Tuesday, January 26, 2021
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A dangerous game with democracy

by By Jim Elliott
| January 6, 2021 12:00 AM

Whatever grudging respect I had for U.S. Senator Steve Daines has been obliterated by his stunt of joining 11 other Republican Senators to question the validity of the 2020 presidential election. His motives mystify me, but his action chills me. Trump, I at least understand. He wants to be president no matter what reality has dictated. Many Americans believe that the election was rigged against Trump. Not surprisingly, they are all Trump voters. And why do they believe the election was rigged? Because people with loud voices and no facts, like Rudy Guiliani, have told them it was rigged.

On the other hand, over 3,000 county level election administrators and 50 state election officials have certified the results in their jurisdiction and found them accurate and free from fraud. If you don’t believe them, maybe you might believe the 90 state and federal judges who have ruled in some 57 lawsuits that the Trump Campaign has no basis to challenge the results. Why? Because they have not been able to present any evidence to support their claims. Add to this the fact that no other candidates at the federal level, all of whom appeared on the ballot with Trump, have disputed the validity of the votes in their own elections.

But these facts have not daunted those who say they believe the election was rigged against Trump. Texas Senator Ted Cruz is leading a group of 12 senators, including Daines, to reject the results of the Electoral College, results that were certified by the respective states according to law. Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, who heads the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said a month ago that of the 57 cases brought by the Trump Campaign, “Not a single court has found a single instance of fraud or any of this evidence seen as legitimate.” Now, Johnson, in league with Cruz, is working at nullifying the results of the election. Why? Because tens of millions of voters don’t believe the election was honest. They believe this, as was pointed out by NBCs Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press,” because Johnson has been telling them it was rigged. Now, because of the large number of election doubters, which he essentially helped create, he wants to look into this.

In short, if you can convince enough people that something is true, it must be true because so many people believe it.

There is a lot of speculation as to why these Senators and Representative are trying to invalidate the election of Biden. As a rule it focuses on an assumption that they are doing it for their own political benefit by endearing themselves to Trump supporters. That’s partly true, but more important and more dangerous is the effect it will have on voter turnout in future elections. It is widely believed that higher voter turnout helps Democratic candidates. True or not, facts or not, it is widely believed (see last paragraph) and so Republicans have gone to great lengths to make it harder for people to vote just as Democrats try to make it easier.

Reasonable Republicans, which in this case means adult, like Collins Murkowski, Romney, and Cheney have warned of the danger of this stunt to the trust of voters in the electoral process. But, of course, that’s the very point of what Cruz, Daines and Johnson are doing.

The effort will fail, they know that, and because they know that they know what they are doing is merely a way to cast doubt on a process that has worked well for 230 years. It just didn’t work the way they wanted it to work in 2020.

—Jim Elliott served 16 years in the Montana Legislature. He lives in Trout Creek.