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The Real Steal Is Coming

Who will prevent the next attempt to overturn the will of the voters?
May 11, 2021
Featured Image
Crowds arrive for the "Stop the Steal" rally on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength. —George Orwell, 1984

Welcome to the funhouse world the Republican party is building. Up is down. Black is white. Lies are truth.

The great cause that Republicans are uniting around is “election integrity.” That’s rich. The reality is that somebody did attempt to steal the 2020 election—Donald Trump. During the days and weeks following his loss, he brayed endlessly that the outcome was fraudulent, laying the groundwork for an attempt to overturn the voters’ will.

From the White House, he made multiple calls to local election officials demanding that they find votes for him. He dialed up members of local canvassing boards, encouraging them to decertify results.

At a time when Trump’s toadies were calling for legislatures to ignore the popular vote and submit alternate slates of electoral college votes, he engaged in flagrant election interference by inviting seven Michigan state legislators, including the leaders of the house and senate, to the White House on November 20. What did they discuss? You can surmise from their statement issued after the meeting: “We have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan and, as legislative leaders, we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors . . .”

Trump phoned a Georgia elections investigator who was conducting a signature audit in Cobb County, and asked her to find the “dishonesty.” If she did, he promised, “you’ll be praised. . . You have the most important job in the country right now.”

The then-president phoned Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger 18 times. When he finally got through, he wove a tangled theory of voting irregularities that crescendoed to a naked plea to falsify Georgia’s vote: “So what are we going to do here, folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes.”

Trump entertained ideas such as declaring martial law, seizing the nation’s voting machines, and letting the military “rerun” the election. He turned loose his Kraken-conspiracy nuts and his pillow man to spread lies about Dominion Voting Systems, Black-run cities like Philadelphia, and Chinese bamboo ballots.

The Trump campaign and its allies filed more than 60 lawsuits challenging election procedures and lost all but one. Pennsylvania was found to have erred in extending the period to fix errors on mail-in ballots. The case was a matter of three days and a small number of votes that would not have changed Pennsylvania’s outcome.

And then came the ultimate attack on election integrity—the violent attack on the Capitol and on members of Congress and the vice president as they were fulfilling their constitutional duties.

Leaving no doubt about his intentions for the riot, Trump told a crowd in February that the only thing that prevented the violent mob from successfully hijacking the official tally of the Electoral College votes was the “cowardice” of Mike Pence.

Today, we stand on the precipice of the House Republican conference ratifying this attempt to subvert American democracy. They are poised to punish Liz Cheney for saying this simple truth: “The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.” In her place, they will elevate Iago in heels, Elise Stefanik, whose claim to leadership consists entirely of her operatic Trump followership.

Let’s be clear: The substitution of Stefanik for Cheney is a tocsin, signaling that the Republican party will no longer be bound by law or custom. In 2020, many Republican office holders, including the otherwise invertebrate Pence, held the line. They did not submit false slates of electors. They did not decertify votes. They did not “find” phantom fraud. But the party has been schooled since then. It has learned that the base—which is deluded by the likes of Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and Mark Levin—believes the lies and demands that Republicans fight. As my colleague Amanda Carpenter put it, the 2024 mantra is going to be “Steal It Back.”

If Cheney must be axed because she will not lie, then what will happen if Republicans take control of Congress in 2022 and are called upon to certify the Electoral College in 2024? How many Raffenspergers will there be? How many will insist, as Pence did, that they must do what the Constitution demands? How many will preserve any semblance of the rule of law and the primacy of truth?

With this sabotage of Cheney, House Republicans are figuratively joining the January 6 mob.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is Policy Editor of The Bulwark, a nationally syndicated columnist, and host of The Bulwark’s Beg to Differ podcast. She can be reached at [email protected].