What has come to be known as “the big lie” — the false and long-debunked claim that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump — was initially aimed at installing Trump in office for another term. But former Vice President Mike Pence’s op-ed on House Resolution 1 illustrates how it will live on through Republican efforts to use it for voter suppression.
Just shy of two months after an insurrection in which rioters at the Capitol chanted, “Hang Mike Pence,” the former vice president reemerged on Wednesday with an op-ed for the Heritage Foundation that continues to push the same lies about election fraud that inspired Trump supporters to mob the Capitol in the first place.
Pence isn’t arguing that Trump deserves another term, but his goal is political. He uses baseless insinuations that the 2020 election was stolen as an argument against HR 1. That legislation, which was passed on a party-line House vote on Wednesday includes “creating a national system for automatic voter registration, putting in transparency requirements for political advertising, and instituting nonpartisan redistricting commissions to end partisan gerrymandering,” as my colleague Ella Nilsen reports.
In short, it will make voting easier in states where Republicans have intentionally made it challenging. And Pence thinks that’s a bad thing.
The former vice president crams two whoppers into the very first sentence of his piece.
“After an election marked by significant voting irregularities and numerous instances of officials setting aside state election law, I share the concerns of millions of Americans about the integrity of the 2020 election,” Pence begins.
There were no “significant voting irregularities” in the 2020 election, according to state election officials and the former president’s own election security chief. Unsurprisingly, Pence doesn’t present evidence beyond “concerns” that people have. But what he doesn’t mention is that those concerns are the product of lies he and other people in Trump’s orbit spent months pushing about Joe Biden’s victory being somehow tainted by fraud.
It’s also not the case that there were “numerous instances of officials setting aside state election law.” When Trump’s lawyers tried to make that case in their legal challenges to the 2020 election, their arguments were dismissed by court after court, including by judges whom Trump appointed.
So Pence’s arguments are extremely weak. But they’re also dangerous. He’s still suggesting to Trump supporters that the presidency was stolen from Trump. And Pence, of all people, should understand what the consequences of that lie can be, since he was targeted by Trump followers and had to be rushed out of the US Senate to protect him from those followers after he refused to try to overturn his then-boss’s Electoral College loss.
Pence may not be in Trump’s good graces, but he’s still a party guy
Trump’s most fervent followers turned on Pence for refusing Trump’s entreaties to overthrow the election. Pence was infamously verbally attacked on January 6 by Trump himself, including in a tweet Trump posted as the Capitol was under attack.
Pence doesn’t mention Trump in his op-ed, and Trump didn’t mention him during the lengthy speech he gave last Sunday at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Pence, however, clearly remains invested in Republicans winning elections.
HR 1 would make it much easier for people to vote, and therefore doesn’t bode well for Republicans in states like Wisconsin, Texas, and Georgia, where voter suppression has been used to entrench GOP power.
But the bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where there are 50 Democratic senators but 60 votes are needed for passage. Cognizant of this, Pence’s op-ed concludes by insisting that “election reform must be undertaken at the state level.” He nods toward the type of voter ID policies long favored by the GOP:
To restore public confidence in our elections, our leaders should uphold the Constitution, reject congressional Democrats’ plan to nationalize our elections, and get about the serious work of state-based reform that will protect the integrity of the vote for every American.
The American people expect us to ensure that every eligible citizen is able to vote and also make sure that their vote is not stolen or diluted through errors, mistakes, or outright fraud.
Republican arguments for voter ID or restrictions on when and how ballots can be cast have always rested on a flimsy foundation, since study after study has shown the type of voter fraud they’re aimed at eradicating is exceedingly rare. But Pence’s attempt to use the big lie as an argument for suppression takes cynicism to new levels.
Pence’s op-ed comes as GOP legislators in states like Georgia and Iowa are already using false claims about the 2020 election to justify new efforts to make it harder to vote.
“Most of us in my caucus and the Republican caucus believe the election was stolen,” said US Senate candidate and Iowa state Sen. Jim Carlin during a recent floor debate on a proposal that could cut early and absentee voting and close polling places earlier on Election Day.
Suffice it to say that facts don’t back that up.
It’s notable that at a time when National Guard troops are still stationed at the Capitol — House business was even canceled on Wednesday because of a security threat — Pence isn’t speaking out to call for Trump supporters to stand down, stop the threats, and cease the plotting.
Instead, his new op-ed stokes the same grievances that inspired the violence and unrest to begin with — the false suspicion that Trump’s loss to Biden wasn’t legitimate, and that unless Republicans make it harder to vote, Democrats will cheat again.
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