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Fomenting Insurrection

December 10, 2020

Texas lawsuit

Consider what it actually means when the Republican Attorneys General–the chief law enforcement officers–of 17 Republican-controlled states join a lawsuit initiated by the criminally indicted Attorney General of Texas to disqualify the duly certified election results of four other states that voted narrowly for Joe Biden. The lawsuit seeks nothing less than to overturn the election of Biden as president by eliminating those four states’ electors from the official electoral college vote on December 14, thereby assuring the re-election of Donald Trump, who lost nationally by more than 7 million votes.

Unless the Supreme Court has become utterly debased, this frivolous lawsuit will be summarily dismissed and never heard in court. But that’s not the point. What it means is that the entire Republican party–specifically including those Republican officials charged with upholding the Constitution and enforcing the rule of law–are willing to enlist in an attempted legal putsch that they certainly know will fail. Why are they doing this? It has to be that they are terrified of the belligerent anarchic forces that Trump has mobilized throughout this country. 

With “Stop the Steal” rallies being organized to trumpet ever more fantastic lies about the November vote, citizen election officials receiving death threats from Trump supporters and armed demonstrators showing up at their homes, the tinder is being laid in place to ignite violence when Biden officially becomes president-elect. And the Republican Party remains silent and complicit. 

The Texas lawsuit might have been disregarded as a transparent attempt by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton–currently under indictment for felony security fraud charges and reportedly under investigation for other crimes–to secure a Trump pardon. The lead attorney for the lawsuit, John Eastman, is a fixture of the radical right and in August published an op-ed piece in Newsweek arguing that Kamala Harris, who was inarguably born in Oakland, California, is ineligible to be vice-president because her immigrant parents were not yet US citizens at the time.  [Newsweek later added a kind of faux-apology for the piece, saying that it had failed “to anticipate the ways in which the essay would be interpreted, distorted and weaponized” and was “horrified that this op-ed gave rise to a wave of vile Birtherism directed at Senator Harris.”] And yet 17 Republican state attorneys general joined in the lawsuit. 

This case, like most of the other failed cases mounted by the Trumpistas, rests on an inherently racist premise because it focuses its challenges not on vaguely alleged voting irregularities in the entire states of Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, and Wisconsin, but specifically on the cities of Philadelphia, Atlanta, Detroit, and Milwaukee, where a large proportion of the population is non-white. The unstated, but clearly implicit, assumption is that those votes are therefore suspect and probably illegitimate. Even when the lawsuits all lose in court, they stoke the belief among the white faithful that they are the aggrieved in a corrupt system.

The damage that this is doing is both incalculable and long-lasting, because it seeks to destroy the belief of ordinary Americans in the integrity of the country’s elections. It is now essentially out of control, with Trumpista attorneys like Lin Wood and Sidney Powell telling people at a Georgia “Stop the Steal” rally that they shouldn’t vote in the Georgia senate runoff elections until the “fraud” has been fixed. If American can’t trust in their elections, then what is left but insurrection? 

That’s where we are now, and that’s why this ridiculous case matters. 


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