“Why Trump Will Fail in Michigan”

I’ve just published this new New York Times piece:

The country is coming to a crossroad on Monday. That’s the date Michigan is to certify the results of the 2020 election. Yet President Trump has chosen a state he lost by more than 150,000 votes — more than 14 times the size of his 2016 victory in Michigan — to try to subvert the election.

Having failed in the courts, President Trump is now grasping at a new lifeline: pressuring Republican election officials and legislators to ignore the reality that Joe Biden legitimately won the popular vote in their states. This tactic, now being played out in Michigan, is no doubt sending the anxiety levels of Biden supporters back to where they were before the courts had calmed these efforts by exposing how empty most of the legal claims were.

But this tactic, too, is destined to fail — though it is toxic for the country’s politics….

The Biden campaign and Michigan voters would likely first turn to the state or federal courts. A court would likely issue an order to the state board to certify the result — legally, this is known as issuing a writ of mandamus — because the board’s legal duty is clear and unequivocal once it has received the certified vote totals from the counties. If the resistant board members were still willing to defy the court and go to jail (presidential pardons do not apply to state crimes), a court could also issue the certification itself.

Michigan’s governor also has legal powers she could invoke, though whether she would choose to do so would involve complex political judgments. Under the state’s constitution, she has the power — the constitution, actually, calls it a duty — to remove or suspend from office a canvassing board member for “gross neglect of duty,” “corrupt conduct” or “for any other misfeasance or malfeasance” in carrying out their duties. Failing to certify on the facts in Michigan would easily meet this standard….

One of the many tragedies of what has gone on since the election is that we should be celebrating our achievement at having smoothly managed to conduct an exceptionally high turnout election under the most difficult circumstances. Think of the list of concerns we had in advance of the election: foreign interference; inability to staff polling places; huge lines on Election Day; excessive challenges at the polls or even violent confrontations; high rejection rates of absentee ballots; large numbers of absentees arriving too late to be counted; long delays in mail delivery that compromised the outcome…

Yet the country, mired in baseless accusations of fraud, cannot even see this achievement, let alone celebrate it. Even those who voted for Mr. Biden are too consumed with anxiety about getting safely to Jan. 20 to celebrate the country’s triumph in how well the election was run.

President Trump will undoubtedly continue to try any tactic to fend off the reality that he lost the election. But even if he manages to corrupt a few partisan actors, it will not change the outcome. The election survived the stress test we faced. The post-election process will as well.

The real danger is that the country will become increasingly ungovernable.


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