It began with a grotesque lie, a lie invented to soothe the ego of a man who by any normal standard should have needed no ego stroking.
That man was of course Donald Trump, who had just been elected president of the United States of America. The lie was his claim that at least 3 million illegal immigrants had gone to the polls and voted against him, an invention that was utterly without factual basis, but that allowed him to claim that he had won the popular vote. Faced with choosing between the truth and his own ego, Trump made the same choice that he always makes:
Screw the truth, feed the ego.
But his lie begat another problem, as lies tend to do. If 3 million votes had been cast illegally, that was more than enough to alter the outcome not just of a presidential race, but of numerous down-ticket races as well. In trying to placate his own raging ego, Trump had accidentally called into question the basic integrity of the U.S. election system, forcing himself as president to “do something” to combat a problem that he had invented out of thin air.
Thus was born a fraudulent “election integrity commission,” dedicated to substantiating the fraudulent presidential lie. To compound the “Alice in Blunderland” them, Trump then appointed Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to help run the commission.
Kobach is a true believer who has built a national following among conservatives for insisting that widespread, coordinated voter fraud is a serious problem. Yet Kobach himself is a documented fraud. As Kansas secretary of state, he complained publicly that he had referred multiple cases of voting fraud to the local U.S. attorney’s office, which had refused to prosecute. In reality, he had referred zero such cases.
In 2015, Kobach convinced the Kansas Legislature to give him criminal prosecution powers to expose this vast voting fraud conspiracy. It took him two years, but in April he announced his first and so far only conviction against a non-citizen for voting. A legal Peruvian immigrant who had voted three times, and who had since become a U.S. citizen, pleaded guilty in April to a misdemeanor and was fined.
That vast conspiracy turned out to consist of one overenthusiastic citizen wannabe, out of 1.8 million registered Kansas voters.
“No matter how many cases we prosecute, the political left will always whine that there’s not enough cases to justify protecting our elections in this way,” Kobach told the local media. “That’s absurd.”
As the headline in the Kansas City Star concluded, “Kris Kobach is a big fraud on Kansas voter fraud.”
That’s how it went in Kansas because that’s how it always goes: Conservatives make grandiose claims of vast voting conspiracies; upon closer inspection, those claims vanish into thin air, like a desert mirage. There is never, as in never, any substance to them.
In New Hampshire, Trump claimed in February that thousands of illegal voters had been bussed into the state from liberal Massachusetts to vote against him. No, they hadn’t. Again, the claim has zero evidence to support it.
In the George W. Bush administration, Bush officials made the prosecution of illegal voting a top priority for the U.S. attorneys they appointed around the country. They “knew” it existed; all they needed was proof. When those attorneys couldn’t find anything, the administration fired many of them and appointed dozens of replacements. Those replacements also failed to find any evidence of what right-wing mythology insisted had to be true.
This commission is fated to the same outcome. Already, it has requested voting records from all 50 states, including information such as voter Social Security and drivers’ license data. Most of those states, both red and blue, have already rebuffed all or part of the request.¹ State elections officials, almost to a person, in both red and blue states, have rejected the foundational theory behind the commission of potential widespread voting fraud.
It does not exist. It has no possibility of existing.
Meanwhile, while we pile incompetence upon deceit upon absurdity in this fake search for a fake problem, our top intelligence agencies continue to warn us of actual, documented intervention by Russia into our election process, including so-far unsuccessful efforts to hack into voter databases and election results. They also warn us that the worst is yet to come, yet Trump’s “election integrity commission” has no mandate to address that challenge and Trump himself refuses to acknowledge that it even occurred, because again the needs of his ego supersede the needs of the country.
Today, in fact, he is glad-handing in Germany with the man who has ordered those attacks.
¹ Georgia has agreed to provide only the data that state law defines as public record, which does not include Social Security and drivers license data.