Overturning An Election

And why Lindsey Graham really is the worst

(Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

For two scary hours last night, we got a glimpse of how this might have unfolded if the presidential race had actually been close.

Deadlocked on a 2-2 vote, the Wayne County (MI) Board of Canvassers refused to certify the results of the elections of the state’s largest county. Biden won Michigan and its 16 electoral votes by more than 140,000 votes. There has been no evidence of widespread fraud or other problems.

But the GOP gambit threatened to flip the state into Trump’s column, by effectively disenfranchising the voters of the Detroit area.

Faced with the inevitable outcry, the board quickly reversed itself, but not before the MAGAverse had once again tipped its hand. A senior legal advisor to Trump tweeted:

So did the chair of the Michigan GOP:

And, of course, the president of the United States prematurely celebrated the “win.”

So, to be clear here: TrumpWorld was hoping to declare an election null and void, disenfranchise millions of voters (many of them Black), and have the GOP state legislature simply name 16 Trump electors, despite losing the state by a six-digit margin.

To be sure, this was unlikely in the extreme. State officials would have stepped in to certify the ballots; the GOP legislature has shown no interest in being part of a bizarre political coup; and even if Michigan’s votes were flipped, Trump would still lose the election.

But, have no doubt about it: this was the plan (at least in the mind of the man who will be president of the United States for the next two months). It is also apparently Lindsey Graham’s long-shot effort to overturn the election.

Mr. Graham seems bent on making every attempt to engineer a second term for Mr. Trump, despite President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s clear victory. The senator has suggested that this year’s vote represents the Republican Party’s last gasp, unless something is done to reverse the current state of election operations — the same system he praised in 2016.

“If Republicans don’t challenge and change the U.S. election system, there will never be another Republican president elected again,” Mr. Graham said on Sunday on Fox News.

Bonus shot: here’s one of the guys who tried to block the Wayne County vote certification:

Welcome to the Countdown Journal. There are 63 days to go until the Inauguration of Joe Biden.

A scene from American parliamentary procedure in 2020.

ICYMI: Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown asked one of his colleagues, Alaska’s Dan Sullivan to wear a mask in the senate chamber. Sullivan, who was presiding at the time, refused. This led to a CruzTweet:

"Nobody,” was near Sullivan, except if you count the senate staffers. As Don Moynihan notes: “There are Senate staff directly in front of him (Brown referred to ‘people below him’)”.

But that wasn’t really the point of the tweet, which was intended by Cruz purely as an act of performative assholery.

Strictly speaking, this is not a new thing for Ted Cruz, who has made a career out of jerkitude. Recall that, back in 2016, no less a jerk than Lindsey Graham gibed that, “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.”

Everybody who knows him in the Senate hates him,” noted the late columnist Charles Krauthammer. “And I think hate is not an exaggeration.”

Former SpeakerJohn Boehner remarked that he had “never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life,” and called him “Lucifer.”

That was too much for the actual Satanists, who felt the need to issue a statement disavowing the Texas senator. “It grows tedious when pedophile priests and loathsome politicians are conveniently dismissed as Satanic,” insisted a spokesman for the Satanic Temple, “even as they spew Biblical verse and prostrate themselves before the cross, recruiting the Christian faithful. Satanists will have nothing to do with them.”

None of this has stopped Cruz’s ascent and re-election to the United States Senate, but it proved to be a significant disadvantage in his presidential run in 2016, especially when he found himself running against an even bigger and more entertaining asshole.

Which brings us to the New Ted Cruz, who is very much like the Old Ted Cruz, except for the performative part. As he jostles for his lane in the post-Trump GOP, Cruz has largely eschewed wonkery and policy. Instead, he has embraced what he imagines to be the essence of Trump’s appeal.

He also aspires to Trump’s twitter game, complete with the juvenile insults. The 2024 race has already begun, and Cruz is already telling us how he intends to run.

Bonus: 87-year-old Senator Chuck Grassley tested positive for COV-19 yesterday.

Meanwhile, Trump’s assault on the truth-tellers continues.“Trump fires top DHS official who refuted his claims that the election was rigged.”

GOP Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin) pushed back.

“Chris Krebs did his job and did it extremely well. The country is safer and our elections more secure from foreign interference because of his leadership at CISA.

“He left a legacy of success that reiterates the Commission’s recommendations to strengthen CISA, maintain auditable paper trails for voting, and provide cyber education so Americans can better spot disinformation.”

Wisconsin’s recount deadline is today at 5 p.m.

If [Trump’s] campaign pays the $7.9 million cost up front, the recount will begin as soon as Thursday and be complete by Dec. 1, according to the state Elections Commission. 

Trump has been furiously fundraising for the Wisconsin recount and legal challenges in other states to try to overturn Democrat Joe Biden's victory. If he doesn't go ahead with the Wisconsin recount, he can use the money he's raised for other purposes, such as retiring his campaign debt.

What Happened to Real Clear Politics?Make sure you read Jeremy Peter’s piece in the NYT:

But less well known is how Real Clear Politics and its affiliated websites have taken a rightward, aggressively pro-Trump turn over the last four years as donations to its affiliated nonprofit have soared. Large quantities of those funds came through two entities that wealthy conservatives use to give money without revealing their identities.

Interesting shout-out to some folks you may know.

Despite the dominance of pro-Trump outlets in conservative media, others that are more critical of the president, like The Bulwark and The Dispatch — both formed by alumni of The Weekly Standard — have expanded their audiences. Both were wary of a financial model that could open the door to meddling by donors….

William Kristol, the editor at large of The Bulwark, said it was little surprise that there were conservative donors willing to fund pro-Trump news outlets.

“It’s hard to know who’s causing what,” he said about whether donor influence was skewing sites to take a harder line in defense of the president. “But the sea in which donors swim — that sea has turned out to be much Trumpier than I expected.”

Quick Hits

1. Where Are The Grownups?

A mutual friend asked James Wigderson, the editor of Right Wisconsin where all the adults are in conservative movement these days.

“It seems between honoring Kyle Rittenhouse's mom at an in-person gala and the wacko conspiracy stuff, that something has gone really, really wrong in the local GOP,” the friend wrote. “And I realize I'm completely biased here. But where are the adults? Where are the sane people? What the hell has happened?” Here is Wigderson’s answer (which he forwarded to me):

1. A lot of people in politics, when you rip the veneer of respectability off, are pretty ugly people. That's what Trump did to the GOP. (Both sides, actually.) It's like that scene in Beneath the Planet of the Apes where they're worshipping the doomsday atomic bomb and they take their masks off to reveal their true inner selves.

2. The professional consultant class doesn't care. “I have no conviction, if that's what you mean. I blow with the wind, and the prevailing wind happens to be from Vichy.”

3. The politician class is scared of its own base. Do you really believe Vos thinks the election was stolen? But his members are hearing the howling of the wolves.

4. There are way too many grifters that can easily profit from whipping the GOP activists into hysteria. Fake ScamPACS, campus speakers, and irresponsible talk radio hosts hoping to be the next Rush Limbaugh or Michelle Malkin, what does it hurt to scream fraud? It's career advancement and profit. Maybe even a book or two. Television. Newsmax. OANN. Fox News.

5. The GOP base doesn't have to listen to anything outside of the echo chamber. How many times have you heard the Russia Hoax when, really, there was legitimate cause for concern?

6. The kooks got funding from kooky GOP donors who were tired of not getting enough conservative bang for the buck.

7. Finally, and this is where even I have done some soul searching, too many of "the adults" on the right, including Charlie Sykes, dismissed the idea that the right had a real kook problem until it was too late. Easy to do when the call screeners prevent the kooks from going on the air, right? And until midway through the George W. Bush era, the kooks didn't have the platforms necessary to take over the GOP.

There was also, I think, a racist reaction to Obama. But that's a whole 'nother email.

James Wigderson


2. Raffensperger to the Rescue

Mona Charen writes about the rare sighting of a Republican with both a conscience and a backbone.

Everyone knows that major portions of the Republican party abased themselves before an incompetent narcissist who is discrediting the democratic process as his parting shot. But not every Republican. Brad Raffensperger is a reminder that there are Republicans and Americans who do what is right for its own sake, even under stress, even when it will cost them, and even when the only reward they can expect is being able to look in the mirror without flinching.

3. Let’s Make a Deal to Roll Back Executive Power

In today’s Bulwark, Amanda Carpenter has a modest suggestion:

If President-elect Joe Biden is serious about forging a bipartisan consensus in Washington and Senate Republicans are looking for ways to assert power, there is a natural solution. Congress should seek to reclaim powers that the legislative branch has surrendered to the executive, and Biden should agree to return them to their rightful place.

It sounds almost too simple to be true because, of course, cynical politics are predictable. The main obstacle to such basic reforms is that the conversation often dissolves into cases of situational ethics. One can reasonably expect that some of the same progressives who denounced Trump’s executive actions on immigration and climate change as abuses of power will not only be content to see Biden overturn them with his own executive actions on Day One of his presidency, but will eagerly anticipate Biden using the same tools to advance their preferred policies.

Cheap Shots

Perfectly normal.

Old: "Baghdad Bob" references. NEW: "Kayleigh McEnany" references.

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Deep Thoughts

1. Lindsey Graham Is the Worst.

A former staffer explains.

When I speak to former colleagues of mine who are—or were—in the Republican sphere that includes Graham, the conversation about “what happened to Lindsey Graham?” usually ends with the conclusion that he is scared to death of what life would be like if he wasn’t a U.S. senator.

In an interview in February 2019, Graham was asked why he had such a dramatic shift of allegiance towards Donald Trump. His answer: “From my point of view, if you know anything about me, it’d be odd not to do this.” When asked what “this­” meant, he said “try to be relevant.”

It seems that for Graham, changing one’s operational code to fit the political climate so as to stay close to power is not just acceptable—it’s part of his inherent identity. The flippant manner in which he speaks about not standing on principles makes it clear how he could go from telling Americans they should “tell Donald Trump to go to hell” to effectively licking Trump’s boots on command.

2. What a President Biden Could Do with a GOP-Controlled Senate

Richard North Patterson in today’s Bulwark:

House moderates lost promising new members in swing districts across the country—in New York, Florida, Iowa, Oklahoma, New Mexico, California—doomed, they assert, by GOP exploitation of progressive enthusiasms for “defunding the police,” “decriminalizing the border,” single-payer healthcare, and democratic socialism.

House majority whip James Clyburn, a key Biden supporter, has been particularly vocal on this point—and with reason. Progressives who thrive in immutably blue urban districts would perish in less hospitable environments. This reality is hardly obscure: Biden carried Nebraska’s generally suburban 2nd Congressional District by 7 points; the Democratic House candidate, a Sanders-style progressive, lost by 5. That 12 percent difference is about running the race your local demographic requires.

Given that, the political obliviousness of some ardent progressives is truly impressive. Enter Naomi Klein: “Even if the Democratic Party base was much more politically aligned with Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren, in their support for Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, for racial justice, the party was sure that Bernie Sanders was too risky. And so, as we all remember, they banded together and gave us Biden.”

Earth to Naomi: In 2016 and 2020, the Democratic primary electorate “banded together” to drub Sanders by margins that would sober all but the politically insensate.