Must Read from Tim Alberta: “The Inside Story of Michigan’s Fake Voter Fraud Scandal”

This Politico piece is so good to understand how the depravity of the voter fraud myth spread in Michigan and is undermining the integrity of Republican officials in the state. It begins:

After five years spent bullying the Republican Party into submission, President Donald Trump finally met his match in Aaron Van Langevelde.

Who?

That’s right. In the end, it wasn’t a senator or a judge or a general who stood up to the leader of the free world. There was no dramatic, made-for-Hollywood collision of cosmic egos. Rather, the death knell of Trump’s presidency was sounded by a baby-faced lawyer, looking over his glasses on a grainy Zoom feed on a gloomy Monday afternoon, reading from a statement that reflected a courage and moral clarity that has gone AWOL from his party, pleading with the tens of thousands of people watching online to understand that some lines can never be uncrossed.

“We must not attempt to exercise power we simply don’t have,” declared Van Langevelde, a member of Michigan’s board of state canvassers, the ministerial body with sole authority to make official Joe Biden’s victory over Trump. “As John Adams once said, ‘We are a government of laws, not men.’ This board needs to adhere to that principle here today. This board must do its part to uphold the rule of law and comply with our legal duty to certify this election.”

Van Langevelde is a Republican. He works for Republicans in the Statehouse. He gives legal guidance to advance Republican causes and win Republican campaigns. As a Republican, his mandate for Monday’s hearing—handed down from the state party chair, the national party chair and the president himself—was straightforward. They wanted Michigan’s board of canvassers to delay certification of Biden’s victory. Never mind that Trump lost by more than 154,000 votes, or that results were already certified in all 83 counties. The plan was to drag things out, to further muddy the election waters and delegitimize the process, to force the courts to take unprecedented actions that would forever taint Michigan’s process of certifying elections. Not because it was going to help Trump win but because it was going to help Trump cope with a loss. The president was not accepting defeat. That meant no Republican with career ambitions could accept it, either.

Which made Van Langevelde’s vote for certification all the more remarkable. With the other Republican on the four-person board, Norman Shinkle, abstaining on the final vote—a cowardly abdication of duty—the 40-year-old Van Langevelde delivered the verdict on his own. At a low point in his party’s existence, with much of the GOP’s leadership class pre-writing their own political epitaphs by empowering Trump to lay waste to the country’s foundational democratic norms, an obscure lawyer from west Michigan stood on principle. It proved to be the nail in Trump’s coffin: Shortly after Michigan’s vote to certify, the General Services Administration finally commenced the official transition of power and Trump tweeted out a statement affirming the move “in the best interest of our Country.”

Still, the drama in Lansing raised deeper questions about the health of our political system and the sturdiness of American democracy. Why were Republicans who privately admitted Trump’s legitimate defeat publicly alleging massive fraud? Why did it fall to a little-known figure like Van Langevelde to buffer the country from an unprecedented layer of turmoil? Why did the battleground state that dealt Trump his most decisive defeat—by a wide margin—become the epicenter of America’s electoral crisis?

I also found this bit very interesting:

There is no immediate way to make Americans appreciate this distinction, no instant cure for the flagging confidence in our elections. But there are obvious incremental steps to take in the name of transparency and efficiency. First among them, acknowledged Chatfield, the Michigan House speaker, is getting rid of the rules that led to the TCF Center circus in the first place.

“There’s a lot we can learn in the state of Michigan, because the way we’ve handled this, it’s become a national embarrassment,” Chatfield told me in a brief interview after the final certification vote. “And one of the items where we should look at other states and see how they’ve done it well, is regarding the early processing of absentee ballots. We mishandled that this year. We should have allowed for early processing. We didn’t, and it became a spectacle. I think we can learn from that. It should be something the Legislature fixes moving forward.”

This is relatively easy for Chatfield to admit—he’s term limited and leaving office soon. For those Republicans left to pick up the pieces in the coming legislative session, there may be little incentive for bipartisan cooperation on a subject that now divides the two party bases as starkly as gun rights or tax rates. The backlash against absentee voting from Republican constituents was already fierce; in the wake of Trump’s defeat and the TCF Center conspiracies, Republicans might find it beneficial to avoid raising the issue at all.

There is little cause for optimism. If the majority of GOP politicians couldn’t be bothered to do the easy work of debunking crackpot conspiracy theories, how likely are they to do the hard work of hardening our democracy?

“A lot of our leaders in this country ought to be ashamed of themselves,” said Thomas, the nonpartisan elections guru who kept Michigan’s governing class guessing his political affiliation for the past several decades. “They have propagated this narrative of massive fraud, and it’s simply not true. They’ve leapt from some human error to massive fraud. It’s like a leap to Never Neverland. And people are believing them.”

He exhaled with a disgusted groan.

“The people of this country really need to wake up and start thinking for themselves and looking for facts—not conspiracy theories being peddled by people who are supposed to be responsible leaders, but facts,” Thomas said. “If they’re not going to be responsible leaders, people need to seek out the truth for themselves. If people don’t do that—if they no longer trust how we elect the president of the United States—we’re going to be in real trouble.”

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