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Wisconsin Republicans Must Fight For (d)emocratic Institutions

January 24, 2021

The headlines over the weekend in Wisconsin were focused on football. As such, many residents likely did not read, or hear about the news story which appeared above the fold in the Wisconsin State Journal. When reporters followed up on the claim made by some elected Republicans that there were “thousands of complaints” of election fraud in our state something else was discovered.

The majority of them, however, were mass-generated form letters making nonspecific claims about alleged irregularities, a right-wing fraud-finding effort and a clip from Fox’s Sean Hannity show. Others implored Republican lawmakers to overturn an election they were convinced was rigged, even though local, state and national officials have confirmed its integrity.

Electoral fiction, and dangerously so, was fomented and stirred to alarming degrees in our state, and country. This threat was one the Founding Fathers had concerns about as they had read Aristotle and were aware of the danger a demagogue could pose to a nation. What our founders could not have foreseen, however, was the degree to which a legislative branch would slip in furthering that demagogue’s lie.

It was truly sad that some members of the majority party in the statehouse were talking about the numbers of their constituents who were demanding to have an investigation into voter fraud, and also thinking they needed to call for accountability and integrity to be returned to counting ballots. The fact is those constituents would not have been demanding anything had Donald Trump and the party faithful not spun the big lie that the election was stolen. That logical reasoning, however, never garners an adequate response from the pot stirrers.

For instance, I have wondered how the election for the top office was supposedly so fraudulently gained in our state but the wins by the Republican members of the state legislature were so properly balloted and counted? The total disregard for common sense by some in the legislature, and more importantly the lack of their civic-mindedness, has left our political institutions undermined.

I know it sounds overly naive to ask the mature and well-meaning members of the Republican Party to assert themselves and speak for statewide and national purposes. But we all have to make that our call, and trust party elders will respond. There can be no squishy words or rhetoric that resembles swiss-cheese. There must be forthright statements from grounded party members that the election was not stolen, and nefarious efforts were not used in securing the election of President Biden. There must be strong words about the durability and fairness of our election systems.

Though the transition to a new White House administration is over, the threats to democracy from the lies about the election outcome remain powerfully strong. It is the duty of the party that created the damage to aid in repairing our institutional foundations. That is not a partisan jab, as I know right here in Madison there are conservatives who would disagree with me on policy galore, but who agree that the larger national need to our nation is paramount.

Pushing the groundless allegations, and regurgitating them day upon day in the echo chamber of talk radio and Fox News has created a mass audience that believes it is time to already create primaries for the GOP congressional elections, which are nearly two years away. With ample evidence that demonstrates the harm that has been created following Election Day 2020, is it not time for the Republican leaders in our state to stand up and call for a commitment to facts about what happened? If we can not have truth stated loudly and without any hesitation about the recent election what does that say about our democratic institutions going forward?

This is the time for leadership.

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