Opinion Hapless Trumpist Mo Brooks gives away the GOP ‘vote fraud’ scam

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By Greg Sargent
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June 1, 2022 at 11:29 a.m. EDT
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.). (Vasha Hunt/AP)
You might have noticed that many of the same Republicans who insisted that “voter fraud” cast doubt on Donald Trump’s 2020 loss mysteriously don’t see fraud at play in elections that they win. This is routinely described as “hypocrisy.”
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But the “hypocrisy” charge doesn’t do this justice. Because embedded in this tactic is something more than mere political double talk. It embodies an actual principle of sorts: that when Republicans lose elections, the voting can be presumed illegitimate or suspect, and when Republicans win them, the voting can be presumed legitimate and above suspicion entirely.
Usefully enough, Rep. Mo Brooks has now stepped forward to confirm this. And the Alabama Republican’s corroboration is noteworthy in light of emerging details about a complex new GOP plan to make this principle actionable in future elections.
Brooks’s latest comes in a New York Times piece that reports on the selective approach that Republicans take with charges of voter fraud. As the Times notes, this exposes a “fundamental contradiction,” in which those charges are used to challenge GOP losses but not GOP wins.
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Brooks deserves particular scrutiny on this point. He was central to Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, widely claiming election fraud. Yet when he made the runoff in the GOP Senate primary in Alabama last week, he didn’t discern any such problems.
When the Times questioned Brooks about this, he essentially gave away the game:
Mr. Brooks offered a simple answer to why he’s not worried about his race: There’s no fraud in Republican primaries, he said.
“I’m in a Republican primary, and noncitizens don’t normally vote in Republican primaries,” Mr. Brooks said. “In a Republican primary or a Democrat primary, the motivation to steal elections is less because the candidates’ philosophy-of-government differences are minor.”
Pressed further by the Times, Brooks blithely suggested that in Alabama, the fraud took place “in predominantly Democrat parts of the state.”
You see, in primaries decided by Republican voters in red areas, the voting is pure and unsullied. By contrast, in general elections that Democrats are trying to steal from Republicans, the voting in blue areas is marred by widespread fraud.
That form of fraud alleged by Brooks happens to be virtually nonexistent. But the point is that the mere assertion that something illicit happened is the coin of the realm here. It’s meant to give some kind of patina of a public rationale for naked efforts to subvert election losses.
After all, Brooks admits he “led the charge” for Trump in objecting to Joe Biden’s electors on Jan. 6, 2021. That same day, Brooks showed up in body armor, roaring to the mob: “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.”
It didn’t matter that numerous state audits and dozens of court battles had upheld the legitimacy of Trump’s loss. The “fight for America,” as Brooks puts it, is premised on the idea that Republican election losses are intolerable by definition, even if they’re procedurally legitimate.
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Republicans don’t typically admit to how this works as openly as Brooks did here. But little by little, it’s becoming a trend: As I’ve documented, at least four other GOP Senate candidates this cycle have gone out of their way to suggest that voter fraud is a problem primarily concentrated in urban centers.
Intimations that fraud is concentrated in cities go back at least to Richard Nixon, as the Times notes. But Trump arguably made this more explicit than his GOP predecessors. In his 2016 campaign, he explicitly and regularly called out voting in particular urban centers by name.
What makes all this so problematic is that some Republicans are trying to take that core principle — that much of the voting in Democratic areas should be presumed illegitimate — and make it actionable in future elections.
Case in point: Politico has obtained video of Republican Party operatives instructing activists to become paid election operatives in Democratic precincts and giving them tools to collaborate with party lawyers to contest the validity of votes.
Poll-watching is a bipartisan tradition. But what makes this GOP effort different is that many of those signing up appear motivated by a “belief” that the 2020 voting was fraudulent.
In other words, they are signing up to prevent that “wrong” from occurring again. They appear to be gearing up to contest untold numbers of votes even if they’re not fraudulent.
As elections experts tell Politico, this effort could easily be hijacked for the instrumental purpose of creating mere confusion and uncertainty about the outcome. This could give cover to a state legislature or governor to certify presidential electors for the candidate who lost the state’s popular vote.
Will this scheme actually be attempted?
Well, the Republican governor and secretary of state who rebuffed Trump’s pressure to steal the election in Georgia won their primaries. That’s good news.
Yet bad news is everywhere. The GOP nominee for Pennsylvania governor is essentially vowing to use his power to prevent a Democrat from winning a presidential election as long as he is in office. And the idea that elections should be subject to overturning at the state level is becoming increasingly entrenched among GOP state legislators across the country.
For now, ask yourself this: How great a leap is it from claiming that voting in urban and Democratic areas is presumptively suspect to executing such a scheme?