In our old feature, What Are The Gobshites Saying These Days?, we used to do a semi-regular weekly survey of the state of Our National Dialogue based on what went down on The Sunday Showz, those still-ambulatory broadcasting dinosaurs still considered newsworthy within the Beltway and dedicated to Reasonable People Disagreeing Reasonably while the world burns down around them, and also dedicated to keeping various Capitol Hill doughnut shops open.
We placed this feature in the storeroom of the shebeen because, frankly, we got bored with it, and it was too much work keeping up with what the gobshites were saying in the age of Trump. But we're reviving it just this once because of this interesting moment that occurred on Meet The Press between Chuck Todd and the recently re-elected Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Under discussion was the manner in which Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp used the power of his office to help him finagle his way to the governorship over Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams.
Want unlimited access to Charlie? Join the fight against stupid HERE
Brown's election comments begin at 1:30-mark in video above
Senator Brown recently decided to point out the elephant in the room.
TODD: Let me start with you were out this week, talking about another race in 2018. And it was in Georgia and Stacey Abrams. It was before she had acknowledged her defeat. She has now admitted defeat, didn't call it a concession. But I want to ask you about something you said this week about Georgia. Let me play it.
SEN. SHERROD BROWN: If Stacey Abrams doesn't win in Georgia, they stole it. It's clear. It's clear. And I would say, I say that publicly. It's clear.
TODD: Strong language to throw that out there. You believe, today, that this is a stolen race, that basically, Brian Kemp is, is somebody who's illegally governor right -- or governor-elect of Georgia.
It is here where Sunday Showz protocol demands that the politician cavil, hedge, or otherwise walk his argument back over his own feet. However, Senator Brown wasn't playing that.
BROWN: Well, I think you look at the lead-up to this election as secretary of state -- and I was the secretary of state in Ohio 30 years ago. I know what you do, as secretary of state. You encourage people to vote. You don't purge millions of voters. You don't close down polling places in rural areas where voters have difficulty getting to the polls, which were mostly low-income areas. You don't do what Republicans are doing all over the country.
And you've seen it, Chuck. You've seen the kind of voter suppression that, all over this country. And you end with the secretary of state of Georgia should have recused himself from running that election, as Jimmy -- as former -- Georgia resident, former-President Jimmy Carter said he should. And clearly, he did everything he could to put his thumb on the scale and won that election, quote unquote, "won" that election by only about a point.
Chuck Todd was appropriately dismayed. But Senator Brown wasn't playing that, either.
TODD: I guess I would ask this. Couldn't you bring up all of those, all of those issues, lay all of that out, without using the word, stolen? And I throw that out there, because we have enough distrust in our institutions as it is...Does that add to it?
BROWN: Okay, Chuck. Don't do the false equivalency of, of, of, the, you know, the lack of respect in institutions. I mean, we have a president that attacks your profession day after day after day. You, if you saw the earlier part of my election-night speech, you would've heard me thank the media. And you would've seen hundreds of people in Ohio, on the Democratic -- at this election-night gathering, turn around and clap for the media. We see a president that goes after the courts, that goes after the judicial system, a president that says, as the votes were counted, that something's been wrong with the elections. He criticizes the elections that way. So don't play this false equivalency. Because a former secretary of state, like me, said that about this election, which clearly is an effort to suppress the vote, not of people that look like you and me, Chuck--
CHUCK TODD: Right.
BROWN: --but people of color especially. And it's happened. Now spend your air time-- I don't mean to lecture--
[Ed. Note: Feel free to lecture, senator. I'm just making some more popcorn over here.]
TODD: No, no, no, I, look --
BROWN: -- but spend your airtime critical of those people who are trying to suppress the vote.
This is not to single out Chuck Todd. His interplay with Brown was merely the most obvious public manifestation of dismay over the senator's quite accurate assessment of what happened in Georgia. More than a few pearls were clutched over Brown's choice of language.
Rick Hasen, the election-law guru, writing in Slate, made the same argument at greater length. I confess I don't follow Hasen's line of thought at all. He seems to be arguing that calling the election in Georgia "stolen," as Brown clearly did, undermines the fight against suppressing the vote, as Kemp clearly did. I'm unclear how this is the case.
First, rhetoric about stolen elections feeds a growing cycle of mistrust and delegitimization of the election process, an attack pushed by President Donald Trump and other Republicans who have been yelling “voter fraud” every time they are behind in the count. I’ve already set out my fear that Trump could refuse to concede the 2020 presidential election if he is ahead in the count on election night and then ballot counts inevitably shift toward Democrats as the counting continues. A democratic polity depends on losers accepting election results, even if the election was not conducted perfectly. I would hold “stolen” election rhetoric for conduct even more outrageous than Kemp’s decisions, which, while odious, either have not been found to be illegal or that courts allowed to remain in place for this election.
I mean, holy hell. Because Kemp used the power of the office he held to help himself gain the office to which he was aspiring, this means that he could not be said to have "stolen" the election, even as a shorthand designation for his clearly corrupt conduct? If a state legislature in, say, Nebraska, were to use its eminent domain power to appropriate a farmer's land in order to help a foreign corporation build, say, an oil-sands pipeline, is it really not permissible for people to say that the legislature "stole" the farmer's land, even though it used its power corruptly to benefit a private interest? Is there an exemption by which theft is not theft if it is done under the color of law? A lot of local sheriffs who got rich behind civil forfeiture laws are going to be happy to hear that.
And as for the growing cycle of distrust and delegitimization, that's already been underway for some time, as Rick Hasen's previous work has demonstrated. In our current historical moment, it began with the Supreme Court's decision in Bush v. Gore. Do the people making the tone-police argument on this issue really believe that the Georgia voters who showed up at their polling place only to find that it had been closed, and who then went out of their way to the nearest one only to find that they couldn't vote because the hyphen in their last name really was a dash, wouldn't say their votes were "stolen," and that, therefore, the election was, too? They don't need Sherrod Brown to believe that, I assure you.
Hasen also seems to misunderstand the nature of El Caudillo Del Mar-A-Lago, too. If the Democratic Party tries to temper its rhetoric based on whatever the most recent egregious lie has emerged from the presidential* gob, the Democratic Party is going to have a nervous breakdown. The president, because he is both corrupt and something of a dunce, will say what he's going to say regardless of how temperate the Democratic response is. Sometimes, blunt instruments have to be met with blunt instruments.
Much of the most loyal portions of the Democratic Party's political base already believe from their own experience, and not because of anything Sherrod Brown and Stacey Abrams have said, that their elections are being stolen out from under them. It's up to the opposition to speak for those whose right to choose their own leaders was, yes, stolen from them through bureaucratic legerdemain and malfeasance in office. Which is a long way around to point out that the run-off election for Secretary of State in Georgia is the most important election of many lifetimes.
Respond to this post on the Esquire Politics Facebook page here.
('You Might Also Like',)