No matter how divergent from reality, the idea that Trump won the election two years ago is clearly not an outlier position on the right. Standing out as exceptional by taking that position, then, requires something more. Not just expressing skepticism about the results, but, shall we say, actively working to undermine them. Continue to press the case even when the “evidence” of fraud has collapsed. Perhaps even commit to taking over a state’s electoral system to tweak it as you see fit.
So to be truly exceptional in this space, it has to be someone like Arizona state Rep. Mark Finchem (R), now up for election to take over as that state’s top election official next year.
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On Thursday, Finchem engaged in a brief debate with his Democratic opponent, Adrian Fontes. The discussion was not primarily about the boring mechanics of running the state and operating its elections in the future. Instead, he focused heavily on how Finchem had tried to unravel the burden choice. And Finchem was the first to raise the issue.
“I’m running for secretary of state to restore honor, restore integrity, restore security to the secretary of state’s office,” he began. He later claimed that election results in some counties were “hopelessly compromised,” including Maricopa County, where Fontes had administered the 2020 ballot.
Your evidence? Well, he argued that the Yuma County vote was tainted because of a case involving a former elected official who accepted and mailed other people’s ballots. This, he said, “altered the Yuma County result,” apparently making assumptions about the scale of what occurred (criminal charges focused on just four ballots) and not understanding that this occurred in 2020. primary.
Finchem claimed that they only found out about the fraud after the vote was certified, meaning it was too late. But of course there is no evidence of fraud in Arizona; in Maricopa County in particular. There have been no arrests or even credible accusations of rampant lawlessness; No evidence has been presented showing undeniable flaws in the system, nor has there ever been.
That last qualifier is important because it overlaps with another point of debate on Thursday: Finchem’s presence at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. Fontes, unsurprisingly, repeatedly noted that Finchem was present at the site of the riots that day, although Finchem insisted he did not know it was underway. (He would later also say that he heard the riots were caused by Antifa, which they were not.) When asked about being there after the debate, he said reiterated what he had said in a declaration at the time: He was “there to deliver an evidence package to Rep. Paul A. Gosar” (R-Ariz.).
It’s not clear what that “package” contained, but it’s not really important. Since that statement first came out, there has been a lengthy, expensive, and thoroughly partisan review of voting in Maricopa County, home to roughly 60 percent of the votes cast in Arizona in 2020. That review did not find that Trump actually won, surprisingly. but it did generate a lot of new material for mills just asking questions. (The county very kindly then answered those questions).
Again, though, the point is that Finchem thought he had evidence of fraud then just as he thinks he has evidence now, but that evidence is as ethereal as a ghost. However, Finchem intends to focus those accusations on his decision-making anyway.
Last year, at the start of his bid for Secretary of State, Finchem sent a remarkably frank fundraising email.
“I will protect the election from theft,” it read, “and make sure Arizona is the red state it REALLY is!”
The phrase “the Steal” refers to the “Stop the Steal” movement, in which Finchem enthusiastically participated. hey it’s been bound to Ali Alexander, the right-wing provocateur credited with creating the effort/money-making scheme in the wake of the 2020 vote. Finchem spoke at a “Stop the Steal” event in Arizona a month after the election, in which hey promised to prove that “the robbery” had occurred.
“Everybody seems to be saying, ‘We need to see the irrefutable evidence, we need to see the bullets, we need to see the blood spatter… we need to see the full crime scene,'” he said then. “Ladies and gentlemen, that is exactly what we are doing.”
No crime scene, literal or metaphorical, was ever presented. However, in a recent interview with Time magazine, Finchem suggested that he already had all the proof he needed. Reporter Charlotte Alter asked him if he would certify a Biden victory in 2024. She described her response:
Finchem chuckled. “If the law is followed, the legitimate votes have been counted and Joe Biden ends up being the winner,” he told me, “according to the law, if there is no fraud, I am obligated to certify the election.” But he added: “I think you’re proposing something that, frankly, is fantasy.” ”
“Why, I asked him, was it so impossible to believe that Biden won Arizona, as many polls predicted and post-election reviews confirmed? Will they admit they voted for Joe Biden?’ Was it possible that a lot of people I didn’t know personally had voted for Biden? ‘In a fantasy world, anything is possible,’ said Finchem.”
This is quite revealing. As I wrote in December 2020, the fact that many Trump supporters knew that few or no Biden supporters almost certainly contributed to the sense that a Biden victory was impossible. You regularly heard a refrain from those who reject Biden’s victory: How could he have gotten 81 million votes? The answer, of course, was that a large part of those votes came from heavily Democratic big cities, places where people like Mark Finchem often don’t live.
The important part of the quote, of course, is that Finchem told Alter that he would certify a Biden victory only in a “fantasy world.” And that is why we are talking about Finchem: he is poised to have the power to decide whether the election results should be upheld.
Had he been similarly empowered in 2020, he would not have certified that election. In February, after months of adjudication and review of votes in the state, Finchem order 2020 results in Maricopa, Pima and Yuma counties will be reserved. It’s not clear what practical effect that would have; Biden would still be president. But it is worth noting that the alleged justifications for this action were largely those already discredited by Maricopa County.
The “evidence” was there only because Finchem and the other supporters of the motion felt the need to do some case type. However, as is often the case, the evidence itself didn’t matter any more than it does what route your car’s GPS gives you. They knew where they were going and they didn’t care how they got there. If there was an unexpected obstacle, no problem. Just move around. Find new “evidence”.
As Secretary of State, Finchem could act both before and after an election to shape the outcome. She could limit voting mechanisms to benefit Republicans, and she could approve audits or reviews to achieve the same end. And she has been explicit about the rationale for doing so: She doesn’t think it’s possible for a Democrat to win the state.
Vote for him, he promised, and he would “make sure Arizona is the red state it REALLY is”; that in both the 2018 and 2020 federal elections it was no matter. It’s about the destination, not the journey.