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Carroll County Times Opinion

Tom Zirpoli: GOP embraces authoritarians, puts democracy at risk | COMMENTARY

It is amazing to listen to so many Republicans play down the numerous threats to our nation’s democracy as they embrace authoritarians here and abroad.

When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stated that he didn’t know why Democrats were concerned about voting access being curtailed in Republican states, he noted that more people voted in the 2020 election than ever before. Of course, his argument begs the question: if things went so well in 2020, why are Republican-run states passing laws to reduce the record turnout discussed by McConnell and referred to as “the most secure election in history” by the Justice Department at the time?

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Last week, during their annual meeting in Salt Lake City, the Republican National Committee censured Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois for doing their jobs and participating in a congressional investigation of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. According to the RNC, the attack, which caused the death of nine people — including law enforcement officers — and 150 injuries, was “legitimate political discourse.”

The findings of the Jan. 6 congressional committee should have any patriotic American concerned unless you have your head in the sand. The president of the United States at the time was actively trying to overturn a presidential election he lost by 7 million votes, and many of his supporters, including members of Congress, were helping him.

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The committee has found ample evidence in emails and direct testimony that then-Vice President Mike Pence and members of Congress were encouraged and intimidated to overturn the election by the former president. In fact, the former president admitted as much in a speech on Jan. 30, saying that he wanted and encouraged Pence to “overturn” the election.

I wonder if he the former president has given any thought to the fact that Kamala Harris will be in a similar position in 2024?

The committee found that seven Republican-run states submitted to Congress certifications from fake electors on Dec. 14, the day before Congress counted Electoral College ballots certifying the election. Lucky for our democracy, these false certifications were rejected. The fake electors are now under investigation.

Next time, America may not be so lucky. Republicans have been purging their state governments of anyone but true loyalists to the Big Lie, the lie being that the former president won the election. The plan, it appears, is to have the right people in place to overturn future elections in Republican-controlled states.

According to Stephen Collinson of CNN, “Multiple sources said that Trump aides drafted two versions of an executive order to seize voting machines intended for the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. While the orders were never issued, they flesh out the depravity of the plotting in the final days of Trump’s White House that had more in common with a developing world tyrant’s desperate bid to cling to power than the conduct expected of a US President.”

The committee found that members of state governments were also intimidated to overturn the results in their states — to ignore the voice of their own voters — for the benefit of the former president. Emails reviewed and released by Andy Kroll of Rolling Stone showed the previous administration putting pressure on election officials in Arizona, for example, to find fraud and overturn the votes there. One person involved in these attempts was Mark Finchem; he is now running for secretary of state in Arizona, which would allow him to oversee Arizona’s elections. What could possibly go wrong?

We can all listen to the recorded voice of the former president on Jan. 2, 2021, demanding that Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger “find 11,780 votes” so that the former president could win Georgia. Other people on the call included White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and lawyers for the former president. A grand jury in Georgia is looking into this.

Efforts by Republicans to stop these investigations have been rejected by state and federal courts. Federal Judge David Carter stated, “The public interest here is weighty and urgent. Congress seeks to understand the causes of a grave attack on our nation’s democracy and a near-successful attempt to subvert the will of the voter.”

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The anti-democracy efforts of Republicans don’t stop at our nation’s borders. Republicans like Tucker Carlson on Fox News have taken to supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin in his threats to invade Ukraine. His support of Putin resulted in Igor Korotchenko of the Russian Defense Ministry thanking Carlson for his “excellent performance, with which we can only express solidarity.” Would Carlson support threats against the other 13 nations that share a border with Russia, such as Finland and Norway?

Can anyone remember a time in our history when an American TV personality or a major American political party took the side of Russia over America and NATO? They would have been run out of town as traitors. Today, however, this is acceptable behavior among influential Republicans who have voiced support for the efforts of authoritarian leaders around the world.

Is this an effort to desensitize Americans to authoritarian rule here at home?

Tom Zirpoli is a professor and program coordinator of the Human Services Management graduate program at McDaniel College. He writes from Westminster and his column appears on Wednesdays. Email him at tzirpoli@mcdaniel.edu.


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