As President Donald Trump continues to recklessly paint mail-in ballots as nefarious liberal creations, as he tweets and squawks nonsensically about a “rigged election,” there is silence from Republican lawmakers.
They remain quiet as jellyfish, unable to muster a single vertebra let alone a collective spine, while a sitting president sprays disinformation like a crop duster and sets the country up for electoral chaos.
Understand this: Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of potential voter fraud and his guarantees that the only way he loses is if the other side cheats is real-time election interference. Period.
It’s baseless, shameful nonsense. He’s moving heaven and earth to sow distrust in the voting process, eroding Americans’ faith in a central tenet of our democracy.
And Republicans seem just fine with it all.
Would they be fine with a Democratic president saying: “The only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged”?
Would they be fine with a Democratic president spouting lies like this about a Republican governor: “Now he will cheat on the ballots, I have no doubt about it”?
Would they be fine with a Democratic president tweeting: “Because of MAIL-IN BALLOTS, 2020 will be the most RIGGED Election in our nation’s history”?
Of course not. Their jellyfish bodies would form mighty spines of steel and they would rear up and breathe fire in all directions and Fox News headquarters would spontaneously combust in a poof of unparalleled outrage.
And, quite frankly, they would be justified. But to this point, they haven’t had to worry about it, because no president, Democratic or Republican, has ever done a fraction of what Trump is doing to discredit a presidential election. Probably because past presidents have possessed at least a modicum of integrity and respect for democracy.
Consider just these lines that spanned two tweets Trump sent Monday following a remarkably irresponsible indoor (during a pandemic) rally in Nevada. Trump is directing his anger at Democratic Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak: “Can you imagine this man in charge of the Ballots in Nevada!? Not fair, Rigged Election! @GovSisolak, will use every trick in the book to cheat with Ballots.
For starters, the governor of Nevada is not “in charge of” ballots. The Republican secretary of state, Barbara Cegavske, handles the state’s elections.
More importantly, what is Trump even talking about? What are the tricks in the book that would allow a governor to cheat an election? How is the election rigged? What evidence does the president have for criminal allegations like these?
On Tuesday morning, our always busy president was on Fox News still harping on Nevada and mail-in ballots saying, “Millions of ballots are going out.”
As Jon Ralston, editor of the Nevada Independent, pointed out: “There are 1.7 million active voters in Nevada.” So Trump is trying to exaggerate the numbers to somehow make a perfectly legal voting process sounds scarier.
According to the Washington Post, “More than 100 times this year, President Trump has peddled false claims or imaginary threats about voting by mail.”
They are false claims and imaginary threats because there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Not by in-person voting, not by mail-in voting.
Trump’s own presidential commission tasked with investigating voter fraud shut down because it couldn’t find any.
Benjamin Ginsberg, a widely respected Republican elections lawyer, wrote a Washington Post op-ed earlier this month that said: “The truth is that after decades of looking for illegal voting, there’s no proof of widespread fraud. At most, there are isolated incidents -- by both Democrats and Republicans. Elections are not rigged.”
He cited a voter fraud database run by the conservative Heritage Foundation that holds “every instance of any kind of voter fraud it could find since 1982. It contains 1,296 incidents, a minuscule percentage of the votes cast.
About 1 out of every 4 Americans cast their vote by mail in the last two federal elections. According to a federal report presented to Congress, more than 31 million people voted by mail in the 2018 general election, nearly 26% of election participants.
And according to the Brennan Center for Justice: “Despite this dramatic increase in mail voting over time, fraud rates remain infinitesimally small.”
Five states have used mail-in voting for years, and 28 other states give voters the right to vote by mail if they want. Mail-in voting has multiple layers of anti-fraud security, from bar codes on envelopes to signature matching and address cross-checks, and contrary to Trump’s fear mongering, election experts agree the idea of criminals rounding up ballots mailed to registered voters and using them to commit election fraud is preposterous.
Richard L. Hasen, an elections expert at the University of California at Irvine School of Law, wrote in April in the Washington Post: “Trump is simply wrong about mail-in balloting raising a ‘tremendous’ potential for fraud.”
Trump may well win the November election. But if he loses, it’s not going to be because of voter fraud of any sort. His assertion otherwise should be disqualifying. But because it’s Donald Trump and Republicans exist solely to cuddle his ego, it won’t be.
That doesn’t mean you have to let yourself be conned. Read the facts. Consider the stupidly clumsy nature of the lies Trump keeps spilling, like showing he has no clue which Nevada official oversees elections.
Think about, at the very least, the fact that voter fraud is a federal crime that could get a person five years in prison and a $10,000 fine, and how many people you would have to convince to take that risk to truly rig an election.
Then ask yourself this: What does it say about a person who thinks the only way he can lose is if someone else cheats? And what does it say about a person who would sacrifice our democracy for his own gain?
Rex Huppke is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.