by Paul Gottfried
I have just listened, courtesy of Fox News, to Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson explaining “the threat to democracy” posed by “election deniers.” Benson and her host paid special attention to the MAGA crowd who still question the results of the 2020 presidential election. Fox anchors Eric Shawn and Bret Bair have often expressed annoyance that obtuse and malicious Americans are still contesting an election that, we are assured, has been thoroughly investigated and which shows no evidence of troubling irregularities.
Although Benson is a very liberal Democrat and a confidant of Gretchen Whitmer, even she may be puzzled by the revulsion with which Shawn goes after Republican election deniers. Roger Kimball’s contention that such négationnistes are being deliberately compared to Holocaust deniers, an association that has also been attached to “vax deniers,” has become self-evident. For proof, one only has to look at how contemptuously Shawn and Bair deal with those who dispute the supposedly exemplary, hygienically pure presidential election that took place two years ago.
Unfortunately, these displays of contempt, together with the indulgent treatment accorded Benson, have not been conducive to airing certain questions—queries that would enrich this discussion. For example, why is Republican skepticism about the 2020 election more of a “threat to our democracy” than the repeated denials of unwelcome election results from leading Democrats? Did Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, or Kamala Harris threaten American democracy by contesting Donald Trump’s electoral victory in 2016? What about Democratic challenges to Republican victories in 2000 and 2004? Are Stacey Abrams and her defenders in the Democratic Party trampling on democracy by continuing to deny that she lost to Brian Kemp in the Georgia gubernatorial race in 2018?
Why are these denials less menacing than when Republicans continue to ask questions about the 2020 presidential election? Perhaps Eric Shawn would like to put this question to Jocelyn Benson, although I won’t hold my breath until he does.
Shawn has also created the impression that the major area of suspicion about the 2020 election has been an unreasonable obsession with absentee voting and the use of drop boxes for depositing ballots. Why exactly is such questioning unreasonable? We certainly have seen evidence that mules were used to deposit votes; and ballots were sent to addresses without checking if registered voters were still living there. Whether or not such improprieties determined the election’s outcome remains an open question, but that they were committed seems indisputable. Even more critical was the rigging that went on behind the scenes, which Mollie Hemingway, Julie Kelly, and others have documented. Silicon Valley, the deep state, the FBI, and even the Chamber of Commerce ensured that Biden would win the presidential race, no matter what tricks had to be pulled to achieve that end.
Finally, one has to blink one’s eyes in wonder that the Michigan secretary of state should be interviewed as an objective source of truth about the last presidential race. This is a bit like asking Al Sharpton or Maxine Waters about what we can do to heal race relations in the United States. Benson was sued by the state Republican Party, in one case quite successfully, for not keeping honest voting rolls in her state. In several counties, there were more names on those rolls than the number of eligible voters; and it was suspected that these non-eligible voters were being enlisted to cast votes for Benson’s party. Although Benson stresses her devotion to voting integrity, I can’t find evidence that she supports even such a basic test of integrity as voter identification.
In March 2021, Judge Charles Murray of the First Michigan District Court of Appeals ruled against Benson for instructing Michigan clerks to register absentee votes without checking them against the state database. Perhaps the next time Fox anchors decide to invite the Michigan secretary of state to slam Republicans who question the integrity of elections in Democratic states, they might ask her about the charges she has had to face. It has also been revealed that Michigan, thanks to Benson, took the largest sum of money of any state from Mark Zuckerberg to set up absentee ballot stations. What exactly was the connection between Benson and Zuckerberg’s Center for Tech and Civic Life? One would have to be a fool or an NPR junkie (assuming there’s a difference) to think Zuckerberg and Benson were cooperating out of a sense of civic patriotism. Far more likely, they were collaborating to make sure Biden won Michigan, even if that required setting up special election arrangements.
Please note that I am less concerned here with Benson’s political games than I am with the anti-Trump zealots on Fox News. One might hope these partisans would be vetting the witnesses for their side with a bit more care. But perhaps I’m asking for too much professionalism.
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Paul Edward Gottfried is the editor of Chronicles. An American paleoconservative philosopher, historian, and columnist, Gottfried is a former Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, as well as a Guggenheim recipient.
Photo “Fox News Billboards” by ajay_suresh. CC BY 2.0.