At a recent hearing on election security, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri recalled a meeting with about 30 of his constituents just the day before.
“Every single one of them, every one of them told me that they felt they had been disenfranchised, that the election had been rigged,” he said.
And these aren’t people on the fringes, he said.
“These are normal folks living normal lives who firmly believe that they have been disenfranchised,” he said. “And to listen to the mainstream press and quite a few voices in this building tell them after four years of non-stop Russia hoax. It was a hoax!”
Well, it wasn’t exactly a hoax. The investigation resulted in a number of indictments, and some of the president’s closest advisers wound up in prison. The president has pardoned some. He might pardon more.
The president and his allies have filed dozens of lawsuits claiming some type of voter fraud. Their arguments have been heard by both conservative and liberal judges, some of them appointed by the president himself. And the arguments have been uniformly rejected.
Still, lots of Trump supporters aren’t buying it. One of my high school classmates discovered as much when he shared a meme that had been making the rounds on Facebook.
“So the voters can’t be trusted,” the meme read, “the poll workers can’t be trusted, the voting machines can’t be trusted, the media can’t be trusted, Bill Barr can’t be trusted, the guy who was in charge of election security can’t be trusted, the lower courts can’t be trusted, the appellate courts can’t be trusted, and the Supreme Court can’t be trusted. But Donald Trump can be trusted. Roll that around in your head for about 3 minutes and realize how incredibly mind-bogglingly stupid that sounds.”
One of his friends responded almost immediately.
“What does Trump’s trustworthiness have to do with voter fraud?” he wrote. “Asking for, well, half the United States.”
Actually, it’s not quite half. The president lost the election by some 7 million votes.
Still, my classmate’s Facebook friend pushed on.
“Why are you afraid of the truth?” he asked. “That’s all half the country is wanting. Prove the claims have no merit, and it’s all good. Don’t be afraid of the truth.”
Here’s the truth.
The president and his supporters have promoted conspiracies involving voting machines manipulated by dead foreign leaders and argued that tens of thousands of fraudulent mail ballots somehow escaped layers of security and scrutiny by election workers.
Hawley, though, blames it all on Democrats.
“So, suffice it to say,” he said, “I’m not too keen on lectures about how Missourians and others who voted for President Trump and now have some concerns about fraud, about integrity, about compliance with the law, should just be quiet and that they are somehow not patriotic if they raise these questions. It’s absolutely unbelievable.”
The committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, accused his colleagues across the aisle of giving a platform to unfounded allegations.
“These claims are false,” he said, “and giving them more oxygen is a grave threat to the future of our democracy.”
The committee chairman, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, offered a somewhat different take in a recent tweet.
“The fact that our last two presidential elections have not been viewed as legitimate by large percentages of the American public is a serious problem that threatens our republic,” he wrote. “This hearing is part of what should be ongoing congressional oversight.”
The two parties live in separate realities. I’m not even sure they speak the same language.