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The “Intellectual” Right’s Assault on Democracy

Politicians have constituents to please, but what about the “thinkers” of the Trumpist right?
December 10, 2020
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TOPSHOT - Supporters cheer as US President Donald Trump gestures after speaking during a rally to support Republican Senate candidates at Valdosta Regional Airport in Valdosta, Georgia on December 5, 2020. - President Donald Trump ventures out of Washington on Saturday for his first political appearance since his election defeat to Joe Biden, campaigning in Georgia where two run-off races will decide the fate of the US Senate. (Photo by Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

The politics of intimidation has worked well for Donald Trump since he announced his candidacy for president in 2015. Every critic of any note within the party eventually succumbed to his prolific attacks, amplified by those of his most ardent followers. The few who stood up—Jeff Flake, Francis Rooney, Denver Riggleman, and others—retired, grew silent, changed party, or were drummed out of office. So it’s no mystery why the bully-in-chief thinks he can pull off a coup to stay in office past noon on January 20 by alternately cajoling and threatening state and federal legislators to overturn the election, ignore the 81 million voters who chose Joe Biden as president, and appoint electors in key states who will acquiesce to his plot.

What is surprising, however, is how few conservatives are willing to stand up to the most direct threat against electoral democracy in living memory. Sure, there are the brave few in Georgia and Arizona, but their courage has been met with threats against them and their families amid utter silence from most Republicans in Congress. We might expect this from the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz, who embraced Trump even after he implied Cruz’s wife is ugly and suggested his father was an assassin. But what about those on the “intellectual” right?

Former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett, whose best-selling Book of Virtues made him rich, regularly appears on Fox News giving credence to some of Trump’s wild claims of a stolen election. “I believe this election was fixed,” he said this week, noting “systematic corruption” and “statistical anomalies” that made it improbable that Biden won.

Roger Kimball, who is publisher of Encounter Books and won the prestigious 2019 Bradley Prize “for advancing liberty and preserving democratic culture,” has amplified claims of suspicious vote tallies in multiple jurisdictions, mostly cities with large black populations.

Leading the pack of Trump apologists, the Claremont Institute’s scholars and publications have not only echoed Trump’s claims of a fraudulent election, but even “testified” that the 2020 elections violated state laws and the Constitution before “hearings,” which were in reality nothing more than get-togethers that Rudy Giuliani organized with a handful of state legislators.

John Eastman, a law professor who leads Claremont’s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, issued a blanket claim that Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin violated Article II of the U.S. Constitution by allowing some absentee ballots to be counted in the 2020 presidential election, and that their state legislatures should, therefore, nullify the election and appoint their own slates of electors to choose the next president. Eastman praised the dubious lawsuit filed by the Texas attorney general (who is currently under indictment for fraud and is accused of bribery by his top deputies), which would disenfranchise voters in those states as well—and the professor has now even filed a motion to intervene in the case for Donald Trump. The Supreme Court will decide by Thursday whether to hear the case, but the Court has already shut the door on the other conspiracy case to reach it this week, brought by Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly and a handful of other Republicans in the state.

The intellectual dishonesty here is breathtaking. For individuals and organizations that champion the rule of law and claim the mantle of the founding principles of our nation to call for overturning an election reeks of hypocrisy. It was one thing for them to advocate for so flawed a man as Trump to lead our nation. But the American people have spoken and to continue to claim that the election was stolen, that votes were fraudulently counted, is to attack the very foundations of our democratic institutions. They sow distrust in democracy itself—formerly the provenance of the far left. Politicians may fear the wrath of Trump’s legion of followers if they speak out, but what is it that drives the “thinkers” like Bennett and Eastman? They should know better than to parrot insane conspiracy theories and promote specious legal arguments.

On January 20, Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. But we should never forget the role of those who tried to subvert the peaceful transfer of power. They deserve ignominy, not because they opposed Biden’s election, but because they tried to undermine democracy.

Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez is a former Reagan White House official and a senior fellow at the National Immigration Forum.