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About “Election Integrity”

The anti-anti-coup Trumpers have a new talking point. Don’t let them get away with it.
January 10, 2021
About “Election Integrity”
"Election integrity." (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

In the wake of the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, a comforting talking point has emerged among Republican elected officials and conservative commentators.

As the anti-anti-coup right will tell you, the violence in Washington might have been problematic—but the underlying concerns about “election integrity” are valid and must be taken seriously.

A few examples of this line:

  • In the Wall Street Journal, Rep. Dan Crenshaw wrote: “The concerns about election integrity are real, and they must be heard. The merits of these objections are real and substantive.”
  • Senators James Lankford and Steve Daines issued a joint statement following the Capitol attack saying, “We will continue our calls to examine election integrity through all legal and peaceful means.”
  • Megyn Kelly defended Republicans who “want to raise Q’s about the integrity of our electoral system.”
  • Rep. Lance Gooden tweeted he won’t back down from fighting for “election integrity”
  • Federalist editors Mollie Hemingway and Chris Bedford wrote that they are worried that the sacking of the Capitol “stole from the hundreds of thousands of peaceful protesters concerned about election integrity.”

I want to be clear and direct:

If Donald Trump had been successful in his attempted coup, it would have brought about the end of our electoral system.

Period. Full stop.

Anyone who did not actively oppose the president’s efforts—which did not begin on January 6, 2021, but had been going on since the early morning of November 4, 2020—was part of this effort to destroy our electoral system. Their concerns about “protecting” it now cannot be taken seriously.

The fact is that almost every single one of the Republicans who talk about “election integrity” now were riding shotgun in the Coupmobile until the moment things went south.

Kelly, the Federalist, and the other Trump supporters sat by as the president told the Georgia secretary of State to “find votes”; while he pressured his vice president to interfere with the transfer of power; while he spread lies and disinformation about election fraud, forced prosecutors to resign, and more.

Dan Crenshaw joined with scores of his congressional colleagues in signing on to a lawsuit that asked the court to take away the legal votes of millions of Americans and throw the election to friendly state legislatures. Lankford and Daines had pledged to vote to overturn the results of a democratic election up until the moment the Senate was breached by domestic terrorists who were inspired by their exploits.

These are not the actions of people who care about election integrity.

They are the actions of people trying to cling to power. Even if it meant lying to millions of aggrieved Americans. Even if it meant trying to overturn the outcome of a free and fair election. Even if it meant bringing our democracy to the brink.

And now they’re talking about “election integrity.”

Give me a fucking break.

In the last two months we have seen the most sustained effort to tear down our electoral system since the imposition of Jim Crow.

Everyone who still thinks we have to look into legitimate concerns about “election integrity” in the 2020 election following this failed attempt to overturn the election is being willfully dishonest. And all of them were either actively abetting this attack on our democracy or trying to discredit those who were sounding the alarm.

Their “concerns” are premised on the Trump-mandated lie that this election was not secure, that there is some question about whether it was conducted fairly, that the Venezuelans hacked the voting machines, that there is coordinated fraud in majority black cities, and so on and so forth. Everyone just knows that these things are true and the fact that none of them has been proven only serves to underscore how big the conspiracy is. Just ask Eric Metaxas.

As Chris Krebs testified, this was the most secure election in American history. Even freaking Bill Barr said there was no meaningful fraud.

Here is what you need to understand:

When it comes down to it, there is no meaningful difference between the unrespectable Lin Wood, Q-town, election-fraud crazies and the respectable “concerns” of people such as Lankford, Daines, and Crenshaw. Both groups are equally wrong. The latter are merely better at laundering for polite society the layers of conspiracy underwear beneath Wednesday’s insurrection.

The people who actually care about election integrity are the ones who rejected Trump’s attempt to end American democracy and stood up to him. That includes Democrats, but also a small smattering of Republicans, including Krebs, Brad Raffensperger, and Adam Kinzinger.

Those of us in this broad pro-democracy coalition have earned the right to talk about election integrity and we must take that language back from the enemies of democracy who went along with Trump’s assault on our electoral system.

This mendacious mob aided and abetted a coup. They should wear a scarlet C for the rest of their days and every small-d democrat in this country should devote themselves to driving them out of our electoral system for good.

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large and the author of the best-selling book Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump and communications director for Jeb Bush 2016.