America is being subjected to a stress test – and Republicans are failing

Robert Reich
·4 min read
<span>Photograph: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Financial regulators subject banks to stress tests to see if they have enough capital to withstand sharp downturns.

Related: Let's count the ways Donald Trump has tried to subvert this election, shall we? | Richard Wolffe

Now America is being subjected to a stress test to see if it has enough strength to withstand Donald Trump’s treacherous campaign to discredit the 2020 presidential election.

Trump will lose because there’s no evidence of fraud. But the integrity of thousands of people responsible for maintaining American democracy is being tested as never before.

Tragically, most elected Republicans are failing the test by refusing to stand up to Trump. Their cowardice is one of the worst betrayals of public trust in the history of our republic.

Trump is also depending on a Star Wars cantina of lackeys, grifters, sycophants and fruitcakes – including former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Senator Lindsey Graham, GOP trickster Roger Stone and others – whose reputations weren’t great to begin with but will now and forever be tainted by Trump’s moral squalor.

American democracy wasn’t designed for this degree of political depravity

That squalor extends down to Republican members of a board of canvassers in Wayne county, Michigan (which includes Detroit) who, after Trump phoned them last week, tried to rescind their approval of ballot counts that went overwhelmingly to Joe Biden. On Friday, Trump invited Michigan’s Republican lawmakers to the White House, hoping to persuade them to ignore the popular vote, too.

American democracy wasn’t designed for this degree of political depravity.

Here’s the good news. The vast majority of officials are passing the stress test, many with distinction.

Chris Krebs, who led the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity agency, last Tuesday refuted Trump’s claims of election fraud – saying the claims “have been unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent”.

Trump fired Krebs that afternoon. Krebs’s response: “Honored to serve. We did it right.”

Brad Raffensperger – Georgia’s Republican secretary of state who oversaw the election there, and describes himself as “a Republican through and through and never voted for a Democrat” – is defending Georgia’s vote for Biden, rejecting Trump’s accusations of fraud. On Friday he certified that Biden won the state’s presidential vote.

Raffensperger spurned overtures from Trump quisling Graham, who asked if Raffensperger could toss out all mail-in votes from counties with high rates of questionable signatures. And Raffensperger dismissed demands from Georgia’s two incumbent Republican senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue (both facing tougher-than-anticipated runoffs) that he resign.

“This office runs on integrity,” Raffensperger said, “and that’s what voters want to know, that this person’s going to do his job.”

Raffensperger has received death threats from Republican voters inflamed by Trump’s allegations. He’s not the only one. Election officials in Nevada, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Arizona are also reporting threats.

On Wednesday, Katie Hobbs, the Arizona secretary of state who has until 30 November to certify election results there, called on Republican officials to stop “perpetuating misinformation”, adding that threats and “continued intimidation tactics will not prevent me from performing the duties I swore an oath to do. Our democracy is tested constantly, it continues to prevail, and it will not falter under my watch.”

Honors to her, as well.

While we’re at it, let’s not forget all the other public officials who have been stress-tested during Trump’s repugnant presidency and passed honorably.

I’m referring to public health officials unwilling to lie about Covid-19, military leaders unwilling to back Trump’s attacks on Black Lives Matter protesters, inspectors general unwilling to cover up Trump corruption, US foreign service officers unwilling to lie about Trump’s overtures to Ukraine, intelligence officials unwilling to bend their reports to suit Trump, and justice department attorneys refusing to participate in Trump’s obstructions of justice.

If you think it easy to do what they did, think again. Some of them lost their jobs. Many were demoted. A few have been threatened with violence. They’ve risked all this to do what’s right in an America poisoned by Trump, who has no idea what it means to do what’s right.

Above all, this stress test reveals integrity. Democracy depends on it.

The fact that Trump’s attempted coup won’t succeed doesn’t make it any less damaging. A new poll from Monmouth University now finds 77% of Trump supporters believe Biden’s win was due to fraud – a claim, I should emphasize again, backed by zero evidence.

Which means America’s stress test won’t be over when Joe Biden is sworn in as president 20 January. In the years to come we’ll continue to depend on the integrity of thousands of unsung heroes to do their duty in the face of threats to their livelihoods and perhaps their lives.

Of his many odious acts, Trump’s desperate attempt to cling to power by stress-testing American democracy will be his most reprehensible legacy.