Alas, regardless of their doom,
The little victims play!
No sense have they of ills to come,
Nor care beyond today.
– William Whitehead, On a Distant Prospect of Eton College (1742)
From time to time it is good to be reminded that the consequences of trump’s verbal attack on the election could have been even worse than it was. As it is, his most notable verbal legacy is his repeated use of the words “voter fraud” to describe the reason he lost the 2020 election. After he lost the election, the trump did all he could do to preserve the country’s cherished political system. Not only did he endlessly (and selflessly) shout “voter fraud,” but he went to extraordinary lengths to prove its existence so that the country could be spared the prospect of living under a president who had not been duly elected by its citizens, but had, instead, been elected and installed as the result of an election marred by voter fraud.
The trump’s efforts to demonstrate voter fraud were first shown in the state of Georgia. Believing that massive voter fraud had occurred in that state, the trump had repeated phone calls with its election officials in which he urged them to acknowledge what he already knew-the election in that state had been stolen from him by extensive voter fraud. At one point in an hour-long conversation with the Georgia Secretary of State he made a very modest request. He did not request that the entire election be overturned. Since he lost the state by 11,779 votes, he simply asked the Secretary of State to find 11,780 votes, enough to make him the winner. The Secretary of State declined to go on a stolen vote search and, accordingly, the results in Georgia remained as recorded by its officialdom, and to his dismay and annoyance, the trump remained the loser in that election.
Thanks to the trump’s unsuccessful importuning of the Georgia Secretary of State, Republicans in the state legislature acted quickly to enact legislation to insure that in the future, voting by minorities would be more difficult, thus, apparently, eliminating the possibility of voter fraud. (One of the newly enacted provisions in the Georgia law prohibits offering food or drink to those standing in line to vote. Governor Bryan Kemp quite properly pointed out that is not as harsh as it seems. He explained that people standing in line can get food or drink by ordering from Grubhub or Uber.)
Georgia was, of course, not the trump’s only voter fraud discovery. He also found voter fraud in, among other places, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, to name just a few. In the lawsuit in Michigan to overturn the results of the election there, Rudy Giuliani, one of the trump’s many distinguished lawyers, told the federal court hearing the case, that he had viewed hundreds of affidavits that proved voter fraud, but he couldn’t disclose them since the accusers wanted to remain anonymous. The federal judge who threw out the lawsuit described the Giuliani allegations of voter fraud as “generalized speculation.”
More than 40 lawsuits were filed around the country in Republican attempts to prove that the trump assertions of widespread voter fraud were true. None of them was successful. That does not mean that the trump cries of voter fraud went unheeded by Republicans. Republican legislators responded in force. Republican dominated legislatures throughout the country have introduced legislation intended to make voting more difficult and, they believe, protected from voter fraud.
The American website, FiveThirtyEight, has examined states where legislative efforts to restrict voting have occurred. In its examination. it reports that The Brennan Center for Justice has compiled a list of bills that have been introduced around the country that are designed to curb voting rights. The Brennan center reports that 253 bills that would restrict voting rights have been introduced in 43 state legislatures as of February 19, 2021. FiveThirtyEight reports that it has found another 53 bills introduced since then making a total of 306 bills that have been introduced to restrict voting rights. According to FivethirtyEight’s report, the bill tracking service, LegiScan, found that 89% of the bills that had been introduced “were sponsored entirely or primarily by Republicans.
Obviously all of this legislation was a Republican response to the trump’s unending cry of “voter fraud” that, he asserted, cost him the election. But his cries were fervently believed by his ardent followers and motivated them to respond by taking all steps in their power to protect their citizens from the dreaded “voter fraud.”
Appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, the purpose of this column is not to lament the politicization of the voting process because of the trump’s rants, nor to bring the return of vestiges of the Jim Crow days to the readers’ attention since that has been adequately done by others. It is to remind us how much worse consequences of a trump proclamation would have been, had Republican legislators in their different states been responding to a different trump description of a peril facing the country. I challenge my readers to imagine, what enormous and unbelievably expensive construction projects Republican legislators around the country would already have funded had they been responding not to trump’s endlessly repeated cry of “voter fraud” but instead an endlessly repeated cry from trump that “THE SKY IS FALLING.’