Dear Republican Friends: Believe the Facts from Arizona

I have many friends and relatives who are registered Republicans. Recent polls suggest that a majority of Republicans do not believe that last November’s presidential election was essentially clean and fair. They believe that substantial fraud took place in the tabulation of votes in states like Georgia and Arizona that voted with their ballots (and therefore their entire slate of electors in the Electoral College) in favor of Biden. This blog is for you.

I have tried to be patient with these friends. I have hoped that they were not just “sore losers” who did not want to admit that Biden defeated Trump. But news coming out of Arizona should answer any doubts about the election in that state.

A little bit of background. Arizona has been a competitive state with Republicans having a slight edge over Democrats in the presidential elections. Nevertheless, with the significant growth of urban areas where Democrats tend to be stronger, the Democrats have been narrowing the gap. Here are the presidential results from the last 20 years.

Presidential elections (according to Arizona Presidential Election Voting History (270towin.com)

               Republicans                                      Democrats                         Republican margin

2020      Trump-R              49.1%                   Biden-D                49.4%                   – 0.3%

2016      Trump-R              48.7%                   Clinton-D             45.1%                   +3.6%

2012      Romney-R           53.7%                   Obama-D             44.6%                   +9.1%

2008      McCain-R            53.6%                   Obama-D             45.1%                   +8.5%

2004      Bush-R                 54.9%                   Kerry-D                44.4%                   +10.5%

This gradually growing Democrat strength is also evidenced in the U.S. Senate races. Republicans won all of the races in the 21st century until 2018 when Democrat Kyrsten Sinema defeated Republican Martha McSally (a Trump supporter) 50% to 47.6%. In that same 2018 election Democrats won 5 of the 9 congressional races in the state.

Therefore, it was widely expected that the 2020 presidential race between Trump and Biden would be competitive. Prior to election day, 11 of the 16 news agencies making predictions gave Biden a slight lead. The other five considered the election to be a toss-up.  

According to the official results, Biden defeated Trump by some 10,000 votes 49.4% to 49.1%. Significant factors in Biden’s victory were a 3% increase in the number of Latino votes and a ringing endorsement by Cindy McCain (John McCain’s widow) which persuaded many traditional Republicans to vote for Biden.

Even though Biden’s victory was certified by Arizona’s election authorities, Trump claimed the election was fraudulent. Even after Biden’s inauguration, the Republican controlled State Senate in Arizona authorized the formation of the Maricopa County Presidential Ballot Audit to de a recount of the votes in that county. This was an extremely partisan endeavor carried out by Trump supporters who wanted to find extensive fraud. The final report of the audit was released two weeks ago (September 24,2021). The hand tabulated recount revealed that Biden had actually received 99 more votes than originally reported and Trump 261 fewer votes. (See Schwartz, David; Layne, Nathan (September 27, 2021). “‘Truth is truth’: Trump dealt blow as Republican-led Arizona audit reaffirms Biden win”Reuters. Retrieved September 28, 2021.

My plea is that those who have claimed fraud in Arizona would admit the truth. If the state election authorities found no fraud, and if a Republican appointed private auditing firm could not find fraud, what evidence would persuade these “unbelievers”? There comes a point when the facts are overwhelming, when we must accept the truth even when we don’t like it. The truth is good for us. It can set us free.

What Kind of Republicans (and Democrats) does our Country Need?

In the United States, we have had two main political parties (Republican and Democrat) since before the Civil War. There have been third parties on occasion, but these have not been very successful. Political parties are subject to the same challenges that other institutions have: leadership structures that do not encourage change from within. Leaders gather around them “yes men” and “yes women” who say what the leader wants to hear and not what needs to be heard. These people are “enablers” who contribute to the corruption of their institutions from within. This is unhealthy for the institution and for the broader society.

In the current reality of the Republican Party, some leaders who are no longer in office (like former Ohio governor John Kasich and former White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly) have felt free enough to criticize President Trump’s policies and personal behavior. Nevertheless, most officials who are still in office or who are running for reelection have become enablers and have jumped on the president’s bandwagon on every single issue, no matter how absurd.  It is accurate to say that Republicans have become the Trump party and have moved away from traditional Republican principles (fiscal conservatism, standing against dictatorships, etc,).

An exception to this trend is Republican senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska. Earlier this week he criticized President Trump on a phone call with 17,000 of his supporters. He pulled no punches in his use of words. Regarding Trump’s support of dictatorships around the world like Russia, North Korea and others, Sasse says he strongly condemns “the way Trump kisses dictators’ butts. I mean, the way he ignores that the Uyghurs are in literal concentration camps in Xinjiang right now. He hasn’t lifted a finger on behalf of the Hong Kongers,”

Sasse continued his criticism, “The United States now regularly sells out our allies under his leadership. The way he treats women and spends like a drunken sailor. The ways I criticized President Obama for that kind of spending I’ve criticized President Trump for as well. He mocks evangelicals behind closed doors. His family has treated the presidency like a business opportunity He’s flirted with White supremacists.”

The Nebraska senator explained that he is concerned about the large number of people leaving the Republican Party. “If young people become permanent Democrats because they’ve just been repulsed by the obsessive nature of our politics, or if women who were willing to still vote with the Republican Party in 2016 decide that they need to turn away from this party permanently in the future, the debate is not going to be, you know, ‘Ben Sasse, why were you so mean to Donald Trump?’ It’s going to be ‘What the heck were any of us thinking that selling a TV-obsessed narcissistic individual to the American people was a good idea?’ It is not a good idea.”

The senator also honed in on the main issue of the election: Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. “The reality is that Trump careened from curb to curb. First, he ignored Covid. And then he went into full economic shutdown mode. He was the one who said 10 to 14 days of shutdown would fix this, and that was always wrong, So I don’t think the way he’s led through Covid has been reasonable or responsible or right.”

Senator Sasse is trying to shape the future of a post-Trump Republican Party. Republicans need to decide today what kind of party they want. Who has the better understanding of reality, Donald Trump or Ben Sasse? The future of the Republican Party hangs in the balance.