If failed Maryland congressional candidate Kimberly Klacik’s goal was to reveal how ridiculous President Donald Trump’s claims of voter fraud are and how absurd his refusal to admit defeat, she could scarcely have devised a better scheme than to cast herself as a similar Election Day victim. After all, Ms. Klacik did not merely lose (for the second time in seven months) her bid to capture the 7th district seat once held by the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, she was defeated in something akin to an electoral tsunami. For most political observers, this was absolutely no surprise. She fared only slightly better than Republican candidates have in this Democratically gerrymandered district in elections past. But Ms. Klacik decided to go full Trump and post on social media baseless suggestions of fraud along with the false claim that she actually beat her opponent, Rep. Kweisi Mfume, on “day of & in-person early voting, along with absentee," when, in reality, she lost to him in all three categories, and overall by a vote of 72% to 28%.
Normally, one expects a candidate who makes such allegations (even wholly unsupported ones) to at least have run a competitive race. Ms. Klacik did not. What she ran was a highly successful social media campaign that captured the attention of Trump faithful outside Maryland and, once her video about litter in West Baltimore went viral, the endorsement of the president. That novel success resulted in her being given a speaking slot at the Republican National Convention and helped her raise $6.4 million, largely from out-of-state donors. Now, she’s pledged to use some of the unspent largesse to “investigate” unspecified voting irregularities that are so out of left field that not only is the Maryland Board of Elections unaware of them, so is Maryland’s Republican governor.
So here’s why we should be grateful to Ms. Klacik. First, she’s presumably boosted the local economy by spending some of the GOP donor money on yard signs and hiring “investigators” or whatever. But more importantly, she is demonstrating that, just like her commander-in-benefactor, the election fraud charges so detached from reality aren’t really about “fairness” or “justice” or “free elections,” they are about advancing the very specific interests of an ego-driven candidate seeking to call attention to himself (or herself).
Nobody still tethered to reality believes that President Trump is going to reverse the results of the 2020 General Election. Rather, it is an act of petulance and branding. Mr. Trump is always happiest when he is the center of attention and perceives advantage in claiming victimhood. If he’s going to leave office, he would clearly prefer to do so with some level of doubt permanently overshadowing the results. He sees an opportunity to keep his grip on the Republican Party, or at least his fans. whether his residence is in the District of Columbia or Florida.
As, one by one, courts deny these ridiculous appeals, as claims and counterclaims are dispelled, as fact-checking overcomes conspiracy theories and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris move inexorably toward their new jobs, will the bulk of the Trump base accept the truth or will they prefer to live in the land of alternative facts and QAnon flights of fantasy? Have you been paying attention these last four years? Truth is for chumps.
Ms. Klacik may not be much of a congressional candidate but this much of current politics she understands. Her future isn’t in Congress, it’s far more likely as a Trump surrogate or right-wing media figure. Keeping her in the spotlight isn’t a side effect, it’s the point.
This would all seem laughable, except it isn’t funny. Even beyond the not-so-subtle loss of confidence in the country’s democratic institutions, President Trump’s defiance and further delays in the transition of power could have disastrous consequences for national security and beyond. Just as the 9/11 Commission Report found the transition tie-up attached to the far-more-authentic dispute over the George W. Bush versus Al Gore race of 2000 helped enable the terrorist attacks of 2001, who knows what this nation’s enemies may be emboldened to do. We don’t really have the luxury of absurdity. It’s time to move on and, for the sake of the nation, accept reality. For once.
The Baltimore Sun editorial board — made up of Opinion Editor Tricia Bishop, Deputy Editor Andrea K. McDaniels and writer Peter Jensen — offers opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. It is separate from the newsroom.