It seemed difficult to even imagine a sham election “audit” that was more cringe-worthy than the Arizona Republicans’ fiasco. Months later, many of us still struggle not to laugh at the mere mention of “Cyber Ninjas.”
But all things considered, the Wisconsin Republicans’ ongoing debacle is even more embarrassing.
For months, far-right conspiracy theorists have not only argued that Donald Trump won Wisconsin in 2020 — even after a count, recount, and an audit proved otherwise — they also insisted that state officials could undo the certification of Wisconsin’s election results. Lawyers for the GOP-led legislature concluded that such an idea is patently ridiculous.
And yet, former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, tapped to oversee this hopelessly misguided exercise, has now told the fringe conspiracy theorists how right they are. The New York Times reported:
A Republican report on the 2020 election in Wisconsin endorsed a host of debunked claims of fraud and false assertions about lawmakers’ power to decertify President Biden’s victory, lending credence to the conspiracy theories that have gripped Republicans in the state for more than 16 months.
In fact, Gableman not only said legislators can decertify Biden’s victory in Wisconsin, reality be damned, he also suggested they should. “I believe the legislature ought to take a very hard look at the option of decertification” of the 2020 election, the former state justice said yesterday at a hearing of the state Assembly’s elections committee. He based this conclusion in part on evidence of voter “fraud” that doesn’t appear to exist.
Gableman also pushed some weird conspiracy theory about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, whom he apparently believes helped “buy” the election.
The Times’ report added that Gableman’s bizarre claims are “likely to fuel those still fixated on overturning the last one.” That’s clearly true: Donald Trump issued two hysterical statements about Gableman yesterday.
But the problem is not just that this nonsense will delay Republican efforts to come to terms with reality. It’s also that yesterday’s claims were plainly bizarre. The Washington Post’s Philip Bump concluded, “This Wisconsin ‘fraud’ report is so mind-bogglingly stupid that I’m honestly amazed the man responsible for it sat on the state Supreme Court.”
In case anyone needs a refresher, let’s review how we arrived at this head-shaking moment.
Wisconsin Republicans, unsatisfied with the actual election results, launched a bizarre “investigation” last year. To lead the effort, GOP officials tapped Gableman — a “Stop the Steal” conspiracy theorist and former Trump appointee.
Who better to investigate anti-election ideas — in a fair and impartial fashion, of course — than a partisan conspiracy theorist from Trump’s own team?
As regular readers may recall, Gableman acknowledged that he doesn’t have “any understanding of how elections work.” He also issued strange subpoenas, demanded materials that are already publicly available, and sent error-filled requests to the wrong local officials.
Making matters quite a bit worse, Gableman appeared on a conservative radio show to compare The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to Nazi propaganda, complete with multiple Joseph Goebbels references. Gableman also showed up at a city council meeting in Green Bay, where he suggested an election investigation is justified because of some unidentified stuff he saw online.
More recently, the former Republican judge has called for the incarceration of Wisconsin officials who don’t assist him with his outlandish crusade.
Yesterday, he also dismissed the significance of the Jan. 6 attack, calling it “one discrete incident.”
Thanks to the GOP-led legislature, all of this is being financed by Wisconsin taxpayers.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers said in a written statement that this fiasco has “long surpassed being a mere embarrassment for our state,” and it must be brought to its conclusion. Gableman doesn’t see it that way: The Republican presented a draft report filled with bonkers assertions yesterday, but he added that his investigation — I’m using the word loosely — is not yet finished.
Late last year, state Sen. Kathy Bernier, a member of the Republican leadership and the chair of the chamber’s elections committee, condemned her party’s anti-election conspiracy theories and urged officials to end the sham process that’s weakened public confidence in a functioning electoral system. Choking back tears, the GOP legislator added that she fears “we’re in jeopardy of losing” our republic.
To help drive home the point about the misguided nature of the “audit,” Gableman responded by calling for Bernier’s resignation. She announced soon after that she wouldn't seek another term.