Welcome back to the series, my hope is that you enjoyed your time away cultivating calm, unifying political discussions with the most contentious among your inner circle.
The more likely scenario? You’re like me, and you’ve been ignoring your extended family on Facebook or leaving the room when your dad issues dire warnings about how AOC is personally ruining America—did someone say socialism?!
We only have one more week until Election Day, and can’t we all agree that is the best thing you’ve heard in 2020? Yeah, me too. Your days of hearing about the election are almost over. It’s like the sweet red cherry on top of one hell of a year.
After all, other topics have been piling up. We have a picture of a black hole now? Prince Harry and Megan live in LA? People still watch The Bachelor? So many feelings.
But even after election day comes and goes, I hope we’ll work to avoid political polarization and, instead, suffocate the ever-fanned flames with some calm tones, listening ears, gentle nodding and close-mouthed smiles. You know the look.
Today’s topic: Why election integrity is not a partisan issue.
First, Republicans and Democrats know that if our elections aren’t viewed as free and fair, the whole system could fall apart.
Why? Because our elections are the cornerstone of our political system.
There is no party line on this. As citizens of a democracy, we choose who represents us, and they write our laws. We are empowered because we elect those who have power. Without the free and fair election, leaders wouldn’t be considered chosen, and law makers and enforcers lose authority. And in a power vacuum, someone will rise to the top, elected or not.
If we start crapping on the integrity of our elections, we are screwing ourselves but not in a hot way. That isn’t a rabbit hole any American should be willing to go down just to keep the person in power that they would prefer. Democrats and Republicans agree that to sow distrust in our electoral process is anti-American.
We have a president who is drawing party lines around an issue that should have no party lines. He is telling voters that, if he loses the election, it would be due to mass voter fraud. This opinion is polarizing politicians on both sides of the aisle, and if recognized as legitimate without actual evidence, sets an unsafe precedent for democracy.
If an incumbent could simply cry “fraud!” every time they lose an election, the system begins to break down. Elections would then move from the hands of the voters into the hands of the politician-appointed judiciary system.
Jeane Kirkpatrick, scholar and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, puts it this way, ”Democratic elections are not merely symbolic….They are competitive, periodic, inclusive, definitive elections in which the chief decision-makers in a government are selected by citizens who enjoy broad freedom to criticize government, to publish their criticism and to present alternatives.”
Yes, Mr. President, the criticism is part of it. Are you done angry tweeting Alec Baldwin and SNL because they’re making fun of your weird tan lines like they’ve made fun of every other president for decades? No? Cool, we’ll wait.
The second reason that election integrity is not a partisan issue is because both parties are aware that the case for voter fraud is built from minor incidents, gross exaggeration and outright fabrication.
If voter fraud was an imminent danger, leaders from both sides of the aisle would be creating commissions, starting investigations, and calling on law enforcement to prevent the obliteration of our democracy through mass voter fraud.
…But no one is. Odd, isn’t it? One guy with a really loud microphone is able to make a non-issue an issue.
Sure, political leaders are discussing other issues related to voting rights, but mass voter fraud that could result in fraudulent national election results? Yeah, no. No one is talking about that except for the president and a handful of weary-eyed ass-kissers.
After a thorough investigation based on thousands of pages of court records and interviews with lawyers, current and former government officials, and activists, the New York Times found that aggressively promoting the false claim of voter fraud was being used to gain a partisan advantage in the election. “The effort takes its most prominent form in the president’s own public statements, which relentlessly promote the false notion that voter fraud is rampant.”
The New York Times puts it this way:
The movement to convince the country that voter fraud is a present danger to democracy has itself become a present danger to democracy. It has melded fully into the president’s re-election campaign. The argument is now that the only way Trump can lose this election is through sweeping voter fraud that benefits his opponent; any outcome in which he doesn’t win, therefore, can be considered illegitimate. This, Trump says, is why he refuses to commit to a peaceful transfer of power: Only fraud can beat him, and fraud is everywhere.
But every example the President has used to cry fraud has been proven wrong. After Trump’s claim that there were over 5 million illegal votes cast in the 2016 election, an election integrity commission he formed along with multiple independent studies by academic researchers and news outlets found these claims to be—surprise, surprise—false.
In June, Trump tweeted “MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS…IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!”
After the tweet, people who still believe Trump when he talks were freaked out, so the FBI made a counter statement at an election security briefing in August: They’ve seen no evidence of any foreign plot to counterfeit or forge mail ballots.
I could keep going, but I want to finish writing before Christmas. If you’re interested in a full list of the false claims that Trump has made about voter fraud and the data that proves them false, you can find it here.
Predictably, voting by mail has come under scrutiny under this administration as well. “Despite (a) dramatic increase in mail voting over time, fraud rates remain infinitesimally small,” the Brennan Center for Justice said in a recent report. “None of the five states that hold their elections primarily by mail has had any voter fraud scandals since making that change.”
Even Trump’s allies are separating from him on the issue.
Tim Scott, the Republican Senator from South Carolina, told the Today Show that he was, “very confident that we will have fair elections throughout this country…I’ll tell you how I feel about it, and what I think most Americans believe, that this process of mail-in ballots will prove to work out just fine…and we’ll have a very strong, integrity-driven, character-driven election.”
Yes, a Republican Senator, because leaders on both sides of the aisle agree that voter fraud is not only not a partisan issue, it’s a non-issue.
You know what they say, when you can’t beat ‘em, think of every excuse possible to stay in power just in case you can’t hold on to it democratically…what? Is that not what they say?
The final reason that election integrity is not a partisan issue is that, when fraud does occur, it is criticized across the aisle.
One party isn’t pro-fraudulent election. It’s universally frowned upon, like handlebar mustaches or blowing your nose at the dinner table.
One party might favor stricter voting regulations than the other, but protecting the integrity of the election is a bipartisan effort. Republicans and Democrats are both quick to criticize cases of fraud and to praise the safeguards we have in place.
Questioning the results of an election in a democracy where we do everything possible to make them free and fair is divisive and harmful. Winners and losers both have their place because politicians on both sides of the aisle understand the need for what’s called loyal opposition.
Loyal opposition is one of those unifying terms that is so warm and fuzzy I want to crawl into bed with it. It’s literally in the words: we are committed to each other regardless of our differences. How sweet and precious and energizing is that?
In our system of government, we need more than one party, more than one point of view. Our elections protect all of us, and when the winners are declared, the losers still play a key role.
Committed to the same basic values, opposing parties acknowledge that each side has a legitimate viewpoint and a role to play in the bettering of society. Debate is civil and productive, and more equitable laws are created.
In a system where loyal opposition is valued, when the election is over “…the losers accept the judgment of the voters. If the incumbent party loses, it turns over power peacefully. No matter who wins, both sides agree to cooperate in solving the common problems of the society. The losers, now in the political opposition, know that they will not lose their lives or go to jail. On the contrary, the opposition, whether it consists of one party or many, can continue to participate in public life with the knowledge that its role is essential in any democracy worthy of the name. They are loyal not to the specific policies of the government, but to the fundamental legitimacy of the state and to the democratic process itself.”
There you have it. We need each other, and we need to continue civil debate to become the best version of ourselves. Our duty is to be loyal to the values of our democracy, including the free and fair election. Election integrity is not a partisan issue.
The healing work of ending political polarization doesn’t stop when the winner is called. We can crawl out of this fiery, intolerable political pit our predecessors left for us together, arm in arm, Liberal and Conservative and everything in between.