PENN LIVE: Patriot-News: Too many Republicans still promote the “big lie,” and waste tax dollars on sham audits

By Mark S. Singel

My early summer reading list included the political thriller “The President’s Daughter” authored by former President Bill Clinton and James Patterson. A page turner, the book has an exciting storyline that involves heroes and terrorists. An interesting aspect of the book was some detail about the origin of Mid-East tensions and Islamic principles that go back to Abraham. It reminded me of an experience I had with deeply religious Muslims at the Holy Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

“It reminds us that we are incapable of understanding the greatness of God,” was the answer.

This sublime moment of clarity reminded me not only of the infinitude of the Deity, but also, the puniness of we who share this speck of a planet. It made me feel that, at the very least we should strive for something like civility among nations, religions, and, yes, even political parties.

In his 1795 work entitled “The Age of Reason,” political writer Thomas Paine pointed out that going from the “sublime to the ridiculous” is only a step away. Lofty notions of faith, religion, and governance can be subverted by charlatans who whip followers into a frenzy with fantasies that are utterly false.

This is the case with much of today’s Republican party. According to recent polls, a disturbing percentage continue to buy into the “big lie” that, somehow, the recent Presidential election was “stolen.” The “pillow man” and his conspiracy-minded ilk are convinced that, somehow, the former President will glide back into office as early as this summer.

Worse, Republican leaders across the country are too afraid of a base that has devoured this nonsense and they cater to them. Nearly nine months after the election and six months after results have been counted, recounted, and certified by every single state in the nation, the Washington Post reports that more than one-third of the nearly 700 Republicans who have filed initial paperwork to run for the U.S. House or Senate next year support the “big lie.” In fact, they are making it a central part of their own campaigns.

This week, State Sen. Doug Mastriano, chairman of the State Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, served notice on counties throughout Pennsylvania that he will be conducting his own sham audit. Much like in Arizona and several other states, he is determined to find any shred of evidence that points to irregularities in our voting processes.

Privately, Republican leaders will tell you that there is no way that any such audit will uncover enough fraud to overturn the results. Publicly, they grandstand to the voters who want to upend democracy itself.

So, Mastriano is flexing his authority by making 45 separate information demands from the counties and threatening them with subpoenas if they do not comply by July 31. His letter to the counties seeks details about election equipment, software, hard drives, personal phone data, voter registration rolls, and enough other information that would tie up any County Election Bureau for months.

Note that county officials have been conducting fraud-free elections since the beginning of the republic. Note also that Sen. Mastriano is contemplating a run for governor. He has made pilgrimages to the Jan. 6 insurrection, to Mar-a-Lago, and to the Arizona audit site – just to make sure that the surly base of falsehood followers know that he is their guy.

This is not leadership. It is political pandering.

My friend, Congressman Dwight Evans, used to stir up the crowd at political rallies with this chant: “If it is meant to be . . . it is up to us!”

The new class of candidates emerging from the shadows of the last administration do not seem concerned with an insurrection and ongoing efforts to overturn an election. Many of them are willing to inflame the crowds to enhance their own chances of winning regardless of truth or our sacred traditions.

As election 2022 heats up, it is important that voters know which candidates bring skill, good faith, and respect for representative democracy to their campaigns. I continue to believe that there are good candidates with ideas and idealism in both political parties. It is more critical than ever that citizens rise to the moment and find them.

“If it is meant to be it is up to us!”

Mark S. Singel is a former Democratic Lieutenant Governor and Acting Governor of Pennsylvania.