Thursday, January 06, 2022


Karl Rove tells readers of the Wall Street Journal editorial page that the events of January 6, 2021, were deeply disturbing to him.
... on the anniversary of Jan. 6, I’m addressing squarely those Republicans who for a year have excused the actions of the rioters who stormed the Capitol, disrupted Congress as it received the Electoral College’s results, and violently attempted to overturn the election.

...the thousands who went to the Capitol a year ago were wrong to insist the election was stolen....

... there were several thousand protesters willing to use force to disrupt Congress in its constitutional duty to receive and certify the electoral vote. Some went to Washington with that purpose in mind. Others were swept up in the moment’s savagery, led astray by stronger wills with dangerous motives.

The leaders of this group were intent on committing violence, some having planned to do so for weeks. Many wore tactical gear. Some came armed with chemical agents, flagpoles, batons and sticks. They broke through barricades and assaulted approximately 140 police officers, in some cases with an officer’s own shield or gear. They smashed doors and windows, illegally entered the Capitol, ransacked offices and searched for leaders of Congress, and made dire threats about what would happen if they found them.

... There can be no soft-pedaling what happened and no absolution for those who planned, encouraged and aided the attempt to overthrow our democracy. Love of country demands nothing less. That’s true patriotism.
The use of violence to overturn the result of an election seems to upset Rove quite a bit. But while Rove stipulates that the election was legitimate, he doesn't dwell on that fact -- which isn't surprising, given that he seemed comfortable with manipulating elections nonviolently when he was working for President George W. Bush.

Here's a Washington Post story from 2007:
Nearly half the U.S. attorneys slated for removal by the administration last year [2006] were targets of Republican complaints that they were lax on voter fraud, including efforts by presidential adviser Karl Rove to encourage more prosecutions of election-law violations, according to new documents and interviews.

Of the 12 U.S. attorneys known to have been dismissed or considered for removal last year, five were identified by Rove or other administration officials as working in districts that were trouble spots for voter fraud -- Kansas City, Mo.; Milwaukee; New Mexico; Nevada; and Washington state. Four of the five prosecutors in those districts were dismissed....

Rove, in particular, was preoccupied with pressing [Attorney General Alberto] Gonzales and his aides about alleged voting problems in a handful of battleground states, according to testimony and documents.

Last October, just weeks before the midterm elections, Rove's office sent a 26-page packet to Gonzales's office containing precinct-level voting data about Milwaukee. A Justice aide told congressional investigators that he quickly put the package aside, concerned that taking action would violate strict rules against investigations shortly before elections, according to statements disclosed this week....

Rick Hasen, a professor at Loyola Law School who runs an election law blog, said that "there's no question that Karl Rove and other political operatives" urged Justice officials to apply pressure on U.S. attorneys to pursue voter-fraud allegations in parts of the country that were critical to the GOP.

Hasen said it remains unclear, however, "whether they believed there was a lot of fraud and U.S. attorneys would ferret it out, or whether they believed there wasn't a lot of fraud but the allegations would serve political purposes."
This happened in the run-up to midterms that Rove and other Republicans worried (correctly) that they were going to lose. Rove wanted the Justice Department to put its thumb on the scale before ballots were cast. As far as I know, he's still comfortable with that.

But that's been the mainstream Republican approach to elections for years: cheat, but don't make it obvious to casual observers. I agree with Amanda Marcotte that that's likely to be the party's approach in the future:
Institutional Republicans have fully come on board with Trump's plan to steal the 2024 election. But they remain conflicted with Trump over whether or not violence is the best way to make that happen.... Republican leaders ... feel that stuff backfires.... they think it will be easier to end democracy with paperwork, rather than guns. They are busy rewriting state election laws so they can throw out any results they find displeasing, all while pretending to be a normal political party to the media, so that they don't get called out on it. The idea is to gut democracy in such a way so that the majority of Americans don't even know it happened. Violence interferes with that plan.

... The appeal of the paperwork coup is that one can end democracy without the mainstream media ever coming out and telling the public that it's happened. Instead, you get stories with quotes from Democrats warning that democracy is ending vs. Republicans claiming they're trying to "save" it. Cowardly reporters will throw up their hands and pretend there's no way to know who is telling the truth, rather than bluntly tell readers that Republicans are simply lying.
Marcotte focuses on Republicans' ability to "throw out any results they find displeasing" -- but they also like to manipulate elections so those displeasing results never happen in the first place. That's what Rove was trying to do in 2006. That's been the point of GOP gerrymandering and voter-roll purging and precinct consolidation and ID-law tightening throughout this century. No Republican considers any of that unpatriotic.

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