Friday, December 11, 2020

FALSEHOODS, VIOLENCE AND THREATS

 

Falsehoods and threats  

By David Leonhardt, New York Times 

President Trump’s attempts to overturn the election result are very unlikely to succeed. For that reason, the effort can sometimes seem like a publicity stunt — an effort by Trump to raise money and burnish his image with his supporters.

And it may well be all of those things. But it is also a remarkable campaign against American democracy. It has grown to include most Republican-run states, most Republican members of Congress and numerous threats of violence. I want to use today’s newsletter to explain it.

The new centerpiece in the effort is a lawsuit that the state of Texas filed this week with the Supreme Court and that Trump supports. It claims that the election in four swing states — Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — suffered from “unconstitutional irregularities.”

The suit is based on the same lies that Trump has been telling about voter fraud. In reality, there was no meaningful fraud, as local officials from both parties have concluded. William Barr, Trump’s attorney general, came to the same conclusion.

Nonetheless, the attorneys general of 17 states — including Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, Indiana, Utah, Arizona and the Dakotas — have backed the Texas lawsuit. Yesterday, more than half of House Republicans released a legal brief supporting it. “If they get their way in court (they won’t), they would break the country,” David French of The Dispatch, a conservative publication, wrote.

They are doing so, as my colleagues Jeremy Peters and Maggie Haberman have explained, largely because they believe that defying Trump would damage their standing with Republican voters. By doing so, the politicians are “inflaming the public,” French noted, causing many voters to believe — wrongly — that a presidential election was unfair. And that belief is fueling an outbreak of violent threats against elections officials, including:

  • Dozens of Trump supporters, some armed, went to the home of Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s Democratic secretary of state, and began shouting obscenities.
  • On Twitter, Trump supporters have posted photographs of the home of Ann Jacobs, a Wisconsin official, and mentioned her children.
  • In Phoenix, about 100 Trump supporters, some armed, protested at the building where officials were counting votes.
  • In Vermont, officials received a voice message threatening them with “execution by firing squad.”
  • Seth Bluestein, a Philadelphia official, received anti-Semitic and violent threats after Pam Bondi, a Trump ally, publicly mentioned him.
  • A Georgia poll worker went into hiding after a viral video falsely claimed he had discarded ballots.
  • Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, and his wife have received death threats, including by text message, and caravanshave circled their house.
  • Gabriel Sterling, another Georgia official, received a message wishing him a happy birthday and saying it would be his last.

In a later interview with Time magazine, Sterling argued that elected politicians could defuse the threats by acknowledging that the election was fair. “Leadership is supposed to look like grown-ups in the room saying, ‘I know you’re upset, but this is the reality,’” Sterling said.

A swing state responds: In a Supreme Court filing, Pennsylvania called the Texas lawsuit part of a “cacophony of bogus claims,” a “seditious abuse of the judicial process” and “an affront to principles of constitutional democracy.”