Democracy is on Ballot this Election!!
LETTERS TO BARODA CITIZENS
From BILL HURST,
Running for Election as Baroda Township Treasurer
November 3rd, 2022
Note: These letters are self-funded. No Township time, dollars, or materials are being consumed. The views expressed are not relevant to my work as Treasurer, which is a completely non-partisan job. But Township rules require me to declare and run as a partisan, so I have declared as an Independent. You the voters made it clear in 2020 that the party label of the Treasurer matters, in defeating an incumbent who was far more embedded in the community than her opponent, and who knew the job inside out. Despite the voters’ preference for party over non-partisanship in that election, the job itself is non-partisan.
I am writing these letters to speak to what I feel is a need to look at our politics through a non-party, centrist lens, and to preserve our democracy, which is under immediate risk for reasons mentioned in my first letter and discussed in detail in this letter.
I am aware that for those Republicans who have a strong attachment to Donald Trump, it is uncomfortable to discuss his attempt to overturn the 2020 election, But because that attempt to disrupt the election results came very close to succeeding, the full narrative of these attempts need to be understood so our democracy is preserved.
In understanding the scope of the attempt to disrupt the election, this letter does not start with or focus on the Capital riot of January 6th, as so many accounts do. And that is because the effort to overturn the election included multiple steps including a misinformation campaign about election fraud that started years before the 2020 election, a more targeted 2020 misinformation campaign around mail-in ballots in the run-up to the election, an attack on the counting process right after the election as it extended over days as experts knew it would, a pressure campaign on Republican state office holders to not certify their state elections thereby overturning the popular vote, a pressure campaign on Georgia Republican state officials to find votes for Donald Trump despite numerous audits showing the results were sound, and finally a brazen and illegal attempt to certify alternative slates of electors from 7 states accompanied by a plan and actions to pressure Mike Pence to recognize two sets of alternative electors for these states in order to throw the election into the House of Representatives.
I was told by several moderate Baroda Republicans, that I should avoid this topic because it is too divisive. Just stick to writing about solutions, they told me. Those conversations reaffirmed the need for this letter. These smart, honorable people admit the election wasn’t stolen by an inaccurate count; but they do not seem aware of or alarmed by all the other systematic steps that were taken to overturn the 2020 election, and worse I heard no concerns from them about future risks to our democracy from pledges of over 300 election denial candidates running for key state offices to decertify future results if they do not meet with their approval.
If the risk to future elections was not real, I might have avoided this letter. As the account below shows, we narrowly averted a crisis in 2020 due to courageous Republicans resisting pressure to overturn the vote. But in 2024, if the Presidential race is close like 2020, if pressure is put on state actors like Secretaries of State in Georgia, or Michigan, or Arizona, and election deniers are in those positions, the stage is set for those officials to overturn results of the popular vote, throwing the US into an electoral crisis or worse.
Evidence that risks to the legitimacy of elections is severe comes from several 2020 candidates. Kerri Lake, running for Governor of Arizona, has refused to commit to honoring the results of her election, and she indicated clear that she would join forces to de-certify election results she does not like, going forward. Election deniers are on the ballot for roughly for two out of three races for governor and secretary of state, and roughly half the races for attorney general. Many have adopted the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. Let’s provide two simple examples for how the anti-democracy playbook could overturn the popular vote, which is the will of the people in each state, going forward. In Pennsylvania, Doug Mastriano, who attended the Capital “Stop the Steal” rally, if elected, will appoint the Secretary of State as per Pennsylvania law. That Secretary of State can simply refuse to certify an election. Mastriano, as a State Senator, has proposed stripping the secretary of state with election powers altogether and giving those powers instead to a commission appointed by the governor and legislature. If elected, Mastriano would likely pursue this change in law. A second example is in Michigan. While the Secretary of State does not certify elections, as he/she does in Pennsylvania, and instead the Board of Electors does, these bodies can be subject to pressure to de-certify similar to Trump’s efforts in 2020. With election deniers Secretary of State Kristina Karamo and Attorney General Mathew DePerno supporting that de-certification, the legislature and governor could tip the scales to overturn results, or create chaos which can be used a pre-text for extra-legal actions like throwing a Presidential election to the House of Representatives. (See this excellent article about the extremism of Karamo and the chaos she could cause -> https://boltsmag.org/kristina-karamo-has-plans-to-unwind-michigan-elections-secretary-of-state/.)
Note that it would only take one state de-certifying its election results to create a Constitutional crisis in a federal election.
And while the threat immediately comes from the Republican Party, by putting the dynamic of election denial in motion, the temptation to delegitimize elections will spread to actors from both parties. Once this occurs, our democratic experiment runs a high risk of being fatally damaged. One can imagine dire scenarios if the ballot box is no longer sufficient to assure the peaceful transfer of power. This is what is at stake.
This goal of this letter is to connect the dots, especially for Republican readers, so the risks to our democracy posed by election denial are clear. To understand the risks, we need to look at the systematic steps taken by Trump and his surrogates in 2020 to overturn the election, up to and including January 6th and ongoing to this day.
To mitigate future risks, election deniers need to go down to defeat in Tuesday’s election. That includes the trio of Michigan Republican election deniers, Dixon, Karamo, and DePerno. And Congress urgently needs to pass at least one piece of legislation, the Electoral Count Act, that must be adopted now to close loopholes in the 1887 Act, which John Eastman, as part of the Trump campaign, tried to systematically exploit in the runup to January 6th.
So let’s dive into the evidence about the 2020 election.
Trump’s Prior “Rigged Election” Claims; a History of Unfounded Allegations
Trump’s lie that he won the election did not start in 2020 or even 2019. It is rooted in the use of misinformation by Donald Trump, which is ongoing and voluminous. Without going into depth on his general use of misinformation, two or three cases will suffice to illuminate the tactic.
The first is Trump’s misinformation campaign about Obama being born in Kenya. Trump jumpstarted his presidential run with this assertion, which he has never completely withdrawn. Trump barely acknowledged the truth when Obama produced his birth certificate. During his 2016 campaign, when he calculated that holding onto the birth certificate denial conspiracy was detrimental to his candidacy, he declared that indeed Obama was born in the US. In 2016, he even falsely claimed that Hillary Clinton was the source of the “birther” controversy. Later in 2017, after musing that he was better off holding onto the birth certificate controversy, Trump again raised doubts about Obama being born in the US. It’s clear that it isn’t the truth or falsehood of whether Obama was born here which mattered to Trump; it was the political support and notoriety he gained from promoting this lie. Outrageous statements, whatever their truth, are simply a tool Donald Trump uses to get attention and to garner support. A tactic he has frequently used is to try out controversial and often untrue statements on his audiences, and if they resonate with his base, he will work them into press conferences and rallies. Some become part of a more extensive misinformation campaign, repeated over and over, to lessen confidence in “fake news”. According to the Washington Post, Trump lied 30,000 times during his presidency, many of them so obvious all could see their falsity, others filled with bits and pieces of truth. Obvious lies serve a purpose in loosening up constraints so those who are loyal so they no longer are attentive to rules of evidence. The need for loyalty to Trump predominates. We saw this over and over again, on small matters (the size of the 2017 inauguration crowd), medium size matters (the tornado risk to Alabama where Trump forced the National Weather Service to redraw maps) and large issues (transparent handling of Covid).
Anyone could be a target of these misstatements. In 2015, during his viscous primary campaign against Ted Cruz, Trump claimed that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in John Kennedy’s assassination, one of many forays Trump has made into conspiracy theories. Trump has a history of claiming elections were stolen from him. He claimed in February 2016 that Ted Cruz “committed fraud” to win the Iowa primary. Trump demanded that the Republican Party rescind the results.
During the 2015/2016 primaries, Trump claimed repeatedly, especially when he lost, that the Republican Party rigged the results in various states in order to defeat him. Once he had locked up the nomination, he began to predict fraud in the 2016 general election, saying to Hannity, “I’m telling you, November eighth, we’d better be careful, because that election is going to be rigged.” He repeated these claims over and over, and finally on 10/19/2016 in his last debate with Clinton, Trump refused to say if he would accept the outcome of the 2016 election. “I will look at it at the time”, he said, contradicting his campaign manager, daughter and running mate who all had indicated he and they would accept the results of the election. Moderator Chris Wallace pushed back, reminding Trump that the peaceful transfer of power in a democracy depends on the losing candidate accepting the validity of the electoral results, and Trump responded that the media had it in for him (in fact, the media helped him win), and claimed the overall election was rigged.
When Trump did win in 2016, he and his attorneys sought to prevent any questioning of results in the swing states he narrowly carried, in contrast to his 2020 behavior regarding these same states. But Trump was troubled by not having won the popular vote. He began claiming that his 3,000,000+ loss in the popular vote was due to fraud. During 2017, he claimed many times that US elections were permeated with widespread fraud, often claiming he had evidence, but then never producing it. Trump said, “In the addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”
He created a commission, the Presidential Commission on Voter Integrity, in May 2017, to find widespread fraud in US elections. The commission, headed up by Mike Pence and run day-to-day by Kris Kobach, failed to find evidence of material fraud and after lack of progress, was disbanded in January 2018. Most unusually, it shut down without any disclosure of its findings. However, after a lawsuit by Maine’s Secretary of State, the Presidential Commission on Voter Integrity was forced to release the documentation it had produced, which indicated it had found no voter fraud outside of a few cases of already known voter convictions.
These examples show that claiming fraud is a tool Trump has used repeatedly to cast doubt on the opposition, to soften up institutions, to mold his followers beliefs, to raise money, and as a mechanism to hold power. In using such tactics, Trump has not been concerned with the collateral damage done to the legitimacy of institutions and beliefs which are critical to our democracy.
What is also important to note about these early forays into using claims of fraud as a tactic, is that the Republican Party did not call Trump out for these or his use of misinformation. Trump’s base did not penalize him either. His Congressional allies stayed silent, paving the way for his misinformation campaign around the 2020 election.
Step 1 in Trump’s Attempt to Overturn the 2020 Election – Create a Disinformation Campaign Around Mail-In Ballots and Repeatedly Declare the Election Fraudulent in Advance
Months before the 2020 election, Trump began to claim fraud was going to occur, preparing the Republican Party and his base for the more serious misinformation efforts to come. Here are some examples:
- Trump began to latch onto mail-in ballots as a source of fraud. In April 2020, Trump said, “Mail-in ballots are a very dangerous thing for this country, because they’re cheaters. They go and collect them. They’re fraudulent in many cases.” This ignored the fact that mail in ballots had been in use in many states for several years, with insignificant instances of fraud. The president himself had made use of mail in ballots. In fact in 2018, nearly a quarter of the nation’s ballots had been cast by mail. Notice that Trump did not ask that safeguards around their use be strengthened; he instead called for their abolition during a pandemic.
- In July, Trump, consistently behind in the polls, told Fox News that “mail-in voting is just going to rig the election.” As noted above, this belies the no-fraud experience of the states who had been utilizing mail in voting successfully for years. The result of Trump’s repeated denunciation of mail-in ballots was to assure that use of them would be skewed to Democrats in 2020. This is significant, because in states where mail-in ballots have been commonly, such as Colorado, use of them is evenly split among voters of both parties.
- In July 2020, as in 2016, Trump told Chris Wallace that he would refuse to say that he would accept the election. In late September 2020, Trump again refused to indicate he would pledge to provide a peaceful transfer of power Trump said, “Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful – there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation.” This indicates that Trump understood that the mail-in ballots would likely be used more heavily by Democrats, given that he had demonized their use. It raised alarm bells among Democratic strategists, who saw increasing indications that Trump would poison public acceptance of the election by pre-maturely declaring victory during the election count when he had a lead in swing states where experts on both sides knew Trump’s lead would decrease as the count continued due to the later counting of urban mail-in votes. In many states, the tallying of mail-in ballots could not legally start until after the polls closed. Indications were that Trump would mount political and legal challenges to the continuing, but legitimate counting of mail-in ballots in the days after the election.
- Also in July, as polls showed him trailing Biden, Trump called for the election to be delayed.
- In August 2020, Trump admitted to blocking funding to the Post Office, which would make it harder to process mail-in ballots. Under pressure, funding was restored.
Step 2 in Trump’s Attempt to Overturn the 2020 Election – Declare Premature Victory to Discredit the Continuing Count of Mail-In Ballots
- On November 3rd, election night, at 2:30AM, despite votes still being counted in many states with as yet inconclusive results, Trump falsely claimed he had won the election. Trump immediately, without any specific evidence, claimed fraud, saying, “Millions and millions of people voted for us tonight, and a very sad group of people are trying to disenfranchise that group of people and we won’t stand for it (Lots of claps…) We were getting ready for a big celebration. We were winning everything, and then all of a sudden it was called off….” Trump began to talk about massive fraud across many states, citing swing states where he claimed his lead was so large, he had already won them. Among them were Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia. As some experts feared, Trump cast doubt on the legitimacy of a continuing count which was starting to reduce his lead.
What really stands out, is Trump’s statement that his voters were being disenfranchised by “a sad group of people” and “we won’t stand for it”. This is the prelude to all that Trump tried to do to overturn the election through January 6th. This claim is based on the value-laden claim that only his voters count; Biden’s voters do not. The words “a sad group of people” indicates a concerted, organized effort to perform massive fraud across a substantial group of states. But never did Trump or his surrogates present any convincing evidence of interstate electoral fraud on a massive scale. Attacks on Dominion voting machines were presented as conspiracy theories, with Venezuelan operatives or George Soros or Mark Zuckerberg behind the fraud. Such theories collapsed quickly from lack of evidence and from their implausibility once it was understood how the machines worked; details on these false claims by Giuliani and Sydney Powell are below.
Trump went on to say, “This is a fraud to on the American public; this is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election; frankly we did win this election.”
It is clear from his words that accurate counting of all the ballots was not his concern. Take a listen to his victory speech here -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9d6j2uO6MI
Step 2 Continues: Trump Ramps Up the Disinformation; Calls for a Halt in Counting
It is also worth noting that Joe Biden did not declare victory in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin or Michigan as he began to pull ahead in those states. He urged patience until all mail in votes were tallied.
With Trump having declared himself the victor, and with his margins disappearing as mail in ballots were finally counted, Trump cried repeatedly cried fraud over the next few days, as he claimed, without specific evidence, that mail-in ballots were corrupt. This mirrored claims he had prepared his base for months before the election.
On Thursday, November 5th, as networks urged caution in predicting results in key swing states as results were still coming in and results were getting tighter, Trump unleashed another angry speech, claiming that “the only way he could have lost was through fraud“. “If you look at the legal votes, I win very easily,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “They’re trying very obviously to commit fraud”, he said, speaking about various cities, such as Philadelphia and Detroit. He claimed that the process of counting mail-in ballots had been tainted.
Off camera, he said something different to Kellyanne Conway, indicating he knew he had lost. He asked how he could have “lost to fucking Joe Biden”. Conway concluded that deep down Trump knew he had lost, but would continue to vent and she concluded he just needed a few days to accept his defeat. Insiders trace Trump’s growing conviction to not accept his defeat to defiant insiders who told him he won and should keep fighting – Navarro, Flynn, Sydney Powell, Giuliani and others.
Meanwhile Republicans who knew better, such as Mitch McConnell, tolerated Trump’s refusal to accept the fact he had lost, as long as he had not yet exhausted his path to victory through legal challenges, which was his campaign’s next step.
Step 3: Pursue All Legal Options to Invalidate the Election While Continuing the Disinformation Campaign
The legal campaign, let by Giuliani and Sydney Powell, kicked off on November 7th at the “Four Seasons”, the “Four Seasons Landscaping Company” that is, down the street from the Fantasy Island Porn Shop. As Giuliani began his press conference at this rundown location, the election was simultaneously being called for Biden by all the major networks. Giuliani mocked the networks, and then indicated that he had assembled a group of 50 people who witnessed fraud at various polling places. Giuliani began citing his allegations – many dead people voted in Philadelphia (facts show there were none), began saying that there “wasn’t a single inspection of any mail in ballots by Republicans” in Philadelphia or Pittsburg (a false claim), that inspectors were not allowed to inspect (there were inspectors from both sides) the counting process, from far away the ballots looked suspicious, etc. Giuliani complained that Joe Frazier and Will Smith’s father both were dead and voted; these were proven to be baseless claims. Giuliani claimed that there was no ballot security in Philadelphia, a claim which was disproven. His first speaker who claimed he was denied the right to inspect was later found to be a known sex offender, and he actually explained that he was allowed to inspect the process with other inspectors, at mandated distances.
In fact, Giuliani provided no evidence of fraud at that press conference. Over the next few weeks, as he launched 60+ court cases, he would publicly cite conspiracy theories and baseless accusations. He lost all 60+ of his court cases, with only one small inconsequential procedural victory in Pennsylvania which did not result in fraud being proved, but just set aside a small number of ballots. In Philadelphia, typical of Giuliani’s statements in court, he declared in front of the judge, “This is not a fraud case,” while outside the courtroom, he would claim mail-in ballots were duplicated (almost impossible to do), would claim that large numbers of dead people voted, that inspectors were only Democrats, etc.
Giuliani made a number of other public claims of voter fraud. He claimed on his radio show, “Chat with the Major” on January 6th, 7th and 22nd that in Georgia “65,000 or 66,000 or 165,00 underage voters illegally voted in the Georgia 2020 election,”. An audit to check out these claims done by the Georgia Secretary of State found that zero underage people were on the roles, and zero voted. Giuliani’s January 22nd show occurred after this audit debunked his assertion.
Giuliani claimed that illegal suitcases of invalid ballots were counted in Georgia, citing video showing these suitcases being opened and ballots counted. The Secretary of State in Georgia examined the video and found that these were standard ballot containers, not suitcases, in the video, and they contained legal ballots. (This same false claim, that illegal ballots in suitcases were being used to add illegal ballots to the Georgia count, were cited by President Trump in his later conversation with Georgia officials, discussed below.)
Giuliani claimed on various dates, that 32,000 to a couple of hundred thousand illegal aliens voted in Arizona. Later on he backtracked in front of Arizona legislature, saying that he had no evidence of voting by illegal aliens, but speculated it had to have occurred.
Giuliani also advanced baseless claims that 50,000 votes held on USB cards in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, were missing; that a slew of precincts in Michigan were found to have more votes than voters, and that a technology company called Smartmatic was the source of nationwide fraud. All of those claims were shown to be false.
Giuliani’s law license has been suspended in both DC and New York due to these false claims. He is awaiting further hearings which will determine if his suspension becomes permanent.
Step 4: Claim Massive Fraud Due to Dominion Voting Machines; Baseless Conspiracy Theories are Adopted
Both Sydney Powell and Giuliani and Trump claimed that Dominion Voting Machines flipped millions of votes from Trump to Biden. In Georgia, for example, Giuliani claimed that the voting machines manipulated vote tallies and changed the result.
When Trump claimed Dominion Voting Machines were rigged shortly after the election, a group of federal, state and local officials overseeing the nation’s voting system refuted such claims on November 12, hours after Trump tweeted his conspiracy theory. The Elections Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council and the Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Executive Committees stated, “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.” The joint statement from the groups described the 2020 election as “the most secure in American history.” Five days after Trump’s own agency, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, part of the Homeland Security Agency concurred with this statement, Christopher Krebs was fired by Trump.
In regard to Giuliani and Trump’s claims about Georgia, hand recounts belied the claim that machine counts were inaccurate, as exact matches occurred. As Krebs stated on November 29th, hand counts “gives you the ability to prove that there was no malicious algorithm or hacked software that adjusted the tally of the vote, and just look at what happened in Georgia”, where he related, “a hand recount and the outcome was consistent with the machine vote”.
On December 1st, Attorney General Barr told the AP, “There’s been one assertion that would be systemic fraud and that would be the claim that machines were programed to essentially to skew the election results. And the DHS and DOJ have looked into that, and so far, we haven’t seen anything to substantiate that.”
Under the influence of Sydney Powell, the voting machine accusations got more conspiratorial. The Trump campaign claimed in an Arizona lawsuit that software used by Dominion’s machines had been hacked with the assistance of Hugo Chavez, former dictator of Venezuela, and programmed to switch votes cast for Trump to Biden. While some Trump lawyers did not want this fantasy presented in front of judge, it was anyway. The case rested on the claim that Dominion had consulted for Hugo Chavez. It turned out Dominion had never done any work in Venezuela or for Chavez; an unconnected competitor had. US District Court Diane Humetawa was angry she had been asked to hear what amounted to a completely baseless case. “Allegations that find favor in the public sphere of gossip and innuendo cannot be a substitute for earnest pleadings and procedure in federal court…. They most certainly cannot be the basis for upending Arizona’s election.”
Powell publicized theories on Lou Dobbs that billionaire George Soros, Mark Zuckerberg, Google, and Dominion were involved in conspiracies to change software to flip votes. The wildest from Powell was that a supercomputer called the Hammer, running CIA software, was being used nationwide to flip votes from Biden to Trump. Obviously, any such scheme would have been discovered through hand count audits and by local officials examining the numbers.
Dominion Voting Systems has sued Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who also represented Trump, for presenting false claims of election fraud from use of the machines. Those lawsuits are ongoing.
Step 5: Recounts and audits (with no change in results which show the election was accurate)
A number of recounts were done at the request of the Trump campaign. Non yielded any significant change in results, and all, in fact, confirmed the accuracy of the election. Here are key recounts:
In Wisconsin, a $3 million dollar recount changed the margin slightly, adding 87 votes to the Biden column.
Georgia recounted three times, once by hand, and then several times more, with no significant change in results.
And in Arizona, a five-month long recount, pushed by Republican national figures on a local Republican establishment, by the Ninjas, a Republican funded group, yielded a few more Biden votes, and some minor unsubstantiated allegations that reflected lack of understanding of the voting and counting process and were discounted as false. After six months of trying to find fraud and failing to do so, the Cyber Ninjas reported that Biden had won Maricopa County by 360 more votes than had been reported by election officials. The Cyber Ninjas included in their report claims of irregularities on the part of county officials which they claimed may have impacted the results, but the Board of County Supervisors made up mostly of Republicans, did a step by step rebuttal, indicating a lack of understanding of election procedures on the part of the Cyber Ninjas.
Step 6: Pressure State Republicans to Decertify the Election (And Courageous Republicans Resist the Pressure)
Pressure on Georgia
The most publicized case of Trump and Team pressuring state officials occurred in Georgia where Trump’s Team contacted Brian Kemp (Governor), Brad Raffensperger (Secretary of State), and Gene Sperling (Chief of Operations for the Secretary of State), and on January 2nd, pressured them in an hour long call that was recorded, to “just find 11,780 votes which is one more than we have.”
Prior to the call, in December, Trump said on Twitter of the officials, “I love the Great State of Georgia, but the people who run it, from the Governor, Brian Kemp, to the Secretary of State, are a complete disaster and don’t have a clue or worse. Nobody can be this stupid. Just allow us to find the crime, and turn the state Republican.” Of Raffensperger, he said, “Now it turns out Brad R’s brother works for China, and they definitely don’t want ‘Trump’. So disgusting!” (Fact checkers determined this claim was false; that there is a guy with the same last name working in China, but he is unrelated to the Georgia Secretary of State.)
During the January 2nd call, Trump would not listen to and accept the Georgia officials’ insistence that they had checked out all the fraud claims by Trump’s team. Trump said repeatedly throughout the call, “The truth is we won the State.” He also said, “Why wouldn’t you want to find the right answer, Brad?” and “The real truth is that I won by 400,000 votes!” “Just find me 11,780 votes, we won by a lot more.”
These Georgia officials, especially Raffensperger and Sperling were courageous in standing their ground. Due to Trump’s focus on them, they and others in the Secretary of State’s office, received numerous death threats and on-line vilification.
Here are some specific claims of voter fraud brought up by Trump and refuted by the officials:
- Trump repeated an already debunked theory that videos showed 18,000 fake ballots being wheeled into the counting center. The Secretary of State repeated to Trump the result of Georgia’s investigation of the video, which is that the suitcases in these videos were not suitcases at all, but were standard Georgia vote carriers which allowed for seals. Trump’s US Attorney for Georgia had examined and dismissed this allegations well before the call.
- Trump claimed that “they dropped a lot of votes in there late at night”. Raffensperger refuted that notion, saying he believed Trump was referring to the time at which various counties would upload their results. In fact, all ballots had to be accepted by 7PM according to state law, so there were no additional ballots added after 7PM.
- Trump insisted that 5,000 dead people voted in Georgia. In fact, the number found by Raffensperger’s office was 4, after they carefully rechecked ballots against their databases.
- Raffensperger’s office investigated claims of 66,000 underage voters and found zero.
- They investigated claims of 2,423 unregistered voters, and found zero.
- They investigated claims of 2,056 felons voting, and identified less than 74.
When told that the people investigating these items for the Secretary of State had not found fraud, Trump declared they’re “either dishonest or incompetent.” When Raffensperger stood his ground, and indicated there weren’t votes to find, Trump suggested Raffensperger could be subject to criminal liability for his role in the matter.
One horrific action Trump took on this call, was to call Ruby Freeman, an ordinary poll worker, “a well-known vote scammer” and he then claimed she had provided Joe Biden 18,000 illegitimate votes. Trump was repeating a debunked claim submitted by Giuliani to the Georgia State Senate, wherein it was claimed that Freeman had plotted to kick out observers at the State Farm Arena county balloting operations, and then had brought in suitcases filled with fraudulent ballots for Biden, and scanned them through the tabulators multiple times. Giuliani described surveillance video from the arena that he claimed showed Freeman handling USB memory sticks, presumably containing fraudulent vote counts, “as if they’re vials of cocaine.” By calling her out this way, Trump and Giuliani upended her life, as she had to move from her house after receiving multiple death threats and visits from hostile strangers.
Pressure in Michigan
In mid-November, the Wayne County Board of Canvassers which includes Detroit, met to decide whether to certify the vote count there. The board included 2 Democrats and 2 Republicans, and after the first vote, the result stood at 2-2. By the end of the meeting, the Board updated their vote, and agreed unanimously to certify, which they did. However after that meeting, the two Republicans were contacted by Rona McDaniels, and then one of them by Donald Trump. Both Republicans were provided affidavits which they signed in the morning, stating that they wanted to rescind their vote, but these carried no weight after the fact. So the next step was certification by the State board of canvassers, which was split 2 -2 between the parties.
Meanwhile, Trump had invited the MI legislators two most powerful members, Mike Shirkey, the MI Senate Majority Leader, and Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield to Washington DC where they were wined and dined.
At the meeting of the MI State Board of canvassers, all eyes turned to the Republicans, Van Langevelde who was 40 and Shinkle who was 70. The Republican hope is that if these two did not vote to certify, the legislature could step in and reverse the election or at least delay sending electors to Washington. The expectation was that Langevelde would not throw his Republican career away by voting against Trump. But he was a profile in courage, stating that a canvasser had a duty to certify the vote count presented to him. Ironically Shinkle abstained, so the certification squeaked through, avoiding a crisis. It is frightening to note how close we Michiganders came to not certifying a 150,000+ vote margin election.
Likewise in other swing states like Arizona, where Republicans controlled the State, certification was not a sure thing, and except for the heroism of Republican state officials, who ran the elections professionally and insisted on the integrity of the results, a crisis would have occurred, throwing the election, and the peaceful transfer of power, in doubt.
Step 7: Overturn the Election in Congress By Exploiting the Weaknesses in the Electoral Count Act of 1887; Mike Pence Refuses to Go Along; The Route to the January 6th Riots is Set
During the months of November and December, as Trump’s options to avoid losing the Presidency were fading after each step (legal challenges, recounts, pressure on state officials to not certify and to change the vote), a new strategy was adopted to overturn the election. John Eastman, a law professor and Trump advisor, authored a dubious theory that Vice President Pence had the authority to ignore certified electoral votes and deny Biden the presidency.
The scheme involved recruiting false electors in the seven swing states won by Joe Biden. A one-page version of Eastman’s memo produced in late December, starts by claiming that 7 states had transmitted dual slates of electors to the President of the Senate (Mike Pence). In fact, no States had legitimately created a second set of electors. Instead, 80 Republican electors were fraudulently recruited, assembled and convened in seven states in mid-November where Biden had won by a relatively small margin (Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania) to sign false certificates of ascertainment.
The theory is that as Pence, presiding over the joint session, would come to these 7 states and announce that there were two sets of electors, and that the state’s count would be set aside rather than counted for Joe Biden. Pence would cycle through all the state, by omission producing an electoral majority for Donald Trump, and at this point Pence would gavel Trump as reelected. If Democrats objected, Pence would point to the 12th Amendment indicating that no candidate has achieved the necessary majority, and he would throw the election over to the House, where the votes would be taken with one vote for each state. Trump would be re-elected at this point by the 26 percent of state delegations controlled by Republicans.
As absurd as this scheme seems, the Trump White House did recruit these false electors, including a set from Michigan, and Donald Trump expected Mike Pence to follow Eastman’s plan Mike Pence, to his credit, determined to do his duty to confirm the duly appointed slates of electors from each State. Pence was directly asked by Trump on January 5th to throw Biden’s electors out in these 7 states. Trump told Pence that all his supporters expected him to do so. Pence responded that he had talked to legal scholars who told him his job was to certify the election by just “opening the envelopes”. He stated to Trump he didn’t have the authority to overturn the election. Trump was incensed and told Pence he wouldn’t be his friend anymore. “You’ve betrayed us. I made you. You were nothing. Your career is over if you do this.”
After midnight January 5th, Trump tweeted about this plot. He declared that if the vice president “comes through for us, we will win the Presidency.”
January 6th and the Capital Riot
Anyone reading the preceding account of how Trump tried to overturn the election, would see January 6th in the correct context. A large number of Republicans had been worked up by Trump to deny the validity of the 2020 election results. The variety of steps taken by Trump and his surrogates to overturn the election, combined with an unrelenting misinformation campaign that raised money off of these lies, primed those Republicans who felt compelled to come to Washington to defend the tenure of their President, to march to the Capital when told to do so, to make their feelings known that the election was illegitimate, and to insist Mike Pence overturn the election, which they were told was possible.
I am not going to argue whether this amounted to Trump inciting these supporters to riot, but the context makes clear they were primed to do so by the words at the rally. Mo Brooks said, “Today is the day American patriots start takin’ down names and kickin’ ass. Are you willing to do what it takes to fight for America?” Donald Jr. said, “red-blooded, patriotic Americans should fight for Trump.” Giuliani asked for “trial by combat” These are incendiary words directed at marchers who were filled with misinformation about the election for months prior to January 6th, and they were told by the man they considered their leader, that Biden’s victory could be overturned on January 6th.
Election Workers Under Attack:
One of the most damaging results of Trump’s Big Lie and the “Stop the Steal” movement, is that election workers have been under attack for defending 2020 results, and now put under a microscope by citizens who look upon this critical group, with suspicion. Here are some examples of election workers under attack or under greater strain just after the 2020 election and now:
- Georgia officials, from the Secretary of State on down, were threatened in the aftermath of 2020, when they defended the integrity of the election.
- In Pennsylvania, Al Schmidt, the Republican City Commissioner of Philadelphia, and a defender of the integrity of the election results, received death threats after he was called out by Donald Trump. He received messages from 2 men, later arrested, who claimed that election officials like him, were the reason for the second amendment. These men were found to have several military style guns including an AK-47.
- In large and small precincts, election workers record a ballooning number of calls from citizens who question routine procedures, treat election clerks and procedures with suspicion, and who bring FOIA requests which snarl and inconvenience those officials.
- Ruby Freeman of Georgia, mentioned earlier in this letter, a precinct vote counter in Fulton County, was subject to death threats and had to move away from her house when she was singled out, based on debunked claims of fraud, by Trump and Giuliani.
Election workers are difficult enough to recruit without automatic harassment and suspicion being rained down upon them. This is unfortunate fallout from the “Big Lie”. And there also is a movement by election deniers to run and control election clerkships, which could degrade election results if they are susceptible to partisan pressure.
You Must Defeat Election Deniers this Tuesday:
Since January 6th, Trump and his Republican base, have made 2020 election denial a pre-requisite for victory in many Republican Primaries. So which election deniers should be defeated?
Michigan Election Deniers
Let’s start with Michigan. The trio of Whittmer, Benson (Secretary of State), and Nessel (Attorney General) must be re-elected to assure secure, professional elections in 2024, as occurred in 2020.
Tudor Dixon is an out and out election denier and conspiracy theorist. Dixon has made statements on TV and radio that you “cannot say” the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump was “an insurrection”. Dixon has commented during debates that she believes Trump won Michigan, which is a falsehood. She has also embraced disproven theories that fraud and untoward efforts by Democratic officeholders tipped the election to Biden. For the statements, she was rewarded with Trump’s endorsement. She should be defeated, because if 2024 is close in Michigan, she is likely to reverse the popular vote if pressured to do so.
Kristina Karamo, running for Secretary of State, came to fame as a Michigan election denier. After being a Detroit poll challenger in 2020, she turned false claims of widespread election fraud into a statewide candidacy. She has since insisted that it must have been left-wing radicals who attacked the Capitol and has referred to January 6th police officers as crisis actors. “Donald Trump won Michigan,” she falsely claimed in a social media video in December 2020. Karamo wants every voting software and hardware manufacturer operating in Michigan to “turn over all source and/or object codes” to her administration, a prescription for partisan election administration. Karamo is an out and out conspiracy theorist. Karamo has repeatedly alleged the 2020 presidential election was beset by rampant voter fraud. She argued a crime was conducted by the Democratic party, which is “taken over by a Satanic agenda,” and covered up by the media, which she called “the biggest enemy of the American people” who “need to be destroyed.” She accused Benson, the Democratic secretary of state, of being in on the scheme. See this excellent article on Karamo -> https://boltsmag.org/kristina-karamo-has-plans-to-unwind-michigan-elections-secretary-of-state/
And finally, Mathew DePerno, running for Attorney General, was at the Capital on January 6th, believes Donald Trump won the election, and is under investigation for alleged illegal activities in tampering with voting machines in Michigan. Can there be a more inappropriate choice for our Attorney General!!
Lists of the 300 election deniers running across the US will be added below. Come back over the 11/4 weekend for some updates.
From the American Leader, a list of election deniers running for election by state -> https://theamericanleader.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Election-denying-nominees-2022.pdf
From the Washington Post, and excellent article on Election Deniers, portraying some of them and indicating the risk they present -> https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/06/08/another-2020-election-denier-will-be-novembers-ballot/
From the Princeton Election Consortium, here is an excellent guide to Secretary of State races across the country, including election deniers and those who support more freedom -> https://boltsmag.org/guide-to-2022-secretary-of-state-elections/. As part of this guide, see their map of where election deniers are running -> https://boltsmag.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/2022-SOS.png . And see this excellent article about the extremism and conspiracy theories of Kristina Karamo -> https://boltsmag.org/kristina-karamo-has-plans-to-unwind-michigan-elections-secretary-of-state/.
Go to the “States United” Website to find and purchase excellent reports and for their excellent data. This organization is doing a fantastic job of defending voting from partisan interference.
On July 29, 2021, Bill Hurst, head of the FixUS Michigan State Chapter, and author of this book, gave a presentation on the book to a FixUS audience. Go here to see the presentation.
Words by the author about Our Great Political Divide
These neighbors are good people, who in 2016 helped my wife and I recover from the mess created by a 100 mph straight-lined wind which toppled 28 trees and flattened a 62’ X 22’ cinder block building.
How could these same good people support Donald Trump, who attacked existing domestic and international institutions created by and benefiting Americans since WWII, and who violated so many norms needed in our democracy? Where does their deep loyalty to Donald Trump come from? This book explains what to me was a mystery.
Trump has accelerated dysfunctional partisanship but is not the cause. This book goes well beyond him, through the evolution of our dysfunctional politics:
- 1960’s Civil Rights legislation, the Southern strategy of Goldwater and Nixon, the anti-elitism of Wallace, and unification of cultural and economic conservatism under Reagan, created and echoes today’s politics.
- Voters and parties have sorted into geographical, educational, racial, religious and cultural bubbles, creating stacked identities with detrimental results on civility. The psychology of partisanship explains how intense dislike for the other side is not based on policy differences.
- Identity politics and morality of left and right differ. Rising white identity has been a exacerbated by demographic changes. Conservatives have a fuller moral palate, leading to political advantage. The need for a fuller morality is explained, but so are its shortcomings in a diverse, complex, pluralistic society like the United States.
- The rise of the Tea Party and of Trump are related, with both rooted in reactionary politics and both partially captured by special interests.
- The last chapter on reform provides a systems-based critique of the perverse incentives entrenched in our two-party system, including a brief overview of the many organizations working to reform these structural issues.
- 100 pages of detailed interviews with Michigan neighbors from both sides of the aisle provide valuable political viewpoints of real voters.
This book combines findings from leading experts with SW Michigan neighbors’ perspectives so you can understand our partisan divide.
(Mosaic on book cover is from “Support the Center” by Greta Hurst)
The 2016 election was contested based on “identity politics”. The 2020 election will also turn on identity politics along with other factors such as the economy. As polarization based on identity has become salient in our politics and society, a spate of excellent research explains its origin and characteristics.
This article provides a brief synthesis of approaches, which together provide a clear view of the history and character of our politics, including:
- populism of the left and right,
- re-alignment of the Parties since the 1960’s based on policies and party composition based on race,
- ideological divides – the politicization of language around race, taxes and big government
- the increasing emphasis of Democrats on group-coalition politics (group interests) as opposed to general economic well-being,
- increased sorting of our Country along a range of dimensions, exacerbating political divisions,
- identity politics as an outcome of sorting, and its emergence as a determinant of voter behavior,
- identity as tribalism, and implications for inter-group political conflict,
- is there a way out?
SUPPORT THE CENTER provides a voice for intelligent political dialogue driven by analysis, facts, and a spirit of compromise. We seek contributors to post economic and political commentary representing centrist thought….
Understanding how the Court operates and Constitutional principles it has established, is challenging, but necessary. Through listening to The Great Courses’, “A History of the Supreme Court”, by Peter Irons, reading “The Most Dangerous Branch” by David Kaplan, and listening to lectures contained in the Great Courses’, “Civil Liberty and the Bill of Rights” by John E. Finn, among other sources, key themes and patterns are becoming apparent.
Recently, after attending a Trump rally in Grand Rapids, a Trump advocate I will be interviewing stressed how he “supports the Constitution”, which, he says, is his motivating ideology. I needed my own objective view, based on reading, of what “supporting the Constitution” means.
Conservatives often say, “We cannot have the Supreme Court rewriting the Constitution and in effect writing new laws”. I needed to understand whether recent Conservative rulings such as Heller vs. District of Columbia (striking down prohibitions of handguns), Citizen’s United versus Federal Election Commission (allowing corporations to spend as much money as they like on political campaigns), and Shelby County vs. Holder (weakening enforcement of the Voting Rights Act), are truly rooted in a more accurate, more literal reading of the Constitution. Likewise, I wanted to understand if liberal decisions like Roe versus Wade (legalizing abortion nationally) and the recent Roberts Court decision, Obergefell versus Hodges (legalizing gay marriage nationally) are sound.
The basic lesson I have learned, is that in an era of partisan politics, the Court is prone to re-interpreting the Constitution so as to create law not rooted in the Constitution. The right-leaning members have distorted “originalism” when it suits their political views, and have written new law accordingly. Likewise, the left-leaning members of the court are willing to “make new law” if it fits their views or how society should work, even if preferences of State legislatures are disregarded. Both groups have ridden roughshod over Congress and State legislatures and over solid legal precedence when it accords with their political views.
This is a book which sheds light on the mysteries of our current politics. “Asymmetric Politics: Group Interest Democrats and Ideological Republicans” from Oxford Press, written by Matt Grossman of Michigan State and David A. Hopkins of Boston College, shows how the two parties are fundamentally different, and have been for a long time. Their messaging to voters, use of media, attitudes towards social science and scientific research, conduct of campaigns, and governing objectives and styles are fundamentally different. These differences explain contradictory behavior we see within each party and among voters.
Asymmetric Parties – the Key Difference:
Here is the key. Republicans value ideological purity, with messaging adopted towards conservative abstract appeals. Smaller government, government incompetence (real or fabricated), lower taxes, conservative social values, constitutional fidelity, nationalistic sentiment and for a portion of the populace and nativism are Republican themes that appeal to broad swaths of the public, even some Democrats.
Democrats, in contrast, value solutions delivering specific policies benefiting specific interest groups in their broad coalition. Civil rights, LGBT rights, women’s rights, labor rights, rights of working class, and environmentalism are key areas of focus for Democrats. Even when policies can be explained in terms of overall liberal objectives such as egalitarianism, Democrats avoid ideology in favor of pragmatic appeals to specific policy results and empirical practicality.
These different approaches, which are asymmetric, manifest themselves in different political messaging and different styles of governing, with Democrats emphasizing a pragmatic approach and Republicans emphasizing adherence to ideological goals. [Read more…] about “Asymmetric Politics – Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats” – A Review of an Astoundingly Perceptive, Evidence-Based Book Shedding Light on our Divided Politics
Trump’s rhetoric on immigration divides us due to its racist framing. If Trump were sincere about solutions and not just stoking his base, he would instead fashion a comprehensive, centrist, practical immigration policy that could obtain broad support through benefits such as keeping our population and economy young, enhancing the talent in our work force, and enriching our communities.
What is a centrist, rational, immigration policy? It is a skills-based immigration policy, based on letting in a mix of those who immediately bring resources and talent to our economy, along with workers who will do tough jobs that Americans just will not do anymore. These lower salaried workers could either be guest workers, or rewarded after so many years of successful work and other skills attainment, such as mastery of English, consistent tax payments, etc., with a path to citizenship. This last point – guest workers versus potential citizens – should be a debate.
Border security is a necessary part of these overall discussions. Similarly, the discussion of border security and other enforcement mechanisms should not occur in isolation from an overall immigration policy. Decisions which are made on border security should effectively integrate with and support the details of the skills-based immigration policy Americans decide to agree upon. [Read more…] about Promoting A Rational Skills-Based Immigration Policy; This Is Neither Democratic or Republican; It is Centrist, Practical, and Celebrates Diversity While Supporting American Pride and Community
Support the Center believes Democrats should dig in to resist what is Trump’s last minute stunt to extort a small piece of his proposed border wall, which has come at the expense of routine government services and the people who provide and consume them.
The US cannot run its appropriation process as a blackmail machine, whether that blackmail comes from Democrats or Republicans. That means Schumer’s shutdown in January (which lasted 3 days) was wrong, and the current shutdown, which Trump is causing, is wrong. The party that insists on a controversial measure and holds routine appropriations hostage, is the responsible party, and in the current situation, that is Trump.
Extortion at the expense of important services, such as the TSA, Homeland Security, National Parks, the IRS, cannot be allowed as a routine policy. The only way to prevent this distortion of the appropriations process, is to not allow the blackmail to succeed. Trump must be pushed back this time, or this tool will be used time and time again.
Extortion to prevent routine appropriations is wrong even when the cause is a good one. But in this case, Trump has chosen to sacrifice our public purpose for a stupid goal, a partial wall, not even a complete one. A rundown of the stupidity involved:
- The Senate, the House and Trump had a deal, a continuing resolution, which would have allowed debate on the isolated issue of “the wall” or border security as the Democrats prefer to frame the issue. Trump broke the deal, as he has done before, when conservative journalists, notably Ann Coulter, indicated he wouldn’t get her vote if he let the Government open. Since when is Ann Coulter allowed to blackmail a President? Well, a weak one like this one, concerned primarily with self-image, is evidently easily blackmailed.
- A $6 billion partial wall is a stupid expenditure, ill defined, and a waste of money.
- What would be built for $6 billion, and where? Trump has not defined this, and this is a glaring omission as the entire wall is estimated to cost $20 billion plus depending on the estimate, would take years to build, and may not even be feasible to build given land rights around the border. What and where would $6 billion build?
- And how does this fit with the rest of the wall? Is that the next demand?
- Even the entire wall, at $20 billion plus or more, depending on estimates, has many conceptual issues as a preventative structure. As a result, the President has wavered in how he describes it, because even he realizes that careful examination of what it would look like, how it would be constructed and where, are unsettled issues. If you are really concerned with physical border security, why not have experts define it, not a campaign slogan.
- This President doesn’t rely on experts to define the best methods to an end. We should not trust him with this Project even if we think it is a worthwhile idea.
- Fully 50% of the illegal entrants into the US, fly in and overstay their visas.
- The “wall” really is a substitute for an intelligent comprehensive debate on immigration. Support the Center believes in skills-based immigration such as Canada and Australia emphasize. This means letting in highly skilled people but also some less skilled, but hard working, workers either with a planned path to citizenship or as temporary workers with safeguards to prevent them from going illegal.It is possible Trump believes in skill based immigration as well, but as long as he keeps harping on degrading Mexicans as rapists to appeal to his base and our basest emotions, we cannot get to the real policy debate. Letting Trump have the wall will allow him and Democrats and Republicans avoid an intelligent, comprehensive debate about who we should allow to settle in America. It all can be done without lying, putting down non-white peoples, and unnecessarily dividing the country.
So, to conclude, rational citizens and politicians need to take a firm stand against disruption of routine appropriations that keep government going. And when the cause is a stupid one (as Trump proposes it – an unfinished, undefined $6 billion waste of taxpayer dollars to support a racist idea), Democrats need to dig in and completely deny Trump’s demands.