Confidence in our elections is paramount to our system of self-government. Those we elect have an obligation to work together to build security and transparency in those elections.
Today, both parties are largely failing that test.
After the 2020 election, President Trump’s falsehoods about a “stolen election” set the stage for him to agitate a crowd that gathered on Jan. 6 to “fight like hell” or “you’re not going to have a country anymore.” At least several hundred demonstrators took those words seriously and broke into the U.S. Capitol intent on disrupting certification of electoral votes.
Remarkably, after justly criticizing Trump’s rhetoric, Democrats are now copying his playbook. They claim future elections won’t be legitimate unless Democrats pass radical legislation to usurp state control of elections and concentrate still more power in Washington — epicenter of dysfunctional government.
As their public support collapses, President Joe Biden, Sen. Chuck Schumer and other Democrats proclaim that if Republicans win in 2022, “it could be the last election.”
Such outrageous hysteria is incendiary, no matter who spreads it. If Democrats spend the next nine months telling their base that Republican gains in 2022 are illegitimate and “democracy will die,” they will be just as responsible for whatever follows as Trump was for Jan. 6.
The media, too, bears responsibility for its unbalanced treatment of election conspiracies. Talking heads perpetuated the Russia hoax to cast doubt on Trump’s win in 2016 — only to be proven suckers when Robert Mueller’s investigation found no compelling evidence of collusion.
Those same outlets responded with outrage at Trump’s “big lie” but now harmonize with Biden’s hysterics that voting rights are imperiled unless Congress passes Democrats’ federal takeover.
Now, a president with dismal public approval wants his party to change Senate rules to pass a voting bill designed to keep his party in power. If that party were Republicans and the president was Donald Trump, the media would howl about “authoritarianism.” But suddenly the usual suspects at the New York Times, Washington Post and major networks favor demolishing standards that they’ve long defended.
Let’s be honest about the state of voting in America. It has never been easier than it is today. The 2020 election saw the highest turnout in history. Rolling back some COVID “accommodations” would take voting way back to 2018 — a banner year for Democrats.
The new Georgia voting law actually expands early voting to 17 days including weekends and allows anyone to vote by absentee ballot. Contrary to Biden’s balderdash about voter suppression, Georgia law is more generous than either his own Delaware or Schumer’s New York.
Georgia polling places are run by local officials. If lines are exceedingly long in heavily-Democrat counties, Democrat officials have the same remedies as Republican officials in other counties. Those voters who choose to vote on election day and end up standing in line can bring their own water or polling places can provide it. Democrats’ insinuations that their own voters are incapable of remembering water or photo ID or even that an election is occurring should be insulting.
After the 2000 presidential election remained in doubt more than a month while Florida’s vote was recounted and litigated, Republicans and Democrats came together to pass bipartisan legislation to resolve problems from that election. Then as now, Congress was closely divided. Democrats controlled the Senate, 51-49; Republicans held a 223-210 majority in the House. Still, the Help America Vote Act passed overwhelmingly in both the House (357-48) and Senate (92-2).
Fair elections require both parties agree to a set of rules and then ensure transparency so citizens know they can trust the outcome. With any major legislation, give-and-take is essential. Nobody gets everything they want, but everybody gets something they need.
In this hyper-partisan era many in both parties prefer demagoguery to governing. It may be fitting if their irresponsible behavior results in their own demise. However, it will be tragic if they undermine the checks and balances that have sustained our republic for nearly 250 years.
Mark Hillman served as Senate majority leader and state treasurer. To read more or comment, go to www.MarkHillman.com.