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Opinion

Not a normal election: Trump and his allies want to subvert Wisconsin’s vote

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by Ruth Conniff, Wisconsin Examiner
April 11, 2024

It was a lovely spring day in Milwaukee during the media walkthrough of the site for the Republican National Convention. Reporters, volunteers and RNC staff mingled happily, gathering on the street outside the convention center to point at the sky and put on the glasses provided by RNC organizers to view the partial solar eclipse. Members of the media watch the partial solar eclipse during the April walkthrough of the 2024 Republican National Convention in Milwaukee | Wisconsin Examiner photo

Heading into this apocalyptic election year, with the future of democracy and the fate of the world hanging in the balance, the mood at Ground Zero was festive.

Milwaukee’s Democratic officials, hoping for an economic boost from the convention, are eager to welcome Donald Trump and his followers to eat, drink and party downtown. Convention organizers were quick to bat away a startlingly bearish New York Times report about the near-total absence of restaurant and venue reservations for the July RNC — in contrast to Chicago, where dinner reservations and theater events are sold out ahead of President Joe Biden’s August coronation. 

“Well, if you think about it, they’ve known who their nominee is going to be for four years,” the chair of the RNC’s Committee on Arrangements, Anne Hathaway, offered weakly when Urban Milwaukee pushed her on the underbooking of Milwaukee ahead of the big event. Now that Trump has confirmed his hammerlock on the Republican Party and purged the Republican National Committee staff of nonbelievers (the convention staff has remained intact, Hathaway was quick to declare) those restaurant reservations and party bookings should start rolling in …

Trump this week said he “loves” Wisconsin and has “so many friends” here. Being Trump, he said it as a way of bolstering his lie that he actually won the presidential election here in 2020, only to have it “stolen” by Biden and the legitimate Wisconsin electors who managed to cast our state’s votes for Biden despite a plot by Wisconsin Republican Party officials to cast fraudulent ballots for Trump, the Jan. 6 insurrection and our own U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson’s failed effort that day to transmit those phony Trump ballots to Vice President Mike Pence. 

Even as we prepare for another round of conventions as if this were a normal election year, Trump and his minions are working overtime to try to subvert the democratic process ahead of Election Day in Wisconsin.

On a rightwing talk radio show this week, Trump took aim at Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe, claiming falsely that she stole the 2020 election for Biden and expressing outrage that GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos hasn’t gotten rid of her yet. Vos and Reince Priebus, who chairs the Milwaukee RNC host committee, should somehow fire Wolfe, Trump said. Then, he added, he will win Wisconsin.

Bullying election officials is a coordinated, national strategy in 2024, as Matt Vasilogambros of Stateline reports. Challenges to individual voters’ ballots, lawsuits designed to slow down the voting process and gum up the works and libelous attacks on nonpartisan officials who continue to try to run safe, accurate elections under enormous pressure and with inadequate resources, are all part of the GOP playbook.

Wisconsin’s Trump-endorsed candidate for U.S. Senate, Eric Hovde, got a lot of attention this week for suggesting that most elderly voters in nursing homes should not be allowed to vote. His campaign tried to walk back the remark, which pretty clearly speaks for itself: “If you’re in a nursing home, you only have five, six months life expectancy. Almost nobody in a nursing home is in a point to vote.”

Without going all in on Trump’s stolen-election conspiracy theories, Hovde has offered moral support, throwing around words like “ballot harvesting” and claiming that, after four years of nonstop lies about election fraud including by Republicans who know better, voters lack confidence in elections and therefore the only solution is to make it harder to vote. 

There’s a lot at stake this year, including the possibility that women will lose control over our reproductive lives altogether and that a lawless administration will turn its violent, racist rhetoric into a campaign of terror and persecution against immigrants. 

It’s possible the convention will go off without a hitch in Milwaukee, delegates donors and lobbyists will show up to spend their money and leave without a violent clash between protesters and the self-styled militia members who descended on southern Wisconsin cities in 2020.

It’s possible we’ll have a peaceful transfer of power and not a repeat of the horrors described to my colleague Erik Gunn by Michael Fanone, the D.C  police officer who was beaten and tortured by Trump’s insurrectionists at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 2021, and who is currently touring the country to warn that it could all happen again.

The key to heading off the worst case scenario will be a robust defense of elections against the coordinated campaign to subvert them that is now underway. That campaign is not just the cause of the kind of fringe figures leading a hopeless effort to impeach Vos over imaginary voter fraud. It’s a continuation of the work of the teams of Republican lawyers and legislators who back Trump and are doubling down on his 2020 effort to steal the vote.

Wisconsinites fell for two Republican “election integrity” measures now enshrined in our state constitution after a statewide referendum this month. State voters unwittingly helped ensure elections clerks remain under-resourced and poorly defended against the attacks that are coming this year. Voters need to wake up to the real threat to the integrity of our elections and the sanctity of their vote. It’s not a Democratic scheme to “harvest” ballots or impersonate voters or a secret effort to change the outcome by a cabal of seemingly harmless election clerks.

The people who are trying to steal your vote are the party officials who cast fake electoral ballots for the presidential candidate who lost. They are the people who encouraged the violent storming of the U.S. Capitol to try to stop the certification of the last presidential election. And they are the quasi-respectable GOP officials, one of whom sits on our state’s elections commission, who openly seek to diminish the voting power of people of color and other voters who are likely to oppose Trump.

This is not a normal election in so many ways. But when Trump says we might never have an election again, he’s not just talking about the bleak future if his antidemocratic campaign wins. He’s talking about what’s happening right now, under our noses, while we’re distracted by convention planning and party hoopla.

Democracy might not die in darkness. It might die in broad daylight, under the auspices of public officials who equivocate about the real impact of their loyalty to their authoritarian leader, in the party atmosphere of a stage-managed convention supervised by a lot of nice people, right here in our home state.

Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Conniff for questions: info@wisconsinexaminer.com. Follow Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

This story is republished from Wisconsin Examiner under a Creative Commons license. Read the original story.