The Strange Case of Marc Elias
The Democrats' lawyer picks the wrong targets
If you paid any attention at all to the litigation over the 2020 election, you know the name Marc Elias: the Democrats’ super-lawyer who ran up the score against Trump’s attempts to get the courts to help him steal the election.
The guy is a genuine hero.
Elias, who was general counsel for the presidential campaigns of both Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, remains very much the tip of the spear in efforts to defend democracy in the courts. He describes his new website, Democracy Docket, as “the leading progressive media platform dedicated to providing information, opinion and analysis about voting rights and more."
So, he is presumably a very busy man these days, which makes his new obsession more than a little strange.
ICYMI, Marc Elias’s idée fixe is dragging the media for being nice to Republicans like Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. In tweet after tweet after tweet after tweet, he ignores the other 200+ GOP members of Congress, while dragging the handful of Republicans who have been the most outspoken about the attacks on January 6.
Since the end of July, I can find only two Elias tweets that mention Kevin McCarthy (one of them is actually an attack on Kinzinger). He’s mentioned Mitch McConnell in his own tweets a grand total of two times during 2021.
And the the only time I can find that he’s even mentioned Marjorie Taylor Greene or Lauren Boebert was this tweet from early December, when he explains that Kinzinger and Mitt Romney are worse than the actual crackpots.
This seems, um, skewed… and more than a little counterproductive, especially in the context of the ongoing attack on democratic norms.
Elias explains that he is “absolutist in advocating for the right to vote and democracy. I criticize anyone who claims they are in favor of the second, but not the first.” Both Cheney and Kinzinger voted against various Democratic voting rights bills that have been before Congress. (For the record, I also disagree with them and would have voted for the John Lewis Act.)
But this is what has turned Elias into an obsessive scold.
So, last week after Tim Alberta profiled Rep. Peter Meijer — one of the 10 Republicans who voted for Trump’s second impeachment — Elias insisted that the media stop “making heroes” of anti-Trump Republicans. And by “heroes,” he means giving them any credit for the stands they have taken.
His contempt for Meijer is consistent with his stance on other anti-Trump Republicans. Despite Liz Cheney’s role on the 1/6 committee, Elias is triggered by favorable coverage or suggestions that she might be showing political courage.
He’s also upset by praise for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who not only resisted, but also blew the whistle on Trump’s attempts to steal the election in Georgia. Elias devotes his most recent post to putting Raffensperger back in his place. "No one suggests that Raffensperger did anything exceptionally good, only that he did not do something exceptionally bad,” he writes.
But his objections to Cheney and Raffensperger pale next to his obsession with Adam Kinzinger. See for yourself.
Both the focus and the timing of Elias’s jihad are curious. The next Trumpist coup is already taking shape, and Stop the Steal candidates are running for offices that will control the next elections.
Elias defends his attacks on anti-Trump GOPers by citing Martin Luther King Jr.’s comment that “the greatest tragedy” in the struggle for civil rights was “the appalling silence of the good people.” And, indeed, Elias is making an important point about the GOP’s surrender to Trumpism. The best do lack all conviction while the worst are filled with Fox-fueled passionate intensity.
But… this is where he loses the thread.
Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger have been anything but silent. They may not agree with 100% of Elias’s agenda, but “silence” is not among their sins.
And here we come to the real strangeness of Elias’s case: The rescue of democracy will ultimately have to be a bipartisan affair — and democracy also includes the acceptance of disagreements from temporary allies.
So maybe Cheney and Kinzinger are not worse that MTG? And Boebert? And Paul Gosar?
And maybe Marc Elias will remember that sometimes the enemy of my enemy is… my friend?
What we need is to take voting completely out of partisan hands. I agree with Elias that Cheney and Kinzinger are hypocritical in not supporting voting rights, but GOP has made this an insanely political issue because in their minds the more people vote, the more likely it is for Dems to win. Which is true, for the most part. Although more people voted in the last election than ever before and 75 million people voted for Trump. The fact that GOP can run on a complete lack of policy ideas and still get that many votes is impressive, even if terrifying.
Unfortunately, Elias hasn't learned the important lesson, which all progressive bros on the internet should learn, that yelling/lecturing people on Twitter doesn't create better outcomes. It'd be better to focus his frustrations on fixing gerrymandering, a bipartisan problem.
Gerrymandering should be left to independent commissions. Everyone should be able to vote by mail, and elections should be decentralized and state run. There, I just fixed voting.
I remember being asked over and over again if I truly believe democracy is under existential threat then act like it. Cheney and Kinzinger, while good on 1/6, are not acting like they think democracy is under existential threat.
They voted to protect Republican voter suppression.
They voted to send the federal government into default.
Cheney voted to let MTG stay in her committee assignments.
They looked at Trump in 2020 and said, "Yeah, we want 4 more years of this" and voted for him against Biden.
I'm not willing to give them a free pass just because they've been good on the 1/6 committee.