an autocratic movement. For me that is the story. It is a continuum that is dynamic and continually unfolding. This puts a different frame around the consideration @EliseStefanik should be given when she says really stupid and dishonest things like @SpeakerPelosi was the real 1/6 villain and @Liz_Cheney, the pristinely conservative Republican Congresswoman from Wyoming, is a Pelosi Democrat. Why should anyone pretend that @EliseStefanik is on the level about anything? Even she knows she is lying and she knows exactly why she is doing it.

She is doing it for power and self interest. She’s not an actress. She isn’t playing a part in a make believe story. She is an active participant in a movement that is trying to burn down our democracy in both the name of freedom and D____ T____. She is a leader in a movement that has desecrated the compact between us around how we share political power in America. They have rejected the most fundamental aspect of our system of government. What more evidence is needed around her bad faith?

When these members speak they lie. When they lie there seems to be some weird Washington DC courtesy extended in any given story, where whatever it is they are saying is covered through a prism of good faith, despite the accumulation of past statements and gazillions of hours of interviews that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is all an exercise in bad faith.

In short, the individuals who are most effective at demonstrating the depravity of the moment are the collaborators themselves. They indict themselves for the cowards, cynics and opportunists they are with their own words. Shouldn’t the story focus on the cancer that has consumed their public character? American Puritanism turned the question of public character into a sexual one over the last 35 years. Two results followed.

One, previously unimaginable depths of hypocrisy were achieved by @newtgingrich, Ken Starr and legions of others. Second, the concept of public character became so twisted that the behaviors of @EliseStefanik @marcorubio and @LindseyGrahamSC aren’t viewed through a character lens at all. Selling out the country, with purpose and intent for power and self is a betrayal of duty and a despicable act. It is also a plainly obvious one. Why do we have to pretend that the absurdities they utter aren’t easily refutable by them? By their own words.

When @EliseStefanik speaks shouldn’t all of questions that follow be focused on why she is saying the things she is saying as opposed to what she is saying? What is happening in this country is building. It’s gathering. It’s moving, growing and evolving. The signs are everywhere. Yes, a million loathsome moments are all worthy of scrutiny and study. I just wonder if the focus on those moments is causing us to miss the movement towards the destination ahead that while unseen for now is certainly terrible and likely a hellscape from which there is no return. Perspective matters when it comes to orienting to reality and danger.

Sometimes I worry about missing the autocratic forest for the trees.

Finally:

The 1/6/21 attack on America took the form of an insurrection aimed at destroying the Constitutional process that lawfully bestows power to the winner of a Presidential election in the in the the name of the People of the United States who are sovereign in this land. It was incited by a President of the United States and a legion of liars and cynics that include nearly every Republican leader. Of course, that fact alone defines it as the worst and most dangerous attack since the Civil War, but it gets worse (Twitter).

The 1/6 Insurrection by a T____ mob mixed with organized extremist elements including white supremacists, fascists, and violent paramilitary militia groups is the only attack against the nation in our history that has not rallied the whole of the American people to defend America. Instead, tens of millions are broadly sympathetic to the violence and obvious lies that underpin it all. The whole of the Republican Party has weighed in on the matter by siding with the insurrectionists and the defeated disgrace that incited it.

The measurement scale of gauging the insidiousness of their betrayal and collaboration with this Anti-American movement ranges from incitement and active participation in the attack to a dishonest indifference forged by an alchemy of vices; cowardice, fear, ambition, self interest, cynicism and opportunism have overwhelmed any sense of duty, patriotism and love of country.

No other attack against America in our long story has ever produced that response. No other attack has ever produced such sympathy for the attackers. No other attack has ever produced such a fierce determination to deny it occurred at all by politicians who advance their careers on the singularity of their talent to gaslight and deceive the people they swore an oath to serve by preserving and protecting the Constitution of the United States.

There is a name for the Treacherous lot of elected leaders who have forsaken our country. They call themselves Republicans. They serve a master, not an idea or ideal. They serve their leader, T____. The whole world has seen their perfidy. The whole world has seen their rot and the weakness they are spreading in our country. For sure, the Chinese and Russians have seen it.

What they see is a decaying society brought low by the leaders who were elected to strengthen it. They see a country where the lie and truth can stand equally, just like theirs. They must be rejoicing as idealism is being overrun by a cynicism so powerful that it has caused the greatest crisis of faith and belief in the pillars of our Republic since the Civil War. What a tragic moment. It has left us all with a choice. What side are you on?

There are more of us than them but fanaticism, extremism and commitment are on their side. Apathy to the danger through civic disengagement in the name of political exhaustion is what the autocrats are hoping for. Let’s not give it to them.

In fact, let us fight to create a great awakening and fill it with an unyielding resolve to crush the fever dreams of power for people like T____, @EliseStefanik and @marcorubio who have come to hate with deeds what they profess to love with words. Let’s strike them all down in the ballot box. We cannot let freedom slip away in America.

Understanding the Republican Cult of Personality

Paul Krugman explains what social science says about personality cults, such as, oh,  today’s Republican Party, and how these cults support dictatorships around the world:

. . . One paper in particular, by the New Zealand-based researcher Xavier Márquez; I found . . . revelatory.

“The Mechanisms of Cult Production” compares the behavior of political elites across a wide range of dictatorial regimes, from Caligula’s Rome to the Kim family’s North Korea, and finds striking similarities. Despite vast differences in culture and material circumstances, elites in all such regimes engage in pretty much the same behavior, especially what the paper dubs “loyalty signaling” and “flattery inflation.”

Signaling is a concept originally drawn from economics; it says that people sometimes engage in costly, seemingly pointless behavior as a way to prove that they have attributes others value. For example, new hires at investment banks may work insanely long hours, not because the extra hours are actually productive, but to demonstrate their commitment to feeding the money machine.

In the context of dictatorial regimes, signaling typically involves making absurd claims on behalf of the Leader and his agenda, often including “nauseating displays of loyalty.” If the claims are obvious nonsense and destructive in their effects, if making those claims humiliates the person who makes them, these are features, not bugs. I mean, how does the Leader know if you’re truly loyal unless you’re willing to demonstrate your loyalty by inflicting harm both on others and on your own reputation?

And once this kind of signaling becomes the norm, those trying to prove their loyalty have to go to ever greater extremes to differentiate themselves from the pack. Hence “flattery inflation”: The Leader isn’t just brave and wise, he’s a perfect physical specimen, a brilliant health expert, a Nobel-level economic analyst, and more. The fact that he’s obviously none of these things only enhances the effectiveness of the flattery as a demonstration of loyalty.

Does all of this sound familiar? Of course it does, at least to anyone who has been tracking Fox News or the utterances of political figures like [Senator] Lindsey Graham or [House Majority Leader] Kevin McCarthy.

Many people, myself included, have declared for years that the G.O.P. is no longer a normal political party. It doesn’t look anything like, say, Dwight Eisenhower’s Republican Party or Germany’s Christian Democrats. But it bears a growing resemblance to the ruling parties of autocratic regimes.

The only unusual thing about the party’s wholesale adoption of the Leader Principle is that Republicans doesn’t have a monopoly on power; in fact, the party controls neither Congress nor the White House. Politicians suspected of insufficient loyalty to T___ and T___ism in general aren’t sent to the gulag. At most, they stand to lose intraparty offices and, possibly, future primaries. Yet such is the timidity of Republican politicians that these mild threats are apparently enough to make many of them behave like Caligula’s courtiers.

Unfortunately, all this loyalty signaling is putting the whole nation at risk. In fact, it will almost surely kill large numbers of Americans in the next few months.

The stalling of America’s initially successful vaccination drive isn’t entirely driven by partisanship — some people, especially members of minority groups, are failing to get vaccinated for reasons having little to do with current politics.

But politics is nonetheless clearly a key factor: Republican politicians and Republican-oriented influencers have driven much of the opposition to Covid-19 vaccines, in some cases engaging in what amounts to outright sabotage. And there is a stunning negative correlation between T___’s share of a county’s vote in 2020 and its current vaccination rate.

How did lifesaving vaccines become politicized? As Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein suggests, today’s Republicans are always looking for ways to show that they’re more committed to the cause than their colleagues are — and given how far down the rabbit hole the party has already gone, the only way to do that is “nonsense and nihilism,” advocating crazy and destructive policies, like opposing vaccines.

That is, hostility to vaccines has become a form of loyalty signaling.

None of this should be taken to imply that Republicans are the root of all evil or that their opponents are saints . . . But the G.O.P. has become something different, with, as far as I know, no precedent in American history although with many precedents abroad. Republicans have created for themselves a political realm in which costly demonstrations of loyalty transcend considerations of good policy or even basic logic. . . .

It’s Right/Left But Also Fantasy/Reality

This is a somewhat edited Twitter thread from Steve Schmidt, a political strategist who used to work for Republicans. His comments were precipitated by a CNN podcast (referenced at the bottom of this post):

The debate is around how to think and talk about Fox News. What is it? [CNN journalist] Brian Stelter thinks about this directionally and ideologically: describing Fox as moving further right. He is correct, as is [journalism professor] Jay Rosen, who evaluates Fox News along a different axis. For him, it is the drift into fantasy and the unreal.

The authoritarian movement in America is real, powerful and present. All authoritarian movements are nourished by an ecosystem that includes three powerful components:

A. The Financiers. “No Bucks, no Buck Rogers” said the PR man to the disdainful test pilots who were to become America’s Mercury astronauts in one of the all time great movies “The Right Stuff”. There is no autocratic movement without money and they have a lot.

B. CYNICAL ELITES.  Rep. Elise Stefanik, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Josh Hawley and Sen. Mitch McConnell are but a few examples of people who have tried to manage the toxic reverberations from [the former president’s] cult by manipulating it for power, self interest and vanity. They have aligned with the fringe and venomous ideas.

C. PROPAGANDISTS. All authoritarian movements rely on propaganda sustained by a particular type of lie. THE LIE OF AUTHORITY requires the abandonment of belief, truth, ethics, values and intellectual agency. It demands submission to the lies of the Leader/Party.

. . . Right-Left, in the tradition of American politics, has long been explicable with a two dimensional rendering, specifically, a horizontal line. It doesn’t work any more. When [Brian Stelter] talks about Fox and moving “Right”, it is important to pause and look at the [system of measurement].

Trying to explain the metastasized conservative media by marking a point on a line [that could be] used to measure ideological distance between [Republican moderate] Christie Whitman and [Republican conservative] Orrin Hatch [fails to capture reality].

The “Right” we are talking about here is a very specific variant, that no matter how easily identifiable, seems to induce a blindness in people who should see it clearly and an allergy towards confronting it by the people who have the most at stake in the fight.

We are talking, of course, about an authoritarian Right that is steeped in fantasy, delusion, hate, scapegoating, scientific racial theory, menace, violence and coercion.

This American Right is cousin to the noxious movements that have long been built on a fetid marsh of lies, grievance, scapegoating, hate, menace, fear and fantasy nostalgia for a world once pure. That fallen world, is the nucleus of a powerful and evil fantasy at the core of a terrible and dangerous mythology. The mythology is fear-based and architected around the imagined birthright of one group to feel superior to others.

It always leads to subjugation under the power and boot of the state for the purpose of preserving the power of the few and the fabulously corrupt over the common good of the great many.

Fox News is moving in a new direction and has been for some time. . . It is getting worse and more extreme every day. . . . The [metastasizing] ideological drift and the demand for submission to fantasies is at the core of understanding what all of this is. I hope enough people can see the totality of it all before we lose it all.

Unquote.

The CNN podcast is called Reliable Sources. From the description of this episode:

Jay Rosen, who teaches journalism at NYU and authors the PressThink blog, discusses the devolution of Fox News; the difficulty of describing a “shifted political universe” in the United States; and the need for news outlets to be “much more explicitly and aggressively pro-democracy.”

He says “Fox is becoming in some way more demand-driven” because “its audience is in the driver’s seat in a way that’s more extreme than when Roger Ailes ran the network.” For example, Rosen comments, “Do you want January 6 to be the fault of Antifa? You can have that. Do you want [somebody else] to have won the 2020 election? You can have that.”

Rosen explains that “these kinds of maneuvers are attempting to sever people from reality so that you can do what you want with them… to just sort of de-anchor people from anything that they have in common with their fellow citizens so that they can be manipulated further. And that’s why it’s so insidious.” 

“Purity” and “Quality”: A Crisis in the Making

More than 100 experts on democracy, from John Aldrich to Daniel Ziblatt, have issued a “statement of concern” regarding the imminent crisis in American politics:

We, the undersigned, are scholars of democracy who have watched the recent deterioration of U.S. elections and liberal democracy with growing alarm. Specifically, we have watched with deep concern as Republican-led state legislatures across the country have in recent months proposed or implemented what we consider radical changes to core electoral procedures in response to unproven and intentionally destructive allegations of a stolen election. Collectively, these initiatives are transforming several states into political systems that no longer meet the minimum conditions for free and fair elections. Hence, our entire democracy is now at risk.

When democracy breaks down, it typically takes many years, often decades, to reverse the downward spiral. In the process, violence and corruption typically flourish, and talent and wealth flee to more stable countries, undermining national prosperity. It is not just our venerated institutions and norms that are at risk—it is our future national standing, strength, and ability to compete globally.

Statutory changes in large key electoral battleground states are dangerously politicizing the process of electoral administration, with Republican-controlled legislatures giving themselves the power to override electoral outcomes on unproven allegations should Democrats win more votes. They are seeking to restrict access to the ballot, the most basic principle underlying the right of all adult American citizens to participate in our democracy. They are also putting in place criminal sentences and fines meant to intimidate and scare away poll workers and nonpartisan administrators. State legislatures have advanced initiatives that curtail voting methods now preferred by Democratic-leaning constituencies, such as early voting and mail voting. Republican lawmakers have openly talked about ensuring the “purity” and “quality” of the vote, echoing arguments widely used across the Jim Crow South as reasons for restricting the Black vote.

State legislators supporting these changes have cited the urgency of “electoral integrity” and the need to ensure that elections are secure and free of fraud. But by multiple expert judgments, the 2020 election was extremely secure and free of fraud. The reason that Republican voters have concerns is because many Republican officials, led by former President Donald Trump, have manufactured false claims of fraud, claims that have been repeatedly rejected by courts of law, and which Trump’s own lawyers have acknowledged were mere speculation when they testified about them before judges.

In future elections, these laws politicizing the administration and certification of elections could enable some state legislatures or partisan election officials to do what they failed to do in 2020: reverse the outcome of a free and fair election. Further, these laws could entrench extended minority rule, violating the basic and longstanding democratic principle that parties that get the most votes should win elections.

Democracy rests on certain elemental institutional and normative conditions. Elections must be neutrally and fairly administered. They must be free of manipulation. Every citizen who is qualified must have an equal right to vote, unhindered by obstruction. And when they lose elections, political parties and their candidates and supporters must be willing to accept defeat and acknowledge the legitimacy of the outcome. The refusal of prominent Republicans to accept the outcome of the 2020 election, and the anti-democratic laws adopted (or approaching adoption) in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Montana and Texas—and under serious consideration in other Republican-controlled states—violate these principles. More profoundly, these actions call into question whether the United States will remain a democracy. As scholars of democracy, we condemn these actions in the strongest possible terms as a betrayal of our precious democratic heritage.

The most effective remedy for these anti-democratic laws at the state level is federal action to protect equal access of all citizens to the ballot and to guarantee free and fair elections. Just as it ultimately took federal voting rights law to put an end to state-led voter suppression laws throughout the South, so federal law must once again ensure that American citizens’ voting rights do not depend on which party or faction happens to be dominant in their state legislature, and that votes are cast and counted equally, regardless of the state or jurisdiction in which a citizen happens to live. This is widely recognized as a fundamental principle of electoral integrity in democracies around the world.

A new voting rights law (such as that proposed in the John Lewis Voting Rights Act) is essential but alone is not enough. True electoral integrity demands a comprehensive set of national standards that ensure the sanctity and independence of election administration, guarantee that all voters can freely exercise their right to vote, prevent partisan gerrymandering from giving dominant parties in the states an unfair advantage in the process of drawing congressional districts, and regulate ethics and money in politics.

It is always far better for major democracy reforms to be bipartisan, to give change the broadest possible legitimacy. However, in the current hyper-polarized political context such broad bipartisan support is sadly lacking. Elected Republican leaders have had numerous opportunities to repudiate Trump and his “Stop the Steal” crusade, which led to the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Each time, they have sidestepped the truth and enabled the lie to spread.

We urge members of Congress to do whatever is necessary—including suspending the filibuster—in order to pass national voting and election administration standards that both guarantee the vote to all Americans equally, and prevent state legislatures from manipulating the rules in order to manufacture the result they want. Our democracy is fundamentally at stake. History will judge what we do at this moment.

Unquote.

The two Democratic senators who seem most reluctant to suspend the filibuster in order to protect democracy should read this statement.

Senator Joseph Manchin
306 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington D.C. 20510

Senator Kyrsten Sinema
317 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington D.C. 20510