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Where Are the GOP Heroes Now?
Why 2024 could be worse than 2020
“In whatever arena of life one may meet the challenge of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his conscience – the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men – each man must decide for himself the course he will follow." -- John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage.
You’ve probably already forgotten about Aaron Van Landevelde. You shouldn’t, though.
He was one of that small band of brothers and sisters who actually stopped the steal in 2020 and ended the Trump presidency. Tim Alberta told his story in Politico:
In the end, it wasn’t a senator or a judge or a general who stood up to the leader of the free world. There was no dramatic, made-for-Hollywood collision of cosmic egos. Rather, the death knell of Trump’s presidency was sounded by a baby-faced lawyer, looking over his glasses on a grainy Zoom feed on a gloomy Monday afternoon, reading from a statement that reflected a courage and moral clarity that has gone AWOL from his party, pleading with the tens of thousands of people watching online to understand that some lines can never be uncrossed.
Van Langevelde was a member of Michigan’s board of state canvassers, the ministerial body with the sole authority under state law to make Joe Biden’s victory over Trump official.
Republicans were heavily pressuring the young lawyer to block the certification of Biden’s victory. He refused.
“We must not attempt to exercise power we simply don’t have,” declared Van Langevelde. “As John Adams once said, ‘We are a government of laws, not men.’ This board needs to adhere to that principle here today. This board must do its part to uphold the rule of law and comply with our legal duty to certify this election.”
For Van Langevelde the decision was political suicide.
He works for Republicans in the Statehouse. He gives legal guidance to advance Republican causes and win Republican campaigns. As a Republican, his mandate for Monday’s hearing—handed down from the state party chair, the national party chair and the president himself—was straightforward. They wanted Michigan’s board of canvassers to delay certification of Biden’s victory.
Never mind that Trump lost by more than 154,000 votes, or that results were already certified in all 83 counties.
The plan was to drag things out, to further muddy the election waters and delegitimize the process, to force the courts to take unprecedented actions that would forever taint Michigan’s process of certifying elections.
Not because it was going to help Trump win but because it was going to help Trump cope with a loss. The president was not accepting defeat. That meant no Republican with career ambitions could accept it, either.
Which made Van Langevelde’s vote for certification all the more remarkable.
As a result of his stand, Van Langevelde was later removed from the board, even as the Michigan GOP quadrupled down on election denialism. On Monday, the NYT’s Nick Corasaniti documented the party’s extraordinary crazification and collapse.
Mr. Trump’s election lies spread like wildfire in Michigan, breaking the state party into ardent believers and pragmatists wanting to move on. Bitter disputes, power struggles and contentious primaries followed, leaving the Michigan Republican Party a husk of itself.
A flaming election denier was elected state chairwoman and the party is now broke.
But the story is the same in state after state. With the notable (and still remarkable) exception of Georgia, many of the heroes of 2020 have been purged, excommunicated, and sidelined.
You thought things were bad after 2020? It could be worse next year.
But the heroism of less prominent actors can hardly be gainsaid. As the Guardian acknowledged last year: “A few good Republicans stopped Trump – but his threat to democracy isn’t over.”
There was, of course, Georgia’s Brad Raffensperger, who refused to help Trump “find” an additional 11,780 votes.
In Arizona, Maricopa County officials like Stephen Richer and Bill Gates defied the deranged rantings of Trump and his Kari Lake-like harridans.
When Trump himself called the state’s Republican governor to get him to block the certification of the vote, Doug Ducey sent the call to voice mail.
Some of the Arizona Republicans paid a steep price for their resistance. The former GOP Speaker of the Arizona House, Rusty Bowers, described the pressure campaign:
Bowers told the Jan. 6 committee that Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuilani initiated an extreme pressure campaign immediately after the election, urging Bowers to use his powers as House speaker to substitute Biden electors with electors loyal to Trump to change the Electoral College count. During a phone call, Bowers said, he pressed the duo for their evidence of voter fraud, but they provided none. “We’ve got lots of theories, but we don’t have the evidence,” Giuliani ultimately admitted, according to Bowers’ testimony.
Bowers refused to play along, and he appeared to choke up when he explained to the committee why. “I will not play with laws I swore allegiance to,” he said. “How else will I ever approach [God] in the wilderness of life, knowing that I ask of this guidance only to show myself a coward in defending the course he led me to take?”
Trump targeted him for retribution, declaring at a rally: “Rusty Bowers is a RINO coward who participated against the Republican Party in the totally partisan unselect committee of political thugs and hacks the other day and disgraced himself, and he disgraced the state of Arizona.”
Last year, Bowers was soundly defeated in a GOP primary.
And, after an “onslaught of harassment and violent threats for certifying the results of the 2020 election,” Gates, a Maricopa County supervisor, announced that he would not be running for re-election. The Wapo noted:
He did not directly cite the prolonged attacks against him, his wife and three daughters as the basis for his decision to not pursue another four-year term to represent the county. The threats, doxing and online harassment that began during the pandemic and continue today have at times prompted him and his family to flee their home.
In May 2021, Gates sought professional help from a therapist and, soon after, learned he was experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, triggered by the strain of his public fight against falsehoods about the county’s election-related work.
Gates’s departure after serving two full terms on the board reflects the dominance of the election-denying movement in Arizona, led by Republican Kari Lake.
There were others.
Think about Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, both now out of office. Or the other Republican House members who voted to impeach Trump after the attempted Insurrection. Most of them are gone.
There were key White House aides who pushed back (and later testified); and top officials of Trump’s own DOJ who refused his efforts to install a sock-puppet as acting AG to facilitate his coup.
Former Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, former acting deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue and former Office of Legal Counsel head Steven Engel all testified before the committee about the pressure they faced to use their positions at the Justice Department to help then-President Trump overturn his election loss.
There were also conservative judges like J. Michael Luttig who declared that the vice president had no legal authority to overturn the election. And then, all of the judges — many of them GOP appointees — who rejected Trump’s attempts to get the courts to intervene.
Remember also that all of the living former Republican defense secretaries signed a remarkable op-ed article saying that the election was over and calling for a peaceful transfer of power:
Former Secretaries of Defense Ashton Carter, Dick Cheney, William Cohen, Robert Gates, Chuck Hagel, Leon Panetta, William Perry and Donald Rumsfeld signed the opinion piece.
Two Pentagon heads who served under Trump — Jim Mattis and Mark Esper — also signed it. Trump removed Esper in November as part of a major shakeup at the Department of Defense.
And there were the state legislative leaders who refused Trump’s demands that they throw out the popular votes.
In state after state, top GOP officials, as well, refused to knuckle under Trump’s pressure.
They resisted him despite knowing that doing so could well cost them their political careers, given that so much of Trump’s base had so easily fallen victim to his election lies and were likely to be angered by their refusal to go along with his illegal demands.
Where are they all now? And who will take their place?
Meanwhile, in Wisconsin: “Vos keeps door open to impeaching newly elected Justice Protasiewicz.”
[GOP] Assembly Speaker Robin Vos continues to leave the door open to launching impeachment proceedings against [newly elected Liberal] state Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz if she does not recuse herself from lawsuits challenging the state's electoral maps.
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2024 Will Be a Train Wreck
On Tuesday’s podcast, David French and I look ahead to next year’s looming clusterf*ck. From Trump’s court calendar to concerns about Biden’s age, we may be underestimating how bad next year could be. Plus, Mark Meadows’s dubious claims about Georgia; Vivek and The Show; lefty book bans; and the MAGA mob’s effort to blackmail us out of a constitutional republic.
1. Vivek Ramaswamy Is a Threat to Democracy
VIVEK RAMASWAMY IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT as the heir to Donald Trump. Like Trump, he disdains political experience, rejects institutional constraints, and floats authoritarian ideas. He has proposed raising the voting age for most people to 25. He has vowed to purge 75 percent of the federal workforce. He wants to eliminate numerous agencies—including the FBI, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission—and he has suggested that if Congress doesn’t comply, he’ll impose such sweeping changes by executive order and dare the courts to stop him.
Ramaswamy—who is already polling third and rising in the Republican field—has promised to pardon Trump on all of his 91 felony charges, even if everything alleged in the indictments of Trump is proved. But at the same time, he says President Joe Biden committed crimes, should be imprisoned for life, and should never get a pardon.
Now Ramaswamy has issued another, starker threat against American democracy. He has made it clear that as vice president, he would be willing to block congressional certification of his own defeat.
2. Larry Klayman’s Untold Triumph
Bill Lueders in today’s Bulwark: (NOT A PARODY)
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN HAS BEEN TRIED AND CONVICTED on multiple felony charges, along with his son Hunter and brother James. Sentencing was initially slated for August 29, but that has now been pushed back to September 7.
These three members of the “Biden Crime Family,” as it is known, were convicted on August 17 after a bench trial in a Citizens’ Court in Boise, Idaho, presided over by Citizens’ Judge Michael Pendleton, of charges returned by a Citizens’ Grand Jury nearly two years earlier. The prosecutor in the case was Larry Klayman, founder of the groups Judicial Watch and Freedom Watch. The defendants put on no defense, which Klayman took as an admission that their actions—crimes, really—were indefensible.
3. Why RFK Jr.’s Science Disinfo Keeps Outrunning the Truth
THE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is a reminder of the insidious imbalance of conspiracy theories: They are always easier to state than to disprove. RFK Jr. can make a claim in minutes that can take hours to dispute and explain. Give him three hours—say, the length of a Joe Rogan episode—and RFK Jr. can unspool so many falsehoods and semi-truths that untangling them fully would require a book-length response.
4. Sending Troops into Mexico Is Now Mainstream GOP Policy
During last week’s Republican primary debate, Ron DeSantis said that, if elected, he would send U.S. Special Forces into Mexico to fight against the drug cartels on “Day One” of his presidency. This might seem like a fringe idea—sending troops across the southern border to kill people in a country that is one of our largest trading partners—but lately it has grown into something like a mainstream Republican policy position.
Flashback from January 2021: