Why Team Trump’s bad-faith contradictions on elections matter

Votes are still being tallied in Arizona, but the state’s Republican attorney general, Mark Brnovich, told Fox Business yesterday that he expects Joe Biden to maintain his lead and prevail. Brnovich acknowledged the assorted conspiracy theories many in his party have peddled, but he added that there simply aren’t any “facts” to substantiate the claims.

Of particular interest, though, was the state AG’s explanation proving there was no “great conspiracy”: on many of the pro-Biden ballots, Republicans won other races:

“What really happened, it came down to people who split their ticket. People vote for Republicans down ballot, but they didn’t vote for President Trump, Martha McSally. And so, that’s the reality. Just because that happened, it doesn’t mean it’s fraud.”

It’s an easy point to overlook, but it helps expose the larger scam. As the New York Times‘ Tom Edsall explained yesterday, at issue is an election “in which Republican victories up and down the ballot are accepted unquestioningly, while votes for president-elect Biden on the same ballots are not.”

Alas, contradictions like these have become the norm over the last several days. Yesterday, for example, several news organizations declared victories for Republicans, including Donald Trump, in states such as Alaska and North Carolina. Prominent members of Team Trump celebrated the news.

Except, by their own reasoning, they shouldn’t have. After many of these same news organizations declared Joe Biden the winner of the presidential election, the outgoing president and his GOP allies insisted, “The media doesn’t decide elections, so these declarations should be ignored until there are final, certified vote counts.”

The underlying principle, to use the word loosely, seems to be that Team Trump embraces election calls when they tell Republicans what they want to hear, and rejects them when Democrats receive more votes.

It’s eerily similar to the standard touted by Kayleigh McEnany last week, supporting and opposing vote “drops,” depending on whether they might help or hurt the incumbent president.

Meanwhile, NBC News reported yesterday, “After years of preaching that world leaders must swiftly abide the verdicts of voters, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has settled on the opposite message at home. Pompeo has called for a peaceful transition of power and free and fair elections in countless foreign countries, including just this week in Myanmar. Yet the secretary is now also suggesting President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the U.S. election could be reversed through legal action to award President Donald Trump another four years.”

Taking stock of the broader developments, Vox’s Ezra Klein added, in reference to Trump and his allies, “It’s almost like they don’t believe any of their literal arguments at all.”

Quite right. But let’s not brush past the fact that Republicans seem wholly indifferent to the exposure of their bad-faith scheme. There’s no longer a question about whether members of Team Trump are being consistent, principled, or honest. They plainly are not.

But Republicans simply do not care about getting caught. They feel no shame. There is no embarrassment. On the contrary, there’s only a cynical assumption that part of the population will be fooled into believing nonsense.

The lasting damage to our democracy and civic life is a price these Republicans are willing to pay if it means making Trump feel better about his electoral rebuke and possibly undermining the new democratically elected administration before it even begins.

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