IIn their terrific new book, veteran reporters Mark Bowden and Matthew Teague argue that the mob that invaded the Capitol in Washington almost exactly a year ago “had no more chance of overthrowing the US government than the hippies did in 1967. had tried to levitate the Pentagon ”. .
The “real insurgency” was that “led by Trump and his sycophantic coterie” in Georgia, Wisconsin, Nevada, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Arizona. She “was only slightly better organized than the crowd but considerably more calculated and dangerous.”
This veritable insurrection is the subject of this important and timely volume. The authors used a stethoscope to examine the details of the US electoral process. The result is an exciting and suspenseful celebration of the survival of democracy.
The coup attempt was led by Donald Trump. Its intended outcome, in which Vice President Mike Pence would ignore the votes of the above six states plus Washington DC in order to tip the election to Trump, was described in an insane memo written by attorney John Eastman, described here as “surely the most seditious document to emerge from the White House in American history”.
This final act, of course, never happened. Even Pence, the most sycophantic vice president of modern times, couldn’t bring himself to violate the constitution so blatantly to keep his boss in the White House.
But the real heroes, who came to life here, were the “hundreds of obscure Americans from all walks of life, state and local officials, judges, and election workers.” Many of them were Republicans, some were Trump supporters. They refused to accept his slander of themselves, their communities and their workers, and they refused to betray their sworn duty to their office and their country. They were the real patriots.
Bowden and Teague – the latter a Guardian contributor – take us through six battles that lasted from election night, November 3, 2020, until Joe Biden’s election was finally certified by Congress early from January 7 of last year.
Their book does a vital service, demonstrating how our ragged democracy has managed to function despite vicious partisanship and all the new challenges created by the pandemic. For the first time, I understood how brilliant the new machines used to count the votes were, the intricacies of opening the outer and inner envelopes, capturing images of both, and then preserving the ballots. essential paper vote inside, allowing electronic confirmation of results with one hand count in the event of a technology failure.
In Arizona, the Election Service performed “the mandatory manual count of the ballots on Election Day of 2% of polling centers and 1% of advance ballots as required by Arizona law and has gave 100% correspondence with the results produced by the tabulation equipment. ”.
Scott Jarrett was Co-Election Officer in populated Maricopa County, and he is one of the crucial bureaucrats celebrated here: “A pale, thin young man… in a plain gray suit, the very image of a serious public servant. , a happy man engaged in the real machinery of government and quietly proud of his own unrecognized importance and competence. “
In a public hearing filled with crazed conspiracy theorists, Jarrett carefully explained how only one of two “encrypted memory cards (both with tamper-evident seals)” was transported from various polling centers to the main counting location, ” so that the results on one map could be cross-checked against the other as well as the constituency poll report they generated. The backup of this memory was, of course, the actual ballots that had been passed through the machines. The flashcards and ballots were sealed and handed over by “two members of different parties,” escorted by county sheriffs.
Clint Hickman, chairman of the Maricopa County Oversight Board, noted that while some in the public’s eyes were glassy, he just wanted “people watching this” to understand “we’re not letting go.”
The authors point out that Hickman was touching on a fundamental characteristic of The Steal, the fictitious narrative concocted by Trump and his cronies: Conspiracy theorists depend on ignorance.
“They start with mistrust: only a miller believes the official story. They then replace the often tedious and mundane details of a complex process… with a simpler story ”: theft.
They make up colorful stories about a “deal made with a former Venezuelan dictator to deliver corrupt electoral machines, or a plot to preprint fake ballots in the middle of the night.” This creates what cognitive scientists call “a community of knowledge”.
The big problem that didn’t exist even 30 years ago is the speed at which such silly stories spread across the internet and through the Twitter feed of a malicious president like Trump, exploding the reach of such stories and their power to undermine democratic standards. .
The book reminds us that democracy itself depends on a minimum of trust. This is why Trump’s ability to persuade so many Americans of the truth of so many lies has had such a disastrous effect on our body politic.
Bowden and Teague have done a singular service in revealing details that refute Republicans’ relentless inventions about voter fraud.
The problem is, so many Republicans will continue to ignore the lessons of this book. America’s democracy could be further destroyed by the torrent of voter suppression laws already passed by Republican-controlled state legislatures, spurred on by lies invented by Trump and amplified by insidious “journalists” like Maria Bartiromo and Tucker Carlson , whose perfidy is brilliantly dissected in these pages. .
If democracy prevails, it will survive thanks to the ability of writers like Teague and Bowden to make the truth even more compelling than the fictions of Fox News.