No Republican senator has seen his reputation plummet further in the age of Donald Trump than Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Once a wingman to maverick Senator John McCain and a sharp Trump critic, Graham has become a sycophantic Trump enabler. But even by Graham’s limbo-bar standards, his most recent actions are both shocking and shameful — and indicative of the antidemocratic depths to which some Republicans are willing to sink to keep the White House.
According to The Washington Post, Graham, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, recently called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, with questions that seemed more like suggestions for disqualifying legally cast ballots.
In an interview with the Post, Raffensperger said Graham asked whether the political leanings of poll workers could have led them to OK mail-in ballot-envelope signatures that didn’t match those on file. (In fact, Georgia law has a belt-and-suspenders approach to that issue, requiring signature-matching at two stages in the process.) He also inquired whether the secretary of state had the authority to disqualify all mail-in ballots in counties that had higher percentages of ballots rejected due to nonmatching signatures.
To Raffensperger, Graham seemed to be suggesting ways he could reject large numbers of legally cast ballots. “It sure looked like he was wanting to go down that road,” the Georgia secretary of state told the Post. On Tuesday, the South Carolina senator defended his efforts to contact state officials about election results in Georgia, as well as in Arizona and Nevada — all states President Trump clearly lost.
Graham denies he was suggesting rejecting legal votes, saying he was merely trying to understand the mail-in-ballot authentication process as part of a push he will make for a uniform national standard.
Baloney. That’s obviously a concoction to rationalize attempted election meddling. Gabriel Sterling, another Georgia elections official who was on the Raffensperger call, told NBC News that the Graham-initiated discussion was partly about whether the process could arrive at a point where somebody could go to court to disqualify a broad range of ballots. Further, a senator who wanted to explore mail-in voting in a disinterested way for future elections wouldn’t be doing it during a recount. Nor would he be focusing his efforts on states Trump would need to flip to prevail. Rather, he would wait until next year, after President-elect Joe Biden has been installed, and proceed by holding hearings.
So no one should be fooled about Graham’s real intent here, which is part and parcel of the Trump campaign’s push to disqualify mail-in votes. It goes far beyond the cowardly equivocation that has left so many elected Republicans unwilling to acknowledge Biden’s victory. Graham belongs in the sorry group willing to trample on democratic norms in pursuit of victory. He’s not alone there. Representative Louie Gohmert, Republican of Texas, has suggested that Trump supporters take to the streets rather than accept results Gohmert considers, without any credible evidence, fraudulent. Former house speaker Newt Gingrich, long a factually-unfettered partisan bomb-thrower, has made the outrageous, evidence-free assertion that this election is being stolen.
Incredibly, both of Georgia’s GOP senators have called for Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, to resign, not because of any credible allegations of election fraud, but simply because they are unhappy with a vote tally that saw Georgia land in Biden’s column and forced them into run-off elections in January.
Graham, a lawyer, no doubt chose his words with Raffensperger carefully to avoid any possible criminal liability for election meddling. Still, in a body that put the good of the country above partisan advantage, there might well be an investigation to bring out the full facts, and perhaps even a rebuke of some sort. But don’t look for that to happen in today’s broken Senate.
On Jan. 20, Biden will become president, and the nation will move on. Yet it’s important not to forget the role certain prominent Republicans played in the interregnum. Those who made reckless assertions or urged antidemocratic courses of action shouldn’t be allowed to leave them behind. That should be an indelible part of their political record.
Senator Graham’s shameful actions put him high on that dishonor roll for posterity.
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