A newly declassified report from the director of national intelligence confirms that the Trump White House, the Republican Party and their propaganda organs colluded with, or at least worked on parallel lines with, a Russian campaign to defeat now-President Biden. The report notes that Moscow “sought to amplify mistrust in the electoral process by denigrating mail-in ballots, highlighting alleged irregularities, and accusing the Democratic Party of voter fraud.” Russian agents also “spread unsubstantiated or misleading claims about President Biden and his family’s alleged wrongdoing related to Ukraine.”
Sound familiar? It should, because those are precisely the same narratives that were being pushed by Trump and his supporters at places such as Fox News and One America News. That’s no coincidence. The report notes that Russian intelligence sought to “launder” its propaganda “through US media organizations, US officials, and prominent US individuals, some of whom were close to former President Trump and his administration.” The report cites Ukrainian politician Andriy Derkach as one of the “Russian proxies” active in this disinformation campaign; he provided information to, among others, Trump’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani.
This was the second election in a row where Trump and his supporters were serenely untroubled by the help he received from a hostile authoritarian regime. The Russian effort to influence our election didn’t succeed this time, but even after Trump lost, he kept pushing the Big Lie that he had actually won and continued to demand that either the courts or Republican lawmakers overturn the results. On Tuesday night, Trump was still at it, lamenting on Fox News that “our Supreme Court and our courts didn’t have the courage to overturn elections.”
This is the kind of blatantly anti-democratic rhetoric that incited the insurrection on Jan. 6. Yet even after a Trump mob stormed the Capitol, 147 Republicans in both houses voted to toss out electoral votes. In other words, nearly 60 percent of Republicans were willing to subvert democracy to win power. By contrast, only 17 Republicans — a mere 6.5 percent of the total — voted to impeach Trump for inciting an insurrection.
Republicans realize that Trump remains unpopular with the country as a whole. (His approval rating among registered voters is only 37 percent.) But instead of renouncing Trump, they are renouncing democracy. “In 43 states across the country,” The Post notes, “Republican lawmakers have proposed at least 250 laws that would limit mail, early in-person and Election Day voting with such constraints as stricter ID requirements, limited hours or narrower eligibility to vote absentee.”
The ostensible justification for this legislation is to combat voter fraud. Except there isn’t any. Republicans looked really, really hard and could not find any widespread voter fraud. The real GOP plan is, of course, to disenfranchise Democrats, and especially minority voters in big cities. This is the most blatant assault on voting rights since the 1960s — and if it succeeds it will greatly increase the chances that Republicans will win back the House and Senate in 2022.
The Democratic-controlled House recently passed a bill, H.R. 1, to strengthen voting rights without a single GOP vote. Republicans are hysterical in their opposition. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said, “This is a bill as if written in hell by the devil himself.” What are its hellish provisions? Proposals such as automatically registering citizens to vote, allowing same-day voter registration, expanding voting by mail and early voting, making it harder for states to purge registered voters from the rolls, and banning partisan gerrymandering. These are all provisions that would strengthen our democracy. But the GOP is increasingly invested in authoritarianism as the best route to power.
The only way this bill, or any version thereof, can pass the Senate is if the Democrats eliminate or amend the filibuster rule that demands 60 votes to pass most legislation. Unfortunately, there aren’t 10 Republicans in the Senate who can be counted upon to support voting rights. It is hard to imagine a more damning indictment of the party once led by freedom fighters such as Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.