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The Real Point of the Arizona Audit

It’s all a big show.
July 12, 2021
The Real Point of the Arizona Audit
The former guy dances as he leaves after speaking during a Make America Great Again rally at Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport October 28, 2020, in Bullhead City, Arizona. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

If you’re waiting to read the Cyber Ninjas’ report about Maricopa County’s election counts to find out what happens next in Donald Trump’s rigged election narrative, don’t bother.

The sham audit itself is the endgame. The audit, which began on April 23, was supposed to end by May 14. Now, nearly two months after blowing past that deadline, a spokesman says people shouldn’t expect anything until August. But, really, who knows when, or if, it all will ever end.

It’s not like anyone in MAGA land is in any hurry to call curtains on the big show. That’s because the performance, as incompetent as it is, is the point. It’s what’s keeping Trump’s election delusions alive and well; not what will prove or disprove whether the fantasy has merit. The play’s the thing.

Besides, haven’t they already won, on some level? It’s not every day a couple of partisans are able to seize millions of ballots and a bunch of expensive election equipment to put on a big, months-long show at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Everybody came, too. Politicos, reporters, elected officials. MAGA propagandists are still capitalizing on all the free content. And donations keep pouring into the coffers of Trump-adjacent grifters all around. Why end it now?

The auditors haven’t even drafted a report and already, there’s lots of breathless talk from MAGA land about taking the show on the road to Pennsylvania. The dominos are falling, just as the prophecy foretold!

Arizona GOP Chairwoman Kelli “Stop the Counting” Ward couldn’t be happier. “It is good to know that the Arizona audit is already inspiring others to take important steps to ensure election integrity,” she said in a video on Friday. “Even before its completion, the Arizona audit, America’s audit, is bearing good fruit.”

Joy! The sequel is being planned before the first release even wraps its maiden run! Election Integrity Forever!

There are plenty of financial, legal, and political costs associated with the spectacle, none of which seem to worry the audit’s proponents much. They’re having too much fun.

They’re not concerned about sticking Arizona taxpayers with the bill for voting equipment that will need to be replaced at a yet-to-be-determined cost. They’re not thinking about the implications of using private funds to finance what was billed as a public, government-run enterprise before spiraling into bamboo-sniffing, Cheeto-dust-hunting ridiculousness. The Department of Justice has warned about possible legal exposure that Arizona Republicans have for violating federal laws requiring the preservation of election records. But that hasn’t slowed them down, either.

More than likely, the audit will damage the Republican brand even further in the critical swing state of Arizona, where it lost both its marquee races—the presidency and U.S. Senate—in 2020. A recent Bendixen & Amandi International poll found roughly half of Arizona voters oppose the recount effort and that the “intensity of opposition to the audit exceeded the intensity of support, with those strongly opposed to it outnumbering those strongly in favor by 5 percentage points.”

Considering that Maricopa County delivers about two-thirds of Arizona’s votes, someone ought to start writing a political thriller for 2022. Title it: “Backlash.”

There’s about as much chance of the Arizona audit producing anything that resembles a credible report as there is George Strait selling an oceanfront property there anytime soon.

Karen Fann, the Republican president of the Arizona Senate, who is—as I explained here last week—one of two people solely responsible for the audit, already gave the game away. “Contrary to what you see and what you hear, I have said from Day One, I have never, ever said there was fraud,” she recently told the Arizona Republic. “This was about election integrity.”

Ah, yes. “Election integrity again. What a magical phrase.

It’s what MAGA lawyers, activists, elected officials, and insurrectionists alike have all used to justify their actions in hopes of overturning the 2020 election. It’s the catch-all code phrase under which all unfounded aspersions about the election are cast without ever producing a shred of evidence to back it up.

Sadly, it ain’t no passing craze. It’s all coming straight from the top, from the man whom Republican party officials still call their leader.

Over the weekend, in press releases, media appearances, and a CPAC speech in Texas, Donald Trump continued to spread his election conspiracy theories and engage in January 6 insurrection whitewashing, seeking an audience for his lies wherever he could find one.

Guess where he’s going next.

Arizona. The former president will be in Phoenix on July 24 for an event billed as a “rally to protect our elections.”

The show, you see, must go on. And on. And on.

Amanda Carpenter

Amanda Carpenter is an author, a former communications director to Sen. Ted Cruz, and a former speechwriter to Sen. Jim DeMint. She was formerly a Bulwark political columnist.