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News / Opinion / Columns
The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

Jayne: Calling fraud makes you a fool

The Columbian
Published: August 28, 2022, 6:02am

An article last week from The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review brings to mind a political truism.

While truth in politics is a rare commodity these days, and while we understandably have a craving for it, we’re going to wait a minute to get there. First, a little about the article itself, which The Columbian published across the top of Wednesday’s front page and online with the headline “Experts say Washington elections are secure.”

Writing about election security in Washington and about persistent, unfounded claims of fraud, Spokesman reporter Colin Tiernan took a detailed and interesting look at fabricated doubts surrounding the 2020 presidential election. The money quote: “This is all organized as a fraud by Donald Trump and his folks and it’s just not true. People have gotten sucked into a lot of lies.”

That is from Ralph Munro, who knows a bit about election security. He was Washington’s secretary of state from 1981 to 2001. Oh, and he’s a Republican.

His successor, Sam Reed, is a Republican and oversaw state elections from 2001 to 2013. Reed was followed by Kim Wyman, another Republican, who remained in office until taking a job with the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency last year.

Yes, a Republican took a job with the Biden administration. Shocking! Some things, apparently, are more important than party tribalism — like protecting our democracy.

But many people — and, let’s be honest, they’re all Republicans — continue to claim that the 2020 election was rife with fraud. Never mind that some 60 court cases across the country were tossed out for a lack of evidence. Never mind that Trump’s own attorney general said, “we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”

Those who repeat false claims are modern-day snipe hunters. And they are doing incalculable damage to our country.

As Munro told the Spokesman-Review: “Show me some examples of where there’s some fraud or some sort of problem. You have every right, if there’s an example of that, to go before a judge and make sure it’s looked at. I commend citizens for that. Don’t make wild accusations and just make a fool of yourself.”

Yet we live in an era when fools can dominate the public square. Anybody with a camera and an internet connection suddenly can be an expert and get somebody, somewhere to believe their latest conspiracy theory.

Which brings up the head-scratching part of the entire mess. Donald Trump is a proven liar and charlatan and cheat. The Trump Organization had to pay $25 million for perpetrating fraud in the form of Trump University, providing just one example of his perpetual grift.

The guess is that even his supporters recognize his hucksterism, even if they agree with his policies. But why would anybody believe him now? Many a future Ph.D. dissertation will examine the gullibility.

(As an aside, the losers in all this are rational Republicans. Their party is dominated by Trumpified crackpots who distract from important policy discussions in service of an infantile 76-year-old.)

But we have buried the lede. Because the striking thing about the grasping-at-straws strategy is that it seems to be little more than noisy desperation. It seems to be little more than a distraction.

The modern Republican Party — or at least its loudest faction — persistently sets up shop on the wrong side of history and the short side of public opinion. They are outnumbered when it comes to gun control and climate change and gay marriage and vaccines and LGBTQ rights and public education.

And when you are outnumbered, you claim “fraud!” or you change the voting rules, which GOP legislatures have done in many states.

If you are convinced you are fighting for the soul of our nation, this probably makes sense. But it seems that there is a better strategy that won’t tear this country apart — support policies that people like.

And that is a timeless political truism.