The Greatest Threat to Our Democracy

The votes of the people are not fraud

By Thomas Coffin

We had an election on Nov. 3. The incumbent president lost the popular vote by a margin of just over 7 million votes. His opponent, now President-elect Joe Biden, also prevailed in the Electoral College by receiving 306 votes to Donald Trump’s 232 votes.

Months before the election took place, Trump began setting the table for nullifying the results if he failed in his bid for re-election. In a bizarre soliloquy, he said the only way he could lose was if the election was rigged or fraudulent.

There was a record turnout for the election — more than 159 million votes were cast. Biden received 81,233,098 of the votes; Trump, 74,222,958.

Immediately, the foretold nullification strategy was unleashed. Trump cried fraud and refused to concede, and some 60 lawsuits were filed in courts throughout the country to have the results declared invalid and Trump the winner.

But the courts are not the props of political theater. In courts of law, there are serious penalties for lying or fabricating evidence. One by one the lawsuits vanished like the morning fog when the light of day was directed at them. There was no proof to substantiate the false claims. When votes were recounted, they were confirmed as accurate. The lawyers retreated, and some took their act to talk shows.

The false claims of “fraud” were in actuality semantical distortions of the true basis for Trump’s anguish — the African American voting bloc, which voted in large numbers against his racist agenda. It is no accident that the lawsuits were uniformly directed against the votes of large cities which have majorities consisting of African American citizens. 

White supremacists have never accepted the legitimacy of African American votes and have labored to suppress their votes ever since the passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution in 1865. Indeed, Rush Limbaugh, shortly after Trump’s defeat in the election, bemoaned the fact that Trump’s party could never win the vote in the country’s largest cities and suggested the nation’s rural states consider secession as the solution. 

However, in the court of public opinion, unlike courts of law, lying is a skill set that is often rewarded, especially if the lies are repeated adamantly and often. There are no rules; allegations suffice for evidence; falsehood is as good a currency as truth.

Additional tools in the public opinion forum that would draw prison sentences in a judicial setting are threats, intimidation, extortion and the traditional techniques of the underworld. Thus we have the specter of the lingering incumbent calling the secretary of state of Georgia to order up precisely 11,800 votes (the number needed to carry the state) via the cover story of “there’s nothing wrong with you saying you recalculated.” As an added inducement, Trump added that failing to do so could expose the secretary and even his lawyer to some sort of criminal charges.

It is impossible to imagine what more is needed for objective and impartial people to see this for what it is — an existential threat to the democratic principles that are the core of the birthplace of modern democracy, our nation which has been the beacon of liberty and freedom for over two centuries.

But if more is needed, it was provided on Jan. 6 when Trump, with two weeks left on the clock of his administration, summoned thousands of his supporters to Washington D.C. and incited them to attack the Capitol, the hallowed seat of our government, while Congress was in session to perform the ceremonial function of verifying the Electoral College votes making Biden and Kamala Harris our next president and vice-president.

So, emboldened and ginned up by the words of the president himself, the thousands became an armed mob, overwhelmed what little security existed, breached the Capitol, imperiled the safety of the nation’s lawmakers and their staff, destroyed and stole property, murdered a police officer and scattered Congress into fleeing for their very lives.

These events represent the greatest threat to our democracy the nation has ever endured. That their genesis was from within renders it all the more dangerous. 

The cumulative voice of “We the People” in our 2020 election was not “fraud.” It was democracy in action, freedom in choosing our leader, and liberty at work. It was all the ideals that are forbidden, labeled illegitimate, and despised by tyrants. The people have spoken. Their voice is not fraud. Their decision must be respected. The people will not submit to tyranny. Not now, not ever.

Thomas Coffin is a retired United States magistrate judge. He served 24 years in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon, from 1992 to 2016.

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