With a nation’s news media “hollowed out” by closings and downsizings, Seattle-based InvestigateWest is swimming against a tide as it pursues a task vital to the republic: It has taken on the job of seeking the truth about those seeking power in America, specifically reporting on ongoing threats to American democracy.
“We’re not hysterical at all: We should, however, all be worried… What I am worried about is the enormous amount of money being spent to attack the system” election law expert Kevin Hamilton told a Wednesday night forum, as InvestigateWest sought input on how to go about its task.
Hamilton was a lead lawyer in fending off challenges to the Biden-Harris ticket’s 2020 victories in Georgia and Michigan. He has also worked election cases here and in Montana, Arizona, Minnesota and Virginia.
The 2022 midterm election ballot return deadline is still more than forty days away, but early voting has begun. Hamilton noted there has been an increase of more than 400 percent in “anti-voter lawsuits” across the country.
Worryingly, believers in Donald Trump’s completely false claim that the 2020 election was stolen are on the ballot right now for offices ranging from Governor of Pennsylvania, Arizona and Michigan, to Secretary of State in Michigan, to the 3rd District U.S. House race in this Washington.
Girmay Zahilay, a King County Councilmember and a University of Pennsylvania-trained lawyer who opened NPI’s Spring Fundraising Gala this year, pointed to the spread of misinformation in this progressive state. Politicians and certain media outlets are “capitalizing on the public’s legitimate concerns for public safety,” he said, in order to fan fears and divide people by race and where they live.
A desperate U.S. Senate campaign has lately resorted to Seattle bashing.
FNC carries nonstop stories of crime in “Democrat-run” cities.
Right wing activists driven by false election fraud theories are challenging and working to toss out voter registrations and ballots, from Mason County in our state to battleground states of the Midwest.
State legislatures have tried to make voting more difficult: The Perkins Coie law firm, where Hamilton is partner, is arguing a challenge to new Montana laws that make it more difficult to vote. The Big Sky State has banned same-day voter registration. The Republican-run legislature has also adopted Texas’ policy of refusing to recognize student identification. Two Native American action groups and three youth advocacy organizations are challenging the new law.
Accounts of attempts to overturn 2020 election results have been filled with bizarre claims and behavior by Trump lawyers, from accusations that voting machines were designed to benefit a long-dead leader in Venezuela to a news conference where hair dye streamed down the cheeks of an agitated “Trump lead lawyer” Rudy Giuliani. It’s time to stop laughing, Hamilton argued.
“We faced the ‘B’ team (in 2020). Those days are long gone.”
Defending the Biden-Harris victory, Hamilton and other lawyers swept the board. “We won every one of those cases,” he said, recalling a sweet victory before a Trump-appointed judge in Georgia.
“A funny thing happened after the election,” he added. “Even the Trump judges said, ‘Show us your evidence… The system held.”
Why? In Hamilton’s view, “Judges closed ranks and became Americans first… They stood up, they were Americans.”
Yet, the nation’s highest court has gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act, with the bizarre legal reasoning that its guarantees are no longer needed.
The Supreme Court’s Republican-appointed majority has refused to check legislatures from the brazen gerrymandering of legislative and congressional district boundaries. A look at Ohio’s map shows the 4th Congressional District snaking west, then south, then west and finally north. Its boundaries were designed to protect Representative Jim Jordan, the ultra MAGA Republican in line to chair the House Judiciary Committee if Republicans regain control of the House.
America’s democratic republic used to play by the hand dealt by its voters. Partisan debate was intense, but society’s compromises emerged. Party lines were not a barrier to friendship and could be crossed. Seventeen Republican senators voted against one of Richard Nixon’s subpar nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court.
With the advent of Trump and the ultra MAGA movement, however, cries of “Lock her up!” were heard at 2016 campaign rallies, while 3rd District U.S. House candidate Joe Kent would like to see Dr. Anthony Fauci tried for murder.
“I just don’t want to live in a banana republic where the loser in an election gets prosecuted,” said Hamilton, a reference hitherto foreign to American politics. We live in a country, he noted, where: “Even professional sports teams shake hands at the end of the game, regardless of what has gone on during the game.”
But rough, ruthless tactics have come to the fore.
The un-American tactic of trying to discredit an election is being deployed before the first votes are cast. The practitioners of scorched earth tactics seek to raise money, and to keep the victor from getting anything done.
Senator Mitch McConnell has greeted the last two Democratic presidents with a vow to block their agenda and, in Obama’s case, thwart his reelection.
Audience members at InvestigateWest’s salon, in their questions, seemed to have trouble grasping the awful and held out hope that the “better angels of our nature” will once more rescue the country.
Hamilton delivered an understated answer when asked what’ll happen if power flips: “I would like to think cooler heads will prevail, but I don’t know.”
An optimistic note was provided by Mónica Guzmán. A senior fellow at Braver Angels, a nonpartisan grassroots group that is working to depolarize America. “Life has never been better for so many Americans,” she told the salmon, noting the movements that have improved life for many formerly marginalized Americans. If the country can ever pull itself back together, she added, “Good Lord, we can do anything. How can we coordinate so we can get stuff done?”
The problem is, however, that powerful elements are working to pull the country apart. Creating chaos and sowing division is their path to conquest.
“I have to hand it to the Republicans,” said Hamilton.
“They are geniuses with the language of demonization.”