Opinion An ugly GOP election scam in Michigan unmasks a big right-wing lie


HR King
May 29, 2001
Of all the lies that Donald Trump loyalists have told this cycle, perhaps the most disgusting one is this: Their designs on our election system are motivated by nothing more than pure, angelic concerns about “election integrity.”

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This is brought to mind by a troubling story out of Michigan. CNN reports that GOP leaders in one county are explicitly urging poll workers and other volunteers to break election rules at polling places in the quest to identify Democratic vote fraud in action.

Here’s what’s really ugly about this saga: These Republicans aren’t just urging rule-breaking at the polls. They’re also justifying it by claiming in advance that Democrats are the real cheaters, per CNN, thus prefabricating a phony rationale for their own chicanery.

This self-justifying ruse — Democrats will inevitably cheat, so pretty much anything goes to set things right — is absolutely foundational to right-wing efforts to corrupt democracy across the board, including laying the groundwork to steal future elections.

The Michigan tale is a good example. As CNN reports, the night before the Michigan state primaries, Wayne County GOP leaders held a Zoom session with partisan observers and poll workers — who are supposed to be nonpartisan — suggesting they secretly bring in pens, pads and cellphones to record evidence of fraud.
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This was a practice run for the midterms, according to the Zoom session CNN reviewed. The training was led by local party leader Cheryl Costantino, who has a history of questioning the legitimacy of Trump’s 2020 loss, and election denier Patrick Colbeck, who has spread extensive disinformation about it.

When one poll worker objected that this would run afoul of polling place rules, Costantino advised doing it “secretly.”
But really, the specifics of these tactics matter less than the rationale created for it. As CNN reports:

During the Wayne County training call, obtained by CNN, the presumption that Democrats cheat — thus justifying Republican rule-breaking — permeated the discussion. It offers a snapshot of one of the ways Trump-backing, MAGA-minded conspiracy theorists are intervening in the election process across the country, sometimes encouraging poll workers or volunteer observers to violate election rules in hopes of finding evidence that Democrats might be doing the same.
Underscoring how this reverse-justification trick works, when CNN asked Costantino why she advised poll workers to do this, she replied that in 2020, “there were so many problems.”
The 2020 results were confirmed by dozens of court cases and numerous audits. But no matter: The myth of a fraud-riddled 2020 will forever continue justifying whatever means Republicans decide are necessary at any given point.
Republicans are just trying to restore the integrity of our elections, you see.

We’re seeing a concerted effort by operatives in thrall to Trump’s 2020 lies to insinuate this self-perpetuating ruse deep into our nonpartisan election machinery in other instances as well, almost like a virus.
For instance, Politico reported that the Republican National Committee recruited prominent Trumpist election deniers — including lawyer Cleta Mitchell — to train poll workers battleground states. This, too, is being done in the name of “election integrity.”

Meanwhile, GOP candidates have tortured the phrase “election integrity” to within an inch of its life. The loudest advocates for “election integrity,” such as gubernatorial candidates Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania and Kari Lake in Arizona, were also the loudest advocates for nullifying President Biden’s legitimate electoral victory — to preserve “election integrity.”

Candidates like those are functionally running on a vow to use their offices to nullify future legitimate Democratic presidential wins in their states. The quest for “election integrity” will justify its literal opposite.
That may seem crazy, but if Democrats always cheat, it suddenly becomes justifiable. And so, for those Republicans, advocating for “election integrity” really means: “My guiding dogma is that definitionally, elections can only have integrity when Republicans win them.”

You see a corollary of this in right-wing media. As Nick Catoggio writes at the Dispatch, the presumption of corrupt mainstream media bias runs so deep that it has morphed into an automatic justifier of deceit by right-wing media, no matter how debased. Writer Jennifer Berkshire has located a similar dynamic in right-wing assaults on public education.

Even worse, all this comes amid an attack on the very idea that a corps of dedicated, neutral election workers is something we should value as a function that serves the public.
Election workers are facing a level of harassment and threats that’s leading many to rethink their commitments to the job. This looks like a deliberate effort to drive such people away from this work precisely because they aim to carry it out neutrally, and even because that neutrality is a bedrock of democracy.

“They are there to perform a public function,” Wendy Weiser, the director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice, told me. She noted that “the system depends” on election workers’ commitment to being “neutral and nonpartisan.”

In that context, the dogma that Democrats inevitably cheat — and that this therefore justifies corrupting the nonpartisan operation of elections from the right — ultimately seems designed to undermine the very idea that elections are even capable of rendering procedurally legitimate outcomes at all.
If they aren’t, then anything goes, and it’s all just a power struggle all the way down. Which is exactly how some of these right-wing activists seem to want it.

May 27, 2010
It's just the time honored tradition of the GOP to just keep on lying and continue to do so until the truth gets crowded out of the discussion altogether. It seems to work for them and the uneducated and disinterested citizens just fall for it every damn time.