Editorial: Election denial rot reaches GOP grassroots

The Detroit News

Most claims that democracy is at risk are overwrought or hypocritical, and generally are the product of one party or the other not getting exactly what they wanted.

The major exception is the growing disrespect within the Republican Party for the electoral process, to the point where it doesn't feel bound by the will of the people as expressed at the ballot box.

There is no greater threat to democracy than ignoring or denying the results of elections.

That’s what happened with the Hillsdale County Republican Party last week when GOP officials crossed a boundary no governing political body in the U.S. should breach.

The Hillsdale Republican Party disregarded the results of the primary election and refused to seat the precinct delegates voters selected. Included among the rejected delegates are Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, state Reps. Andrew Fink and Eric Leutheuser and Hillsdale College economics professor Gary Wolfram, author of "The Conservative Manifesto."

Disavowed Hillsdale County Republican Party delegates held a “rump convention,” confirming they had been elected by voters.

The executive committee of the Hillsdale GOP said the 70 officially elected at-large delegates were "too establishment" and disavowed them for “non-conformity to party values.”

We respect that political parties are non-governmental organizations and can set their own rules for how they do their business.

But once the decision is made to ask voters to select delegates through the ballot box, adherence to democratic values and American tradition makes the party honor bound to accept the result.

America's democratic Republic has stood for more than 250 years on the trust and buy-in of its people. Losers of elections accept their fate and concede to the victor, to fight again another day should they choose. 

That's what Al Gore did in 2000, even though he firmly believed manipulation of the Florida vote count cheated him of the presidency, and what Richard Nixon did in 1960, despite his conviction that mob influence altered the vote in Illinois.

Neither man chose to tear the nation apart with a years long campaign to disavow the election the way former President Donald Trump has done since losing the 2020 election, and with far less cause. 

"You have to accept election results, period," says David Dulio, professor of political science at Oakland University. "If nobody believes or accepts the votes that are counted, then we’re in trouble."

What happened in Hillsdale is an affront to the American Way, ironically by people who call themselves patriots.

The Trump loyalists in charge of the county party want to silence anyone who doesn’t share their fanatical view of the 2020 election. 

This, of course, all started at the top, with Trump's ongoing and unfounded claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Good standing in the Republican Party now is contingent on publicly repeating that nonsense.

"The grassroots folks are clearly listening to and being affected by voices at the top," Dulio says.

Infected might be the better word. The rhetoric igniting passions over stolen elections has dominated GOP politics for two years, and now Republicans are stealing elections themselves.

It all gives credence to Democratic claims that Republicans are endangering democracy. 

The schism within the GOP has been playing out in Macomb County as well, where two chairmen with feuding claims of validity each held conventions last week. That county, too, will be sending two separate slates of delegates to the state party convention at the end of the month.

This internal feuding will hurt the Michigan Republican Party and lessen its opportunities to exploit voter dissatisfaction with ruling Democrats in the November election. That, again, is the party's business. If it chooses implosion over unity, it owns the consequences.

That is, until the party's dismissal of election erodes the very idea of the consent of the governed this nation was founded on.

It is beyond hypocritical to essentially form an entire election platform on the issue of election integrity and then allow local party operations to overturn their own balloting results when the winner doesn’t suit them.

Republicans have to decide where their loyalties lie -- to the founding principles of the nation, or to a pouting, petulant former president whose tremendous ego won't allow him to admit the people rejected him in a fair election.