It’s hard not to picture Arizona gubernatorial dopeful Kari Lake sitting at a mall Chili’s bar four years from now with the last soldier who doesn’t know World War II is over and the most popular REO Speedwagon tribute band on MySpace as she whines and reminisces in equal measure about the good old days.
Lake remains in thrall to her delusions, including that she won her election in November and that Donald Trump is simply too stable and genius-y to have possibly lost in 2020. She is currently in court challenging her loss. And—well, gee, you never could have predicted this—it’s not going well. At all.
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As Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts noted, the first day of Lake’s latest trial was a “complete and total fizzle.” According to Lake’s attorney, Kurt Olsen, the very-much-not-governor of Arizona was sitting on a powder keg of evidence proving that Arizona’s Maricopa County failed to do any signature verification on early ballots during the midterm elections. And her side called witnesses who proved exactly that.
Wait. Sorry. That was supposed to say “who proved exactly the opposite.”
Jacqueline Onigkeit, who worked as a level one reviewer during last year’s election, spent more than an hour explaining the lengths to which county went to verify signatures — the weeklong training of workers, the two shifts of level one reviewers, three levels of signature review, the admonition to get it right.
“They (supervisors) told us, ‘You need to be very cautious. You need to pay attention to what you’re doing and remember that whatever you reject or approve, you can be called in to testify,’ ” Onigkeit testified.
As a witness for the defense, Onigkeit was dynamite.
The problem is, she was supposed to be the star witness for Lake.
Wait, so why would Lake call a witness who ended up destroying her case? I’m no lawyer, but isn’t that the opposite of what you’re supposed to do? Did she find her attorney on Craigslist? And did the advertiser throw in a free futon?
But that wasn’t all. Oh, no. The hits kept coming.
According to Roberts, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson said that in order to prove her case, Lake needed to show that the county had conducted no signature verification at all. Instead, she and her lawyer helpfully proved that it had.
Olsen showed a video in which one election worker did appear to be breezing through signature verifications too quickly, but he failed to note that the worker was dismissed from those duties for not doing a thorough job—a fact that, as Roberts writes, “bolstered the county’s case that it was taking signature verification seriously.” Meanwhile, Onigkeit testified that the workers were continually told that they should be careful not to rush through the verification process.
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Of course, while the Big Lie may triumph in the court of public opinion (at least in MAGA-land), it’s done diddly-squat in actual courts, possibly (gird your loins now) because these Big Liars have no case. And on Wednesday that was made brutally clear. Again.
That said, Big Liars are still poking at the foundations of our democracy, looking for flaws that might allow them to illegally install their once and future Burger King, who continues to serve up steamy whoppers on the daily while safely ensconced in Mar-a-Lago. Their ultimate vision, of course, is a permanent white minority rule in which Potemkin elections rubber-stamp their preordained picks. And while they’ve run into plenty of roadblocks on their way to this white man’s coup-topia, their plan remains essentially unchanged.
To be fair, it’s abundantly clear by now that election denialism is a bad campaign strategy. Relying on voters who think voting is pointless is always a bad tactic, of course, but now we have data to support the fact that Big Liars tend to be Big Losers.
According to a recent study from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, election deniers did demonstrably worse in the midterms than candidates who refused to embrace Trump’s barmy nonsense.
Los Angeles Times:
Assaying the general election results in 85 races across the country, the study found that election-denying Republicans received 2.3% less support in statewide contests than Republicans who stood fast and refused to indulge Trump’s insidious blather.
That may not sound like a lot. But it was the difference in several close contests involving prominent election deniers, including races for U.S. Senate and secretary of state in Nevada, and governor and attorney general in Arizona. In each of those elections, scoundrels and cheats — let’s call them what they are — went down to narrow, deserved defeat.
Great news, to be sure. But don’t get too comfy. Democracy is still in danger.
The nonpartisan watchdog group Informing Democracy recently put together a report on some of the perils still facing our democracy, including the fact that election deniers are worming their way into government like weevils in Lake’s squishy simulacrum of a brain.
Still, following the results of the 2022 elections, a positive narrative that most election deniers were defeated at the ballot box quickly developed within the national media, but outside of a few prominent election contests, the reality is unfortunately more pessimistic. In fact, more anti democracy actors were elected to statewide offices last year, not fewer. Across the country, candidates supporting election denialism won several statewide elections, solidifying their influence in state and federal government. These election winners include the Governors of Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, South Dakota, and Texas; Secretaries of State of Indiana and Wyoming; Attorneys General of Alabama, Florida, Kansas, Ohio, South Carolina, and Texas; and U.S. Senators in Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin.
At least 180 of the 222 Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives elected in 2022, most of whom were incumbents, either questioned or denied the results of the 2020 presidential election. Of the 34 U.S. Senators elected or reelected in 2022, 17 expressed skepticism about the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. This adds up to at least 74% of Congressional Republicans who rejected the 2020 election results. Barring their resignation or removal from office, these same officials will be charged with confirming the electoral college votes for the 2024 presidential election.
Then there’s that wacky SCOTUS, which loves nothing more than to place flaming bags of poo at the public’s doorstep and run away laughing. The court is currently considering the validity of the so-called “independent state legislature theory,” which would give partisan legislatures broad authority to gerrymander districts, disenfranchise voters, and possibly even pick their own winners. Fortunately, the Supreme Court looks poised to reject the theory, but it remains a real and horrifying threat.
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Meanwhile, state legislatures continue to nibble around the edges of our tasty democracy while repeatedly plunging their grubby fingers into the frosting. Texas’ GOP-led state legislature is currently pushing a bill that would give Texas’ secretary of state the power to 86 election results in the Lone Star State’s largest county
possibly probably because its residents keep voting for Democrats.
The Republican-controlled Senate passed the bill Tuesday and sent it to the state House. If it is enacted, it would allow the secretary of state to toss out election results in the state's largest county and call a new vote if there is "good cause" to believe that at least 2% of polling places ran out of usable ballots during voting hours.
The bill would apply only to counties with populations greater than 2.7 million, effectively singling out Harris County, which is home to Houston and has by far the largest population in the state, at nearly 5 million. In recent decades, Harris County has become more Democratic.
And hoo-boy, get a load of this one. Georgia’s Fulton County Board of Commissioners nearly appointed a Republican to oversee elections in the heavily Democratic county, which includes almost all of Atlanta. (The nominee, Lee Morris, eventually withdrew his name in the face of strong opposition, and a Democrat was given the reins. But seriously—what were they thinking?)
So, yes, Lake’s faceplant is both hilarious and heartening. But that doesn’t mean we can relax, fellow progressives! Democracy is still on the ballot in 2024, and likely will be for the foreseeable future. Or until MAGAs finally realize that Trump almost never tells the truth. Which pretty much means we’ll be white-knuckling our way through election nights until the heat death of the universe. And here you thought you might get a full night’s sleep sometime before the end of the millennium. You naif!
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Check out Aldous J. Pennyfarthing’s four-volume Trump-trashing compendium, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.
Hell yeah! Democrats and progressives simply crushed it from coast to coast on Tuesday night, so co-hosts David Nir and David Beard are devoting this week's entire episode of "The Downballot" to reveling in all the highlights. At the very top of the list is Jacksonville, where Democrats won the mayor's race for just the second time in three decades—and gave the Florida Democratic Party a much-needed shot in the arm. Republicans also lost the mayor's office in the longtime conservative bastion of Colorado Springs for the first time since the city began holding direct elections for the job 45 years ago.