The strangest thing about the case of Tina Peters, Mesa County’s gone-completely-rogue clerk, is that it’s not strange at all.
Sure, it’s weird. I mean, it’s beyond weird that any public official would ally herself so directly, and so publicly, with the gone-completely-nuts MyPillow Guy, Mike Lindell, who has attempted to turn her into a martyr, and minor celebrity, for the Big Lie cause.
As we all know, Lindell whisked Peters away from Colorado in a private jet, sending her to an undisclosed location, from which Peters claimed — although I don’t think I’ve heard her repeat the charge —that her hotel room had been ransacked, presumably by the updated Democratic version of Nixon’s plumbers. Or maybe it was a cabal of satanic Democratic pedophiles. I’m waiting for Q to set the record straight.
But Peters’ belief in the Big Lie is, if you believe the polls, very much in line with the Republican electorate. In a recent CNN poll, 78% of Republicans say Joe Biden wasn’t legitimately elected and 54% say there is solid evidence (of which there is, in fact, none) the election was rigged. It’s no surprise that a rally was held for her the other day in Grand Junction — or that someone was injured.
I think if those same Republicans were forced to take a lie-detector test, the numbers would probably be somewhat lower, but that’s the point, actually. It has become a matter of faith among many Republicans that Democrats stole the 2020 election and that they’ll keep stealing elections unless something — they don’t say what, exactly — is done. It’s also a matter of faith, and probably fact, that you’d be hard pressed to win a Republican primary in many states without embracing both Trump and the lie.
We saw Heidi Ganahl dodging the question when she announced she was running for governor in Colorado. If she refutes the Big Lie, she probably can’t win the Republican primary. If she embraces it, in a state Trump lost by 13 points, she probably can’t win a general election.
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We know what Peters did, or what she’s accused of doing anyway — which was to bring an outsider, falsely claiming he was an employee, into the secure room where the state was conducting its annual software update on voting machines. Peters has admitted to this lie, or at least part of it, and to the fact that the hard drive was improperly copied.
Peters said she took the action because she was afraid state inspectors would remove files — presumably revealing the so-called rigging scandal — from the machines. But all clerks, including Peters, were apparently given step-by-step instructions on how to back up election files well before the update was conducted.
The copies of the hard drive were then leaked to a right-wing media site, possibly tainting the machines, which had to be taken out of use. And eventually Secretary of State Jena Griswold ruled that Peters could no longer be trusted to run Mesa County elections. The job was given to two Republican officials, including former Secretary of State Wayne Williams. At any moment now, a Mesa County judge will determine whether Griswold could legally remove Peters — not from her job, but from her role overseeing elections.
The Big Lie is, of course, all around us. On Saturday night, Donald Trump held a rally in Des Moines, Iowa, in which he spent around a third of his 90-minute speech in the service of his never-ending whining about the 2020 election. A day later, Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, the House Republican whip, was ducking and dodging when Fox’s Chris Wallace asked him directly whether the election had been “stolen.”
“I’ve been very clear from the beginning,” Scalise said. “If you look at a number of states, they didn’t follow their state-passed laws that govern the election for president. That is what the United States Constitution says. They don’t say the states determine what the rules are. They say the state legislatures determine the rules.”
It’s your basic non-answer gibberish. But clearly Scalise would not say the election was not stolen. He’s no Liz Cheney after all.
Even when faced with non-alternative facts, you get the same gibberish. The Senate Judiciary Committee released a damning report of Trump’s attempt to force the Justice Department to challenge the election results. Only after a threat that most of the major players in the DOJ would resign immediately, rather than join Trump’s attempted assault on truth, did Trump back down.
In the Republicans’ minority report, they saw the same evidence as their colleagues and yet concluded, as Washington Post columnist Max Boot helpfully pointed out, that Trump was merely “ensuring that … the American people would have confidence in the results.” And that he wasn’t pressuring the DOJ. He was ensuring “that they were aware of allegations of election fraud … and that DOJ actually did their job by properly investigating them.”
It would be almost funny if American democracy weren’t at risk here. It would be almost funny if many who worked in the Trump White House seem prepared — as Trump told them — to defy subpoenas from a House committee to testify about the Jan. 6 insurrection. It would almost be funny if an increasing number of Republican states weren’t holding election audits, even after the phony audit of Maricopa County in Arizona, revealed that, uh, Biden won. It would be almost funny if red state after red state weren’t passing voter suppression laws.
What’s not in the least funny is that many Trump truthers are now running for the office of Secretary of State in a number of swing states — states that again could decide an election if Trump takes another stab at it in 2024, which seems more likely with each passing day.
Reuters examined the 15 Republican candidates for secretary of state in five states— Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin — and 10 of them have either claimed the 2020 election was rigged or called for the state’s results to be thrown out until votes can be counted (and counted and counted and counted) again. Reuters interviewed nine of the candidates and only two said Joe Biden was elected fairly.
If you want an idea for how crazy it can get, try out this: A veteran election official, Michele Carew, from Hood County in North Texas, has been hounded by Trump supporters for months. They have accused her of harboring secret liberal biases and other high crimes and wanted her replaced with a county clerk who actively supports the Big Lie. It finally got to the point where Carew felt she had to resign.
And here’s the kicker. In the 2020 election, Trump won 81% of the vote in Hood County. It seems as if no one is safe. Clearly, our long-running American democratic project is not.
Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
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