This is an old joke, so maybe you’ve heard it.
When asked about a curious amulet around his neck, a man explains: “I wear this to keep the elephants away.”
“Elephants?” snorts his questioner. “There isn’t an elephant within 5,000 miles of here.”
“You see?” replies the amulet wearer. “It works.”
To me, this seemed like the perfect metaphor for the Republican Party’s current campaign against a wave of election fraud that doesn’t seem to exist.
Like the small boy in another fable, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney recently tried to drag her GOP colleagues back into reality, but those elephants were having none of it. In fact, they seem on the brink of removing Cheney from her No. 3 leadership position, with Elise Stefanik of New York, the leading candidate to replace her.
Maybe that’s karma, once removed. After all, Cheney’s father was one of those who provoked a 2003 war with Iraq over “weapons of mass destruction” that apparently didn’t exist, either.
Elise Stefanik happens to be my congressional representative, presiding over a vast New York State district filled with mountains, trees, pristine lakes, and white people. Its residents are known for their love of nature and embrace of winter, but the last time this area was in the national spotlight may have been during the French & Indian War. All but deserted between November and March, it is flooded with tourists in summer.
Before Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was elected in 2018, Stefanik was best known for being the youngest member of Congress. She was a mainline Republican in many ways but also opposed Donald Trump’s border wall and criticized his immigration policy.
Now, though, she has gone full MAGA, strongly supporting Trump’s “Stop the Steal” campaign and referring to him as “President Trump,” as if Joe Biden had never been born. While this could be attributed simply to calculated ambition, it’s still a little creepy.
Meanwhile, several state legislatures in places like Arizona, Georgia, and Texas have been busy passing laws restricting voter access, using the unfounded claims of Democratic skullduggery in 2020 as justification. And while the parts targeting voter access are ominous enough, some of these laws also tap into a byzantine Electoral College system that allows state bodies to dismiss presidential electors if they can prove something shady is afoot. Or, on a practical basis, if they have no proof but don’t like the way the election turned out.
For the moment, let’s set aside Trump, Trumpism, Stop the Steal, and all the rest and simply look at what’s going on through the lens of common sense. Consider:
- No one seems to be investigating any Republican election fraud in the states that Trump won.
- Every election official in the country — including many Republicans — signed off on the 2020 results in their states.
- A U.S. Supreme Court stocked with three Trump appointees repeatedly refused to get involved in this mess.
- Fox, Newsmax, and other media outlets backed off on accusations about the Dominion voting machine company after Dominion threatened them with hefty lawsuits.
- The states passing voter restrictions all focused on urban areas that tend to skew Democratic. This has become especially absurd in Arizona, where an audit of Maricopa County’s votes is being conducted by a company called “Cyber Ninja,” headed by a man who has repeatedly endorsed Trump’s claims.
Former House Speaker Tip O’Neill once declared, “all politics is local,” but this is carrying that a bit too far. The partisan emphasis behind this nonsense is so blatant as to insult the intelligence of a majority of Americans — and with apologies to Congressman O’Neill, trying to manipulate the presidential vote in one state affects all of us, because it is a national election.
Sure, the threat of COVID-19 caused some election rules to be bent in 2020, especially in terms of absentee ballots. In every case, though, these changes only addressed the ability of all citizens to cast their votes under difficult circumstances, not which side would benefit from those votes.
I wonder if many of these Republican zealots have considered the possible collateral damage that arbitrarily throwing out votes could bring. After all, the GOP fared rather well in down-ballot races last year. Could votes for president be negated without affecting votes for Congressional members, governors, and state legislatures? If someone was accused of voting illegally in one race, what about the others?
The obvious solution to all this is to eliminate an Electoral College that has long outlived its usefulness. Don’t hold your breath, though –that would require a tedious and convoluted process.
At the very least, any decision on the validity of electors should be decided by a non-partisan commission or a circuit court, and the number of votes in question must be enough to affect the result. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time.
Unlike the man with the amulet, I don’t think these Republican tricksters want to keep their own elephants away.