Bookman: How inept can Georgia’s election riggers be?

Columnist Jay Bookman writes that David Shafer (in vest sweater), the chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, has worked diligently to convince his fellow Republicans they were cheated out of a Trump win with the connivance of our Republican governor and secretary of state. At a recent press event, Shafer stood behind attorney L. Lin Wood's efforts to overturn the president's Georgia loss. Jill Nolin/Georgia Recorder

How can you claim to have evidence of voter fraud that is so extensive and convincing that it justifies the unthinkable, the overturning of an American presidential election, and yet have no evidence of voter fraud sufficient to justify a single arrest, a single prosecution or even the issuing of a single subpoena for documents or witnesses, anywhere in the country.

I mean, it’s not complicated, right? Large-scale, criminal vote fraud doesn’t just happen on its own. It requires people to plan it, to finance it, to execute it, to cover it up. It requires emails and phone calls and surreptitious airport meetings and bank transfers. And these people must be very, very very good at what they do, because rigging a national election across several states without leaving a visible trace of their actions would seem very difficult.

In addition to being very very smart, those same people must also be very very stupid, because apparently they rigged a national election and forgot to rig Senate and House races that appeared on the same ballots.

So yes, the fraud claim is ridiculous. The only evidence offered by Republicans that the election was rigged against Donald Trump is that Trump lost it by seven million votes. Fortunately for them, that’s also the only evidence they require to believe it. The GOP has embraced the mentality of a lynch mob, so caught up in its own self-righteousness that it is willing to ignore law, justice and the Constitution in its supposed defense of law, justice, and the Constitution.

Based on nothing more than the fact that Trump lost, U.S. senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue have proclaimed Georgia’s election system fraudulent and supported Texas and other states in asking the Supreme Court to throw out Georgia’s results. The same is true of David Shafer, the chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, who has worked diligently to convince his fellow Republicans not only that they were cheated, but that they were cheated with the connivance of our Republican governor and secretary of state.

You could argue that it could be worse. The chair of the Texas GOP, Shafer’s counterpart, is advocating outright secession by the Trump states. The chair of the Arizona Republican Party is urging Trump to “Cross the Rubicon,” to declare martial law, deploy the military and render the election moot. Such mutterings reached enough volume that last week the U.S. Army had to release an official statement, reminding Americans that “there is no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of an American election.”

Again, these are party chairs of major American states, and their members aren’t demanding their resignations for making such outrageous, anti-democratic statements, they are applauding and wanting more.

Shafer isn’t going quite that far, but if raw political ambition drives you to tell millions of Americans that elections are rigged against them, that the courts and politicians refuse to help and that participating in the process is hopeless, then you are preparing those believers to turn to non-political paths to power. You will be partially responsible for what happens.

And it’s not just the American people incited by this campaign of lies and deceit. By lending support to his cause, it also encourages dangerous behavior by Trump himself. On Jan. 6, Congress meets to formally accept the verdict of the Electoral College, the final step before the inauguration of Joe Biden as our next president. But over the weekend, at 1:42 in the wee hours of a Saturday morning, an increasingly frantic Trump tweeted out that it was “statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election.”

“Big protest in D.C. on January 6,” he wrote. “Be there, will be wild!”

Many of those who have been misled into believing that the election was stolen from Trump have taken that as a rallying cry to forcibly reinstall him as president and by doing so save the republic. You’d have to be crazy to think that could work, but these people qualify. We’ve already seen armed protesters occupy the state capitol in Michigan, with some of the perpetrators later arrested and charged with plotting the kidnapping and execution of the Michigan governor. In Oregon on Monday, another group of armed protesters tried to storm that state’s capitol during a special legislative session. Clearly, these claims of a rigged election are groundless, but they have succeeded in raising emotions among groups of people for whom emotional control is not a strength, up to and including Trump himself.

And then there are the longer term implications. Election-weary Georgians won’t want the reminder, but the 2022 primaries are 18 months away, and the Republican side is likely to feature a war against current officeholders such as Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who have been forced to follow the law and tell their fellow Republicans that their fraud narrative is false.

The hatred, insults and threats to safety directed at these officials by their party’s own base are unforgivable, but politically speaking it’s hard to feel much sympathy, especially for Kemp. Without the constraints of high office, he would be among those braying loudest in support of Trump’s effort to overturn the election. The reality that Georgia Republicans will be choosing candidates based on how eager they were to reject democracy and install a tinpot dictator is yet another measure of how far we have fallen, and how much we have to repair.