In “Through the Looking Glass,” Alice’s white queen said she could believe as many as five impossible things before breakfast. The Arizona state senate might believe only one impossible thing, and what a whopper it is.
Joe Biden won Arizona’s electoral vote. Last Nov. 30, Arizona’s governor, Doug Ducey, Attorney General Mark Brnovich, and chief justice Robert Brutinel, all Republicans, certified that the Biden-Harris ticket won the state. In February, Maricopa County released results from two independent audits: votes were counted correctly. There was no trace of fraud in the election.
But Arizona’s right-wing Senate set out to prove one impossible thing, that the election was stolen from the former president. It did not matter to them that recounts in other closely-contested states, many Republican officials, and at least 86 judicial rulings across the entire country all reached the same conclusion: there just was no systemic fraud in the election on any scale, large or small. Even Newsmax apologized to Dominion Voting Systems for false claims of vote-rigging — the prospect of losing a billion dollar lawsuit can bring even shameless supporters of the former president to their senses.
Arizona’s Senate was and still is determined to invent a case for fraud, so in March, they contracted with Cyber Ninjas, a bunch of hackers with absolutely no experience in election audits and a corporate head who swears up and down that there was massive electoral fraud across the board. This unqualified, politically motivated company is conducting another recount. To make sure everything is on the up and up, a participant in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection is among the ballot counters. There is no timeline for wrapping up their search. The “audit” was being conducted in secret until a judge ordered Cyber Ninja’s procedures to be made public. Multiple sources described the plans as “partisan, lacking transparency, and probably impossible,” leading to “miscounts and mishandled ballots. Lack of transparency makes it hard to judge its integrity.” Law professor Rick Hasen said of this so-called audit, “it would be comical if it weren’t so scary.”
The fraud being perpetrated on the public by the recount is much more serious than whatever impossible outcome the fake recount will likely report. A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll reported that 60% of Republicans still believe the election was stolen from the former president. The recount only plays into that false narrative. Half of the Republican Party thinks that the murderous Jan. 6 insurrection was non-violent. One chilling consequence of Republicans buying into these impossibilities is more than 360 voter suppression bills having been introduced in 47 states this year. It is precisely those lies the Arizona Senate used to justify this fishing expedition in the Arizona desert. The GOP justifies anti-democracy legislation as necessary to correct or protect against impossible-to-find voter fraud. But that legislation isn’t the most damaging consequence of this right-wing assault on the truth.
Our country is built on the principle that the government’s legitimacy comes from the consent of the governed. Spreading the “stop the steal” lie is nothing short of challenging the government’s legitimacy. The lie gives license to right-wing political violence, the most extreme instance of which is Jan. 6; shortly after that, assassination threats were made against DC Mayor Muriel Bowser.
Republicans themselves were not immune to threats of violence. A noose and cries of “Hang Mike Pence” were seen and heard at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Last Saturday, Utah Republicans tried to censure Mitt Romney, “lustily booed” him, called him a traitor and a communist. Why? Because he condemned the insurrection and voted to convict the former president in his impeachment trials. The number three House Republican, Lynne Cheney, drew fire for the unpardonable right-wing sin of fist-bumping and showing respect for the Democratic president of the United States.
Among the factors that make a society vulnerable to political violence, one stands out: weakening public trust in democratic institutions such as elections. Whether by accident or design, the Arizona Senate’s conduct in pushing this foolish, highly partisan recount is one more strike at confidence in our nation’s institutions.
Eldridge Cleaver once said “you’re either part of the solution or part of the problem.” People like Cheney, Romney, and Biden are part of the solution. People like the right-wing Arizona Senate and those who agree with them are not and will not be part of the solution until they move past their impossible belief.
Mitch Edelman, vice chairperson of the Carroll County Democratic Central Committee, writes from Finksburg. His column appears every other Tuesday. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.