By Mike McCabe
Republicans are under a spell they cast on themselves.
So bewitched are they that they feel they have no choice but to trade in baseless conspiracy theories about widespread voter fraud. They know better. They know vote counting in America is highly decentralized and locally controlled, with nonpartisan or bipartisan election administrators, assisted by legions of volunteer citizen poll workers. They know how impossibly difficult it would be to get them all to join a conspiracy to stuff ballot boxes or doctor vote counts.
They know there were poll watchers from both major parties observing at polling sites throughout the country, not to mention independent journalists monitoring the whole operation. They know there were numerous recounts done to verify results, and they know dozens of judges in states across the country—including many appointed by their own party—reviewed the process and considered allegations of voting irregularities. They know that in every single case in every single place those allegations were found to be without merit.
Yet in spite of all these checks and balances and all the evidence, they still indulge the fantasy that an election with a clear and decisive outcome was somehow stolen. The spell has made them allergic to plain truth.
The spell has them feeling they have no choice but to excuse treason and sedition and to defend violent insurrection aimed at overthrowing our republic. The spell has them feeling they have no choice but to embrace bigots and to allow their party to become a safe harbor for white supremacy. The spell has them spewing nonsense about how everything from the pandemic to climate change is a hoax.
They brought this on themselves.
At some point in the last 10 or 15 years, Republicans came to believe they could not win enough elections to hold power by sticking to their blueprint of cutting taxes for the rich, dismantling the social safety net and deregulating business. They lost confidence that voters would continue to buy what they were selling. They lost faith in their own governing philosophy.
So they cooked up a scheme to hold the most offices even when they don’t have the support of most voters. In 2011 they gerrymandered the hell out of congressional and state legislative districts across the country. They did it right here in Wisconsin, and their contorted district maps worked like a charm. In the last decade Democrats have been winning the most votes in elections for congress and the state legislature, but Republicans have won the most seats and have maintained majorities in both the state assembly and senate as well as Wisconsin’s congressional delegation.
They thought they were drinking an elixir of life from a fountain of youth. Turns out they drank poison. Their gerrymandered districts made them invulnerable to election challenges by the other party, but put them at the mercy of the most extreme elements in their own ranks. They made it so the only elections they can lose are their own party primaries, which has made them deathly afraid of their own increasingly unhinged base.
Today’s Republicans put themselves under a spell that has them denouncing democracy, denying science, cozying up to racists and domestic terrorists…and sentencing their own party to a slow and painful death.
Mike McCabe is executive director of Our Wisconsin Revolution and author of Unscrewing America: Hints and Hopes from the Heartland. Top image credit: Elvert Barnes/CC BY-SA 2.0.
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