House Democrats last week rallied behind Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, unanimously electing the New Yorker to succeed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as the conference’s new leader for the next Congress. Republicans congratulated him by pushing a specific line of attack, over and over again.
“The newly elected incoming leader of House Democrats is a past election denier who basically said the 2016 election was quote ‘illegitimate,’” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the chamber floor last week. The Republican National Committee has repeatedly pushed the same line in recent days, deriding Jeffries as an “election denier.”
ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos asked the new House Democratic leader about this on “This Week” yesterday, and Jeffries marveled at Republicans’ chosen line of attack.
“Hypocrisy is not a constraint to their behavior, and in many cases, they believe shamelessness is a superpower. My view of the situation has been pretty clear: I supported the certification of Donald Trump’s election; I attended his inauguration even though there were many constituents and others across the country pushing me and others to do otherwise; and [I] found ways to work with the Trump administration — being the lead Democrat in negotiating historical criminal justice reform. That track record speaks for itself.”
It’s unrealistic to think GOP leaders would’ve congratulated Jeffries on his promotion last week, but to condemn him as an “election denier” is ridiculous.
Yes, the New York Democrat was among the many who raised serious concerns about the 2016 election. He repeatedly emphasized the fact that Russia targeted our political system in order to help put Trump in power, referencing these facts to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the Republican’s victory.
But Americans have learned quite a bit over the past two years about what election denialism is — and Jeffries’ questions about the 2016 race don’t come close to meeting the threshold.
Jeffries did not oppose the certification of the election. Jeffries did not file lawsuits asking courts to throw out votes he disapproved of. Jeffries did not claim, publicly or privately, that Hillary Clinton secretly won based on evidence that only exists in the imagination of fringe conspiracy theorists.
Jeffries never described legitimate votes as “fake.” Jeffries never targeted election officials at the state or local level. Jeffries never appeared at a rally calling for the election to be overturned. Jeffries never endorsed an attack on the U.S. Capitol or expressed support for insurrectionist rioters.
If Republicans want to have a debate over who meets the “election denier” standard, the party probably won’t like where the conversation ends up.