Last act in Trump’s election farce

Wisconsin election rally Spindell
Wisconsin Elections Commissioner Robert Spindell speaks at a Dec. 8 Stop the Steal rally. (Henry Redman | Wisconsin Examiner)

On Monday the Electoral College will vote and we will finally be done with Trump’s ridiculous post-election farce. 

Wisconsin is the only state in the union that missed the “safe harbor” deadline for choosing electors — because the Trump campaign was not finished appealing the results of a partial recount that actually increased the margin of Joe Biden’s victory. That doesn’t mean Wisconsin’s 10 Biden electors can’t cast their votes. But if they were prevented from voting because, by some slim chance, Trump prevailed in court, it wouldn’t make a difference anyway. Biden won by 74 electoral votes. Wisconsin’s 10 votes won’t change the outcome.

In other words, Wisconsin Republicans are embarrassing themselves for no reason. 

Friday’s Assembly hearing on election fraud is a sham, as every Democratic member of that committee has pointed out, objecting to what they predicted would be a “forum for debunked conspiracies.” Sure enough, committee chair Rep. Ron Tusler (R-Harrison) refused to admit on the eve of the hearing that Biden won the election and the committee released a list of people who will testify today who comprise a rogue’s gallery of rightwing hacks, including ethically challenged former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman and rightwing talk radio host Dan O’Donnell, along with two Republican elections commissioners and none of the bipartisan group’s Democratic commissioners.

O’Donnnell wrote in a recent opinion piece for the rightwing MacIver Institute that “Trump campaign attorney Jim Troupis has filed a substantive, persuasive, and overwhelmingly statutorily supported petition to the Wisconsin Supreme Court that is impossible to disregard or dismiss as mere conspiracy-mongering.” He was talking about the petition the Supreme Court rejected, which sought to disqualify more than 221,000 ballots after Trump lost the recount in Madison and Milwaukee. It was based on the idea that the same rules that have been in effect for multiple elections should not have been in effect in November, and that voters who followed those rules should have their votes thrown out — but only in two Democratic-majority cities. If he won, Troupis would have thrown out his own vote. 

That case has now been sent down to lower court and will be taken up Friday by Judge Stephen Simanek.

Update: on Friday morning, Judge Simanek ruled against the Trump campaign “Because the court has determined that there has been no reliance on an erroneous interpretation of Wisconsin’s early voting absentee laws.”

“There is no credible evidence of any misconduct or wide scale fraud,” the judge pointed out. “At issue here simply is whether or not the recount occurred in compliance with the Wisconsin election laws.” In every instance raised by the Trump campaign, including early voting, absentee voting by people who were indefinitely confined, instances where clerks filled in missing address information for witnesses, and Madison’s “democracy in the park” socially-distanced voting events, the judge found that they did. Most of the practices Trump was complaining about, he noted, were longstanding rules that had been in effect in previous elections. All of them conformed to the law.

Undeterred, the indefatigable Trump team is sprinting back to the Wisconsin Supreme Court with an appeal. The court announced on Friday afternoon that it will hear oral arguments at noon on Saturday.

In a separate case, in federal court, Trump is seeking to disenfranchise all 3.3 million Wisconsin voters on the theory that the whole election was so riddled with fraud that none of the votes should count, and, instead, the Republican-controlled Legislature should appoint Wisconsin’s electors. On Thursday, the Trump-appointed federal judge in that case, Brett Ludwig, noted dryly that siding with Trump would be “the most remarkable ruling in the history of this court or the federal judiciary.”  

Don’t hold your breath for a Trump victory.

But even as Trump’s status as a loser is confirmed in court after court (So far, according to the Associated Press, he has lost more than 35 of 50 lawsuits around the country), his GOP enablers continue to hang on.

The damage they are doing is grotesque. 

Wisconsin Elections Commission chair Ann Jacobs reported that she and her family have received threats — with pictures of her house posted online and messages targeting her children — after she performed her statutory duty and approved state-level canvass of election results which showed that Biden won. Republican commissioner Bob Spindell offered this weak reply: “Well, I certainly do not condone threats. I do not condone violence. However, I think people are probably upset at Ann Jacobs and the staff for preparing the certificates for election.” 

That is beyond irresponsible. It is downright dangerous. Spindell should be kicked off the Elections Commission.

Instead, he will be testifying in Friday’s sham hearing, after showing up for a pro-Trump rally on the Capitol steps this week to question the results of the election. While he did not give any specific examples of voter fraud in Wisconsin, as Henry Redman reported in the Examiner, Spindell implied, falsely, that it had happened, saying: “There’s no evidence vote fraud did not occur.” 

That’s nonsense, after a clean, transparent election that was closely scrutinized, quadruple-checked and, in Madison and Milwaukee, recounted. Spindell knows it, too. He oversaw elections using the same rules he is now questioning, which were created under former Republican Gov. Scott Walker and were fine with the Republicans when Trump won in 2016. 

Trump’s Republican enablers are not really interested in evidence. They just want to keep stirring the pot, cynically manipulating the fantasies of Trump’s base — which is playing with fire — and, while they’re at it, aiming to impose some new restrictions on voting so they can suppress turnout, which might help them win more elections. It’s a short-term strategy, and a very damaging one. It’s very important that people see through it.

Ruth Conniff
Ruth Conniff is Editor-in-chief of the Wisconsin Examiner. She formerly served as Editor-in-chief of The Progressive Magazine where she worked for many years from both Madison and Washington, DC. Shortly after Donald Trump took office she moved with her family to Oaxaca, Mexico, and covered U.S./Mexico relations, the migrant caravan, and Mexico’s efforts to grapple with Trump. Conniff is a frequent guest on MSNBC and has appeared on Good Morning America, Democracy Now!, Wisconsin Public Radio, CNN, Fox News and many other radio and television outlets. She has also written for The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times, among other publications. She graduated from Yale University in 1990, where she ran track and edited the campus magazine The New Journal. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband and three daughters.