The Republicans’ bid to overturn the election is a full-scale emergency – and yet the Democratic strategy seems to be to pretend it isn’t happening
By David Sirota
The recent HBO film 537 Votes, about the Florida 2000 election mess, offers one overarching message: Democrats’ refusal to sound a clear alarm about the slow-motion heist in process ultimately let the election be stolen.
In that debacle, Democrats seemed to think things would break their way with well-honed arguments inside the cloistered confines of the legal system – they never understood how public-facing politics can play a role in what ended up being a pivotal political brawl outside the courtroom.
Now, 20 years later, the lesson of that debacle isn’t being heeded. Donald Trump and his cronies are quite clearly waging a public-facing campaign designed to create the conditions to pull off a coup in the electoral college process.
This is a full-scale emergency – and yet the Democratic strategy seems to be to try to pretend it isn’t happening, in hopes that norms win out, even though nothing at all is normal.
In the week since the election, Donald Trump and his Republican allies have waged a public campaign to call the election results into question – not just in the courtroom, but in the public’s mind. Their lawsuits and Attorney General William Barr’s recent memo are designed as much to to generate headlines as they are to win rulings and initiate prosecutions. Their tweets asserting fraud, and their high-profile promises of financial reward for evidence of fraud, are all designed to do the same thing.
Most ominously of all, Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan and Arizona are already insinuating the results may be fraudulent, even though they haven’t produced any evidence of widespread fraud.
Why is public perception so important? Because as the Ohio State University law professor Edward Foley shows in a frighteningly prescient 2019 article, legislatures could use the public perception of fraud to try to invoke their constitutional power to ignore their states’ popular votes, reject certified election results and appoint slates of Trump electors.