Photo Credit: Wayne County Board of Elections
My bullhorn is rather small, but I’ll do what I can to amplify Ned Staebler. He gave public input in the open meeting of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers. Two Republican members, William Hartmann and Monica Palmer, voted Tuesday against certifying the votes of Wayne County, citing irregularities in Detroit. The board was deadlocked, 2-2.
It was a stunt, purely performative. A state agency was prepared to step in. If that didn’t work, a state judge would have decided. Given the facts of the case, Michigan was going blue no matter what. (Joe Biden’s margin of victory over Donald Trump was in the tens of thousands.) But trying to undermine the sovereignty of the people is nearly as bad as successfully undermining it. I’ll explain why Ned Staebler’s statement last night is important to America politics, but first you have to read what he said:
I’m not going to try and change your minds. I just want to let you know that the Trump stink, the stain of racism that you, William Hartmann and Monica Palmer have covered yourself in is going to follow you throughout history. Your grandchildren are going to think of you like Bull Connor or George Wallace.
Monica Palmer and William Hartmann will forever be known… as two racists who did something so unprecedented that they disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of Black voters in the city of Detroit, because they were ordered to. Probably, I know, Monica, you think Q told you to do it or some other crazy stuff like that.
But just know when you try to sleep tonight that millions of people around the world now on Twitter know the name Monica Palmer and William Hartmann as two people who are completely racist and without an understanding of what integrity means or a shred of human decency. The law isn’t on your side. History won’t be on your side. Your conscience will not be on your side and, Lord knows, when you go to meet your Maker, your soul is going to be very, very warm.
Palmer and Hartmann changed their minds within hours after a world of hurt came down. I don’t know if Staebler did that. (I’d like to think so.) In any case, it’s important to bear in mind that Staebler’s jeremiad came after having outlined the many ways Hartmann and Palmer were wrong. He marshaled an impressive array of concrete facts, applied sound reasoning to it, and came to the moral conclusion that Hartman and Palmer are not only wrong; they were choosing to be wrong, because being wrong benefited their presidential candidate even though it was injurious to the republic.
Only after making his case did Staebler launch into hortatory. Only after seeing they were immutable did Staebler give up engaging them. “I’m not going to try and change your minds.” Indeed, there was no point. It was time to lay down the tools of rational evidence-based persuasion and take up arms of political rhetoric. It was time to stop discussing the results of their behavior and start discussing their intentions: the political sabotage of “hundreds of thousands of Black voters in the city of Detroit.”
I’m making a big deal of where reasoned argument ends and political rhetoric begins, because the Democrats, including Joe Biden, seem unwilling to step over the gap. Lindsey Graham interfered with Georgia’s recount—He asked its secretary of state if he could toss out legal ballots, a possible federal crime. GOP electors in Nevada are suing to have Trump declared the winner there or have the state’s votes “annulled.” Along with shenanigans in Wayne County, Michigan, this is a picture of systemic rot. Trump isn’t the problem. Elected Republicans aren’t the problem. The entire GOP is acting like a separatist movement more than a legitimate political party. Yet all Chuck Schumer can say is there’s “no excuse” for discrediting “our democratic elections.”
It’s time to emulate Ned Staebler. Stop trying to change Republican minds. Stop saying they are harming democracy. (We know this.) Start doubting their intentions. Are they loyal to the United States or not? Tribalists tend to respond to tribalist claims. The biggest tribe is the American republic. We must demand the GOP pick a side. As Dave Painchaud put it: “It’s important to recognize that confrontation is not generally the way to go. There’s really only one exception: fascism. You can’t negotiate with that. Fascism requires a ruthless response. It’s an awful thing, but it’s undeniably true.”
This article was originally published on The Editorial Board.
John Stoehr is the editor and publisher of the Editorial Board, a newsletter about politics in plain English for normal people. He’s a visiting assistant professor of public policy and liberal studies at Wesleyan University.