Soon-to-be ex-President Donald Trump’s barrage of lawsuits are backfiring spectacularly. Like a big exploding cigar bursting in his spray-tanned face, they’re doings Democrats’ work for them—outing the loony-bin wing of the Republican party, and persuading millions more Americans that when it comes to elections, fraud and the democratic process, he’s been wrong all along. Pass the popcorn.
This picture paints a thousand words: Rudy Giuliani spouting conspiracy theories in front of Four Seasons Landscaping, next door to the Fantasy Island Adult Bookstore in North Philly, home of “Dildo Madness.”
This is what MAGA has come to.
Like the clown’s car of buffoons on Trump’s team fighting the election results, including non-lawyers Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie along with the likes of Giuliani, they reflect a combination of desperation, pandering, and stupidity. They are so transparently dumb, in fact, that they prove Democrats’ case for them: if this is all Team Trump can complain about, clearly this was a fair election.
For example, Giuliani’s top complaint at his porno presser was that some Republican observers allegedly weren’t allowed into counting locations in Philadelphia.
Well, that’s now been litigated in court—in front of a not-exactly-liberal federal judge, Paul Diamond, a George W. Bush appointee, 20-year corporate lawyer, and former assistant district attorney. Here’s a snippet of the transcript:
Judge Diamond: Are your observers in the counting room?
Trump lawyer: There's a non zero number of people in the room
Judge Diamond: I’m asking you as a member of the bar of this court: are people representing the Donald J Trump for president, representing the plaintiffs, in that room?
Trump lawyer: Yes.
Judge Diamond: I'm sorry, then what's your problem?
Really, there’s no more apt summary of the Trump election lawsuits than that: “I’m sorry, then what’s your problem?”
It applies to the emergency appeal to the Supreme Court, which culminated in Justice Alito issuing a simple order that Pennsylvania election officials keep mail-in ballots received after Nov. 3 separate, as the Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth had already ordered. In other words, as my colleague Will Bredderman summarized it, “As you were.”
It applies to the ludicrous challenge in Georgia to 53 (not a typo) mail-in ballots. A single Republican operative said that he saw a stack of mail-in ballots and didn’t know when they had arrived, and then they got processed. “We will not allow Democrat election officials to steal this election from President Trump with late, illegal ballots,” the Trump campaign shouted. Turns out, the ballots weren’t late, and everything was legit.
You get the idea. In case after case after case, the Trump campaign is acting like the lawyers for the Democrats, proving that this was a fair election after all.
As Judge Diamond said, “I’m sorry, what’s your problem?”
The second positive impact of the Trump lawsuits is a bit more long-term.
Like the Pied Piper drawing the rats out of Hamelin, Trump’s claims of fraud—and, it seems, a single scolding tweet by Don Jr.—have also forced several Republicans to out themselves as either conspiracy theorists or, more likely, as sycophants willing to repeat them in order to pander to the base.
That includes, so far, Senators Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rick Scott, all of whom tweeted in the direction of Trump’s flat-earth nonsense.
Of course, these men (and Tucker Carlson, Nikki Haley, and others) are, in part, just positioning themselves for 2024. But they’re also crossing a Rubicon of ridiculousness. When the dust has settled and these frivolous lawsuits are more widely understood to be the king-size nothingburgers that they are, that decision will be an embarrassment.
These lawsuits are doing America a big favor by letting us see who’s willing to drink the Kool-Aid.
Most importantly, though, are the possible longer-term impacts of these frivolous cases on how the public regards claims of voter fraud more broadly.
It’s not just Trump, after all. For years, Republicans all across the country have used the specter of voter fraud to justify passing Voter ID laws, closing polling locations, curtailing early voting, and a whole array of steps that just so happen to affect traditionally Democratic voters, and in particular Black voters, more than Republican ones.
These steps are now commonly known as voter suppression, and they are a rearguard effort of a party committed to white grievance as it struggles to remain viable in a post-white America. After all, even Texas was briefly in play this year, and when the lone star state goes blue, the national Republican party is toast.
The thing is, as I feel like I’ve written a hundred times in these pages, there is no voter fraud crisis.
Not a single court case trying to establish anything more than a trivial amount of voter fraud has succeeded, even those brought by Kris Kobach, Trump’s fraud-chaser-in-chief. Kobach’s own White House Task force could only find 1,071 cases of fraud in the entire country—and the vast majority of them were mistakes, not malevolence. Even generously, that’s a fraud rate of .01 percent.
But most people don’t.
And given the steady drumbeat from Fox News and farther-right sources—devoid, like Trump’s and Giuliani’s claims, of a scintilla of actual evidence—you can’t blame them for thinking that voter fraud is a big problem, and that the only reason Democrats aren’t fighting it is that they benefit from it.
Not to mention Trump’s own endless barrage of tweets, not a single one of which links to any evidence, alleging that mail-in ballots are a recipe for fraud, counting ballots is a recipe for fraud, “ballot harvesting” is a recipe for fraud, basically everything that might favor Democrats is a recipe for fraud, including my grandmother’s recipe for gefilte fish.
God, I can’t wait until Jan. 21 when Twitter can ban this guy.
So, forgive me for being optimistic, but if a few million more people start questioning this line of BS as a result of the quite obvious BS of the Trump election lawsuits, that would be a very, very good thing.
Because while voter fraud is fake, voter suppression is quite real. It’s affected numerous elections, from Georgia’s gubernatorial race to Florida’s presidential election this year. It is a disaster not just for Democrats, but for democracy. And it reached a fever pitch this year.
Within a few weeks, these lawsuits will all fizzle out, because they are all puffery and poppycock. And when that happens, not just the possibly actually deranged Giuliani but this whole enterprise and everyone who supports it will look idiotic. The election’s fairness will be validated. And possibly, just possibly, the cigar may explode in the face of voter suppression as well.