Barr doubles down on GOP’s efforts to delegitimize election

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William Barr is doubling down on mail voting conspiracy theories as the clock ticks down on an election the GOP expects to lose.

Echoing Trump, he claimed mail ballots are “open to counterfeiting,” possibly by foreign countries. Last month Trump suggested foreign agents could steal ballots by “grabbing batches” of mail from mailmen.

Asked if he thought a foreign country could counterfeit ballots, Barr replied “I think anybody could do that.”

Even if that were plausible, which it’s not, it ignores the fact that each individual ballot must be signed by an actual registered voter, and ballot signatures are checked against those on file in election offices.

But the fact that Republican voting conspiracy theories are completely unsupported by any evidence and utterly ludicrous is beside the point and begs the issue. Trump’s fan base long ago took leave from reality and caring about factual proof. This doesn’t mean they’re stupid; it means they’re reacting with their guts instead of their brains to America’s political evolution, which is trending away from their core beliefs.

Yoni Applebaum wrote in a 2019 Atlantic essay (read it here), “Democracy depends on the consent of the losers.” That is the point. Republican claims that the 2020 election will be “rigged,” clearly a scripted talking point, lay the groundwork for delegitimizing the election if they lose. It’s about withdrawing consent to be governed if they don’t get their way. But if they do lose, then what? Or, in Latin, Quo vadis?

I can’t read their minds, only speculate about possibilities. Here are some:

1. Sore losers and sour grapes. In the past, this would’ve been the likeliest outcome, and perhaps still is.

2. Sit and fume, with a hyped sense of grievance, accompanied by very loud squawking . This is #1 on steroids. What Republican leaders and talking heads are doing is risky, because Americans have a strong sense of fair play and hate being swindled. If their supporters believe they were cheated out of an election win, things could get incendiary.

3. Take stock, assess what went wrong, and rebuild their party for the next election cycle. This is what parties normally do after losing elections, along with finger-pointing and purges. The party poobahs certainly will do this; but at the grassroots level, attitudes are more likely to harden than soften, complicating any efforts to realign the party to bring in more voters. Having whipped their supporters to a fury, GOP leaders could lose control, and their base might go in a different direction. Trump could run again, but won’t; his shaky health may barely get him through this term. But he’d likely keep stirring the pot from the sidelines, unless God takes him, which is an ever-present possibility. Even then, Trumpism is likely to remain a part of GOP culture for a long time, because it’s bigger than Trump himself.

4. Suffer through four years of being governed by Democrats. This is what they did when Obama won in 2008, and again in 2012, which was made more tolerable by Republican gains in Congress that enabled them to block and tackle after the first two years. A Biden victory presumably will be easier for Republicans to swallow if they hold the Senate, but even if they don’t they have incentives to wait it out. One, Biden is a moderate. Despite the GOP’s dire warnings to its loyal voter base, there’s no chance his administration will be “radical” or “socialist.” Two, he will be preoccupied with Covid-19 and the economy, and won’t have time for major legislative or policy initiatives. Rational Republicans have little to fear from a Biden presidency; even a Democratic sweep this year is more likely to cost them lost opportunities (e.g. overturning Roe v. Wade) than setbacks. But I’m talking about GOP leaders and strategists. The grassroots listen to people like Tucker Carlson, who are casting a 2020 Democratic victory as civilization-ending. Those who believe this may not be content to wait for their next turn at governing, especially if they conclude they can’t win anymore (see Applebaum essay above). What, then, are their options?

5. Resort to large-scale civil disobedience. We’re a nation of dissenters, and civil disobedience is a staple of American political life. What might change from today’s rightwing dissent is the scale and intensity of defiance.

6. Resort to violent civil disobedience. This contemplates violent resistance within the existing political order, and has become more possible with the proliferation of militias. One of the more likely forms this would take is an organized terror campaign like that of the KKK in the early 20th century. Given their violent rhetoric, it’s not all that difficult to imagine these groups going after perceived enemies on some sort of organized basis, as opposed to individuals like James Alex Fields Jr., the Charlottesville car attacker, acting impulsively here and there. But we haven’t seen that yet and may never.

7. Violent revolution. I don’t think so. Totally implausible.

Oh, and by the way, did I mention that Bill Barr is the worst attorney general since John Mitchell, and maybe worse than even him? Too bad impeaching him isn’t practical, because he more than deserves to be impeached. But after Barr, Republicans will never again be able to legitimately complain about someone like Janet Reno or Eric Holder, for all their shortcomings.

Photos: Barr’s funhouse mirrors and conspiracy theories

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0 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. I only vote once #

    Where is the evidence of voter fraud?

    The only statements of evidence of a foreign country involvement in America’s 2016 election is Russia.

    So, here are the right wing talking heads, accusing others of what they have and are currently doing, courting election conspiracies, calling out fraud, without evidence, inciting their fan base to vote and vote often (in other words break the law).

    The GOP party has lost their credibility, but the blind party of illogical, dysfunctional followers still believes wide spread voter fraud exists, without proof, and believes and swallows every right wing conspiracy theory without solid evidence.

    Do these Trumpers ever think for themselves?

    God bless America. Because we really need it.