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You must be fucking kidding me.

Was that your reaction too? Gotta say, after all those interminable months of unconscionable bullshit from the Cyber Ninjas and their merry cohort of witless “stop the steal” conspiracy theorists – the scanning of ballots under UV light, the supposed forensic testing for traces of Chinese bamboo, the dark, nebulous talk of ”kinetic artifacts” (whatever that meant), the endless allegations of cybernetic skullduggery – I expected an explosively fraudulent final report that declared, as a matter of unassailable fact, that Trump indeed won Maricopa County, and won it bigly. Why the hell else were they sitting there, week after week, sweating it out on the floor of that frigging arena, persisting through thick and thin, doggedly doing their moronic thing like a bunch of crazed MAGA monomaniacs? Rife with confusion and run through with manifest incompetence, the bogus examination of ballots dragged on and on, the assembled Ninjas looking for all the world as if they weren’t going to quit until they could claim to have found something, anything, to call foul on the Biden victory. Months in, and well beyond the time initially allocated to complete their work, they had to take a breather when high school graduation season forced them to give up the venue, but that didn’t discourage them. At the first opportunity, they were right back at it, hammer and tongs. It was a mission. It was what Donald wanted. They would not, could not, let him down.

Yet what came of it in the end? Well, this:

Ahem… [shuffles papers]: having completed our exhaustive hand recount and forensic examination of ballots and the associated voting procedures and technology (sorry, by the way, for compromising all those voting machines) we will now present our findings: Ummmm… [consults notes] er, right, so Biden won, just like they said, except by a couple of hundred more votes than they said. Thank you and good night.

What in the coal-fired fuck?

You crawled all the way down the rabbit hole just so you could finally re-emerge, weary and all covered in mud, to confirm the official result? You’re not even going to lie about what you found? Wasn’t that the whole idea – to make shit up and claim victory for Donald after all?


All righty, then, at least that should take the steam out of the nation-wide GOP effort to contest the various vote tallies in the other swing States, right? Well…

Governor Abbott, bowing to the pressure mere hours after the demand was made in an open letter issued by Donald himself, has already initiated sham audits in several Texas counties, even though Trump won the State handily. Other Republicans are trying to get similarly pointless recounts going in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and who knows where else, all the while spewing the talking points and parroting the party line that the election was rigged, Biden stole the White House, and the results should be decertified. Just as if the Cyber Ninjas had supplied earth-shattering proof of the worst electoral heist in US history. Which, to reiterate, they most emphatically did not.

What gives?

Yesterday, all the pundits were discussing the thesis of a chilling opinion essay published in the Washington Post, written by staunch conservative Robert Kagan, a fellow with whom folks like me seldom find common ground. It’s a thoroughly unsettling prediction of the utter political chaos Kagan believes is quite likely to result as the GOP vies to put Trump back in the White House in 2024, by hook or by crook. Titled Our Constitutional Crisis Is Already Here, it’s not for the faint of heart. The core passage:

Trump and his Republican allies are actively preparing to ensure his victory by whatever means necessary. Trump’s charges of fraud in the 2020 election are now primarily aimed at establishing the predicate to challenge future election results that do not go his way. Some Republican candidates have already begun preparing to declare fraud in 2022, just as Larry Elder tried meekly to do in the California recall contest.

Meanwhile, the amateurish “stop the steal” efforts of 2020 have given way to an organized nationwide campaign to ensure that Trump and his supporters will have the control over state and local election officials that they lacked in 2020. Those recalcitrant Republican state officials who effectively saved the country from calamity by refusing to falsely declare fraud or to “find” more votes for Trump are being systematically removed or hounded from office. Republican legislatures are giving themselves greater control over the election certification process. As of this spring, Republicans have proposed or passed measures in at least 16 states that would shift certain election authorities from the purview of the governor, secretary of state or other executive-branch officers to the legislature. An Arizona bill flatly states that the legislature may “revoke the secretary of state’s issuance or certification of a presidential elector’s certificate of election” by a simple majority vote.

Seen through Kagan’s lens, the true purpose of all these bogus audits, however little they manage to achieve in the conventional sense, i.e. by actually finding anything that would call the official results into question, is simply to promulgate the idea that there was something crooked about the 2020 election. It therefore doesn’t really matter what any of these preposterous recounts turn up. The results aren’t the point. What really matters is that for month after month, the broad American public hears nothing but Trump’s amplified whines of fraud, fraud, fraud, stop the steal, the election was rigged. If you hammer the message home often enough, just bellow it over and over, off every rooftop and out every window, the masses will absorb it, internalize it, and give it the credence of truth – where there’s smoke, there’s fire, right? – and the stolen election of 2020 will be as good as fact, irrespective of any short-lived reporting of the actual audit outcomes. To the extent anybody bothers again to render a final report (and maybe better if they don’t, given the pathetic, furry thud with which the Cyber Ninjas just hit the floor), most won’t even pay attention, while those who do will probably discern yet more evidence of the game being rigged: even when we get the recount, the fix is still in. By shattering faith in free and fair elections the audits, rather than being an end in themselves, are just a small part of a larger strategy to make sure that next time, nothing as trivial as the popular vote keeps Donald out of the Oval. The widespread sense they promote that election results can’t be trusted lays the groundwork for overturning the outcome next time, should it still be necessary despite all the voter suppression, gerrymandering, and assorted dirty tricks designed to make sure that everything works out properly.

The only way we lose is if they cheated. It’s become the de facto GOP campaign slogan, and tens of millions already believe it. In that sort of atmosphere, constitutional democracy is doomed, of course, but that’s the whole idea.

I take Kagan’s point, yet I still find it astonishing that the Cyber Ninjas weren’t, in the end, willing to lie about the results of their miserable “fraudit”. That wasn’t the plan all along? What then – had they all gone so far ’round the bend that they really believed they were looking for legitimate evidence of impropriety? Did the sheer absence of anything approaching such evidence simply demoralize and overwhelm them in the end? Are they as surprised as we are at their anti-climactic audit report? Maybe some day we’ll get the inside scoop. For now, Kagan would tell us, it doesn’t matter. The hijinks in Maricopa County served their purpose. The vile scheme to end the American Experiment proceeds apace.

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