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Monday, March 4, 2024
March 4, 2024

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Jayne: Big Lie eroding our democracy

By , Columbian Opinion Page Editor

Given enough time, dripping water can erode even the sturdiest of rock. It might not be noticeable at first, with each drop seemingly bouncing off and causing no harm. But the drip-drip-drip eventually wears away the impenetrable boulder.

Such is the case with American democracy. Such is the case with the slow but unending assault on our pillars of government. Such is the case with a recount taking place in Arizona.

It might not look like much at first. But when the drips are added to the deluge of anti-democratic efforts throughout the country, the damage is profound.

The Arizona Legislature, controlled by Republicans, passed a bill calling for a recount of the state’s votes in the presidential election. They hired a Florida cybersecurity company that has no previous experience with elections and whose chief executive is a supporter of impeached former President Donald Trump. They chose for the “bipartisan” team inspecting ballots a Trump supporter who has tweeted, “I know this election was filled with irregularities, no-transparency adjudications and even outright fraud.” They hired organizers who have required observers to sign nondisclosure agreements.

And in the process, they added another drip that is eroding our democracy, clinging to The Big Lie of election fraud.

This might not seem like much — other than sore losers embracing a lost cause. After all, Joe Biden received 7 million more votes and won 74 more electoral votes. And dozens of judges — including several appointed by Trump — rejected his legal claims following the election. And one Trump-appointed judge wrote in a ruling: “This court allowed the plaintiff the chance to make his case, and he has lost on the merits. In his reply brief, plaintiff ‘asks that the Rule of Law be followed.’ It has been.”

The recount will not change the results of the election, and even if Trump had won Arizona he would have lost by 52 electoral votes. But damage is being done even if it’s not readily evident.

“I’m very concerned this has ramifications for every state in the country,” Kim Wyman told The Washington Post. “This is politicizing an administrative process with no real structure or laws or rules in place to guide how it goes.”

Wyman is Washington’s secretary of state, the state’s top election official and a nationally respected expert on election security and processes. She also is a Republican, and in November was elected to a four-year term for the third time.

Elections are administered by experienced professionals and overseen by officials who are elected and, therefore, beholden to the public rather than ideology. But when an infantile president loses an election and spreads lies rather than accepting reality, it is shocking how many supporters will go along. Tribalism, for far too many, is stronger than facts and proof.

“Every time in the future the party in control loses, they will use some post-election administrative process to call it into question, and people will no longer have confidence that we have fair elections,” Wyman told The Post.

That, in the end, is the larger issue. Because while the Arizona recount is comically partisan and comically incompetent, it erodes the rock-solid faith that is necessary for a democracy. As an expert on totalitarian regimes said in a column published Saturday in The Columbian: “If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. With such a people you can then do what you please.”

Which seems to encapsulate the direction this nation is heading. When you don’t like the results of an election, you reject them and you adopt voter-suppression laws. When you can’t accept reality, you create an alternate one.

As Wyman said of the Arizona recount: “Right now, in the heat of the moment, this probably feels really good for a lot of people frustrated with the results. But it undermines confidence in fair elections, at a core foundational level. And it’s going to be hard to recover from it.”