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Sparkling Authoritarianism

It became clear last week that Donald Trump will not stop his attempt to steal the election he lost until two things happen – he fails, or he succeeds. Either way, he wins and America loses.

Much of the analysis around Trump’s post-election behavior has centered on how he could monetize his base of support, undermine the Biden Administration, and/or even run again in 2024. None of that is necessarily wrong, but it’s incomplete. Trump’s record in business is … checkered, but he has always tried to play the angles and to ensure he “couldn’t lose.” This week’s events in Wayne County revealed just how far Trump could – and would – go.

In Michigan, election certification isn’t handled by Secretaries of State, but rather by bi-partisan Boards of Canvassers – one for each county and one statewide. All but one of the county certifications went without a hitch. Wayne County (Detroit) was the exception (Washington Post [1]). The two Republicans refused to certify, deadlocking the Board.

Since Election Day, Trump and his allies had been seeking to overturn Biden’s victory — maintaining a public illusion that victory was just around the corner, despite getting pummeled almost daily in the courts.

Suddenly — in that small room in Detroit — Trump’s fantasy world seemed to have converged with reality. They’d won something.

Within an hour, one of Trump’s lawyers was celebrating on Twitter.

Jenna Ellis cast the vote as the start of a chain reaction that would overturn all of Michigan’s vote.

“If the state board follows suit, the Republican state legislator will select the electors,” she wrote on Twitter. (Republican leaders in the state legislature have so far rejected this idea.)

The state board meets on Monday. Already, one of the Republican members is spouting the anti-American nonsense Sidney Powell dumped last week [2].

In explaining why he was leaning toward a delay in certifying the vote, Shinkle cited a debunked conspiracy theory  [3]aired by Trump and one of his lawyers, Sidney Powell, that Dominion Voting Systems, the Colorado-based manufacturer of voting machines, deleted thousands of Trump votes. That theory has been rejected by election experts, including Trump’s own chief of election security — whom the president fired this week [4].

Over the weekend, RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel and Michigan GOP Chair Laura Cox [5] called for the certification to be delayed and a Wayne County “audit” to be conducted. Lest anyone be fooled into thinking that a good-faith request, The Michigan Secretary of State [6] had this reminder.

Not sure who needs to hear this but under state law (MCL 168.31a) audits can only be conducted after the State Canvassers certify the election. This is b/c election officials do not have legal access to the documents needed to complete audits until the certification.

In other words, Cox is demanding something she should know is legally impossible.

Benson also noted that the issue which supposedly has Michigan Republicans so upset (differences between the total number of votes cast and the number of voters counted as having voted) actually fell in Detroit between 2016 and 2020. Moreover, the differences were in fewer precincts for the general election than for the August primary which was certified without any objections or delays (I can’t imagine why).

Now, reversing Michigan by itself – as anti-democratic as that would be – isn’t enough for Trump to steal the election. No matter, his lackeys are on the case in Pennsylvania (where they have suddenly decided all mail-in ballots should be thrown outBrad Heath [7]), Wisconsin (where they’re hard at work trying to throw out every absentee ballot in Milwaukee – Mary Spicuzza [8]), and Georgia (where they’re demanding the Governor call a special session of the legislature to simply impose their will on the voters – Jonah Goldberg [9]).

Sure, the odds of any of these plots succeeding are very slim, but they aren’t absolute zero.

Sure, the grifting angle is already in play [10] (see also Frank Luntz [11]) but that doesn’t mean it’s the only angle.

Sure, it shouldn’t be called a coup, but only for this reason from Rick Wilson [12], “It’s only a coup if it comes from the coup d’etat region of France. Otherwise, it’s just sparkling authoritarianism.”

There are far too many Republicans who are either enabling, condoning, or ignoring this Sparkling Authoritarianism. One of the few who isn’t (Senator Mitt Romney [13]) put it best.

Having failed to make even a plausible case of widespread fraud or conspiracy before any court of law, the President has now resorted to overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election. It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American President.

Far more of Mitt’s fellow Republicans are looking to defenestrate him than to defend him. They have merely confirmed my previous conclusion: the Republican Party is a danger to America and a danger to democracy [14].