Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Inventing "Fraud" Isn't Necessary for the GOP's 2024 Robbery Plans

In 2020, Republican politicians made bogus claims of fraud in order to justify attempting to steal an election they lost. But why bother with the "fraud" allegation at all? Why not just attempt the robbery? The answer, presumably, is that claiming fraud -- however spuriously -- was necessary to justify overturning the will of the voters and assigning electoral college voters to a candidate who got fewer votes.

The problem with this strategy was, of course, that the fraud claims were obvious nonsense and every sane observer -- including virtually all judges -- knew it. Insofar as the strategy was based on a flagrant lie, it was vulnerable to rejection once it actually hit the judiciary.

Fast forward a few years, though, and Republicans are coming to a realization: They don't need to claim fraud. They can cut out the middleman entirely and just assert the right to ignore the voters entirely. The claim being developed is a version of the "independent state legislature" doctrine that just asserts that state political officials (themselves often in highly gerrymandered seats that bear no relationship to the popular will) have free reign to decide who gets their state's electoral votes. Their decision need not be in any way constrained by such piddling trivialities like "who the voters of their state actually voted for" -- even in the funhouse mirror sense of "well if you discount the votes that we assert are fraudulent because *mumble mumble brown people*, then the voters actually chose our guy." The new version of the steal is a straight line argument that if the state legislature wants to assign their EVs to Trump, Trump gets them. The people can pound sand.

Unlike the concocted fraud allegations, this is fundamentally a legal assertion -- an extreme, terrifying legal assertion, but a legal assertion all the same. Getting the GOP judiciary to accept it does not depend on forcing judges to deny reality, it just depends on getting the right mix of reactionary nihilists who can issue a chin-stroking pontification about how slave states in 1810 organized their elections with a straight face -- and recent history suggests that a welter of federal court judges will be eager to accommodate them. 

Nonsense fraud claims might gild the lily of this endeavor, but they aren't necessary to the strategy. And for that reason, this strategy for stealing the election is far more likely to succeed than the last one. The 2020 steal attempt was a largely ad hoc, on-the-fly paint splatter thrown together by the least competent attorneys Trump's money could buy in a context where it still was mostly taken for granted that the vote tallies ought determine the winner. In 2024, the GOP establishment will have had time to prepare itself logistically, but also mentally -- it will have come to terms with making the argument that in our allegedly constitutional democracy votes don't have to matter at all (See the Senate! See the electoral college itself! We're a republic, not a democracy!).

Republicans swung as hard as they could in 2020, but they just weren't strong enough to ring the bell. This time around, they'll be trained, toned, and ready. I hope we are too.

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