Democracy is at risk from repeated Republican lying about the 2020 election.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Democracy is at risk from repeated Republican lying about the 2020 election. You can stop this nonsense.

USA Today-Wisconsin Editorial Board – January 19, 2022

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, left, and former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, right.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, left, and former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, right.

This story was republished on Jan. 19, 2022 to make it free for all

Voting is the beating heart of democracy, the way we claim control of this government of the people. But in Wisconsin, an infection in the bloodstream of the body politic is threatening our ability to be self-governing.

Donald Trump’s repeated lies about the 2020 election over the past year have put our democracy at grave risk, but he has not done this alone. His enablers, from U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, have refused to stand up to a dangerous man.

If they won’t do their duty, then citizens must: Tell Johnson, Vos and the rest to stop undermining confidence in Wisconsin elections.

Here are the facts. Donald Trump lost the popular vote in Wisconsin by about 20,600 votes; he lost nationally by 7 million. Recounts in Milwaukee and Dane counties last year confirmed that he lost. Courts repeatedly threw out ludicrous challenges by Trump backers.

A legislative audit found nothing that would call the results into question.

A conservative group found no widespread fraud.

And an Associated Press review of every potential case of voter fraud in six battleground states that the former president complained about found fewer than 475 votes in dispute. Biden won Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin; the disputed ballots represent just 0.15% of his margin in those states.

In other words, there was no steal and nothing to investigate. Just lies.

But the Republican sycophants in Wisconsin insist on appeasing Trump.

After Trump hectored him last summer for not doing enough to investigate and spread the former president’s lies, Vos launched a partisan review with former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman at the helm. Gableman bungled it, choosing to talk to more conspiracy theorists than election experts. His work has been an embarrassment to the state, even to many Republicans.

In November, Johnson literally called for the takeover of federal elections by the partisans in the Wisconsin Legislature. In other words, his own party. Johnson said local officials should ignore the bipartisan Elections Commission that his own party set up six years ago.

The stench of racism permeates much of this, especially efforts by Republicans to clamp down on access to voting. People of color are likely to be most affected.

But the lying also corrodes trust in the most basic act of democracy.

A wide majority of Republicans — 68% nationwide according to a Marquette University Law School Poll in November — don’t have confidence in the 2020 election.

This growing lack of trust opens the door for more problems in 2024. If every election a politician loses is now somehow “rigged,” then the very idea of elections is suspect.

This breakdown in faith could lead to what Trump falsely claims happened to him: a stolen election.

Imagine if in 2024 a Democrat once again carries the popular vote in Wisconsin in a close presidential election, but the Republican-dominated Legislature chooses to certify an alternative slate of electors to cast the state’s 10 electoral votes. It could make the chaos following the 2020 vote look like child’s play.

Johnson would be happy to take the first step toward such a corruption: He would seize control of election oversight — taking that job away from a bipartisan commission. Similar efforts are ongoing in other battleground states.

Laura Thornton, director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, has seen it all before. The German Marshall Fund is a non-partisan policy organization that advocates for democracy and human rights around the world.

“I spent more than two decades living and working overseas to advance democracy and credible elections — giving me plenty of opportunity to see the lengths to which autocrats will go to gain power,” Thornton wrote of Wisconsin recently.

“Even so, the proposed Wisconsin power grab is shocking in its brazenness. If this occurred in any of the countries where the United States provides aid, it would immediately be called out as a threat to democracy.”

RELATED: Why international election observers would give Wisconsin a failing grade

We believe the state should do all it can to make it easier for everyone to vote. With that in mind, we supported drop boxes and other outreach, especially with a deadly pandemic raging. But there is also no doubt that the conduct of elections can be improved.

Installing cameras to monitor drop boxes strikes us as a reasonable idea. Beginning the counting of absentee ballots before election night so the final results can be learned earlier is another.

EDITORIAL: Wisconsin should allow clerks to start counting absentee ballots before Election Day

Unfortunately, instead of actually caring about improving elections, Johnson, Vos, and others in the Legislature have chosen to pander to Trump.

Citizens can still have the final say, but they must band together now to protest this nonsense. Now is the time — not next year, not the year after.

Now is the time to tell these so-called leaders to find their backbones and stand up to Trump.

To tell them to cut off Gableman’s $676,000 taxpayer-funded budget.

To tell them to work with Gov. Tony Evers on constructive changes that strengthens the electoral process for all Wisconsinites.

To tell them to let the Elections Commission do its work.

And, perhaps most important, to insist that they respect the results of elections.

When leaders are so willing to put at risk the most successful democratic experiment in human history, the beating heart of democracy is in danger.

But it’s not too late to defend it.

Editorials are a product of the USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin editorial board, which operates independently from the network’s news departments.

Author: John Hanno

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Bogan High School. Worked in Alaska after the earthquake. Joined U.S. Army at 17. Sergeant, B Battery, 3rd Battalion, 84th Artillery, 7th Army. Member of 12 different unions, including 4 different locals of the I.B.E.W. Worked for fortune 50, 100 and 200 companies as an industrial electrician, electrical/electronic technician.