Republicans – House Speaker Lee Chatfield and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey – weren’t interested. Given Trump’s ongoing attack on the postal vote and the fact that their own members in the legislature distrusted the new “absenteeism without apology” rules, Chatfield and Shirkey were reluctant to do the process a favor. It wasn’t until the late stages of the race, when Republican Senator (and former Secretary of State) Ruth Johnson proposed a meager concession that allowed 10 hours of postal voting before polling day, that the GOP tossed a bone to election workers.
It is helpful to understand the logic of the party. Not only did they want to avoid the perception of supporting a system the president attacked as illegitimate, nor were they just skeptical of Democrats’ concerns about a lengthy census. But many Republicans didn’t think the elections would be terribly close to begin with. A summer poll, done privately for her at the local and statewide levels, showed that Trump had little chance of wearing Michigan a second time. The general expectation was that the President would comfortably lose at least 4 or 5 points of margin that would render any controversy over postal voting meaningless.
This thinking changed abruptly at 10 p.m. on election night. When the president rose to a permanent head start in Florida, despite expectations, by attracting large numbers of Hispanics and Among the absent voters, Michigan Republicans assert themselves in equal parts of euphoria and panic. It was clear that Trump was running far more competitive than expected. He was on track to win Florida, Ohio, and North Carolina, three states that are quickly pooling their ballots, which meant the spotlight would abruptly shift to the critical, slow-counting battlefields of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.
Everyone here knew this was a possibility, but it wasn’t until midnight that the urgency of the situation collapsed over the Republicans. Trump had built up a lead of almost 300,000 votes on the same day due to the disproportionately cheap ballot papers. Now that the eyes of the nation – and the president – were on their state, Michigan Republicans strove to protect that leadership. State party chairwoman Laura Cox began voting for prominent lawmakers, lawyers, and activists, urging them to go to the TCF Center, Detroit’s main postal vote counting center. She was met with some confusion; As planned, many Republicans were already there, working their shifts as election workers. It didn’t matter, Cox told them. It was time to flood the zone.
“It was all so predictable,” said Josh Venable, who ran election day for the GOP in Michigan in five different cycles. “Detroit has been the boogeyman for Republicans since I was born. It was always the white suburbs against Detroit, the white west side of the state against Detroit. There’s always that Republican rallying cry – “We’re winning everywhere, but losing Wayne County” – that creates paranoia. I remember the last time Wayne County released its votes on my first campaign in 2002 so Detroit could see how many votes Democrats would need to win the state. A lot of Republicans here believe that. “
As things worked out at the TCF center and more white Republicans came into the complex to oversee the activities of most black campaign workers, Chris Thomas noticed a change in the environment. After Thomas was released from retirement to oversee the Detroit census – a decision hailed by both Republicans and Democrats – he was “delighted” with the professionalism he delivered during the preprocessing session on Monday and the Had seen tabulation of votes on Tuesday. Now, in the early hours of Wednesday morning, things went sideways. In violation of the rules, groups of Republican electoral challengers were grouped around individual counting tables. People raised objections – such as the standard practice of translating military absenteeism onto ballot papers that could be read by machines – which indicated a lack of preparation.
“When I later read these affidavits from these Republican electoral challengers, I was just amazed at how misunderstood the electoral process was for them,” chuckled Thomas. “The things they said went on – it’s like, ‘Yes, that is I agree What happened. That’s what should to happen. (The Trump team’s much-acclaimed lawsuit against Detroit was recently withdrawn after being beaten up in local courtrooms. His campaign has so far won one case and lost 35.)
Sometime around 3:30 a.m., Thomas monitored the receipt of Detroit’s last large batch of postal ballot papers. They arrived in a passenger car. Thomas confirmed the numbers that he had checked over the phone: 45 compartments with approx. 300 ballot papers each for a total of 13,000 to 14,000 ballot papers. Not long after, Charlie Spies, an attorney for the US Senate campaign for Republican John James, approached Thomas at the TCF center. He wanted to know about the 38,000 postal ballot papers that had just passed. Thomas told him there weren’t 38,000 ballots; that it could have been almost 15,000 at most.
“I was told the number was 38,000,” Spies replied.
Wednesday morning at five o’clock It was obvious that Trump’s leadership was not going to last.
His pillow over Biden had been reduced to 70,000 votes. Hundreds of thousands of postal ballots remained to be counted in the great Democratic strongholds of Detroit, Lansing and Flint. The math just wasn’t practical for the president. Shortly before 9:30 a.m., Biden overtook Trump in the Michigan vote – and suddenly a switch was thrown on the right.
After running the democratic process across the country for 24 hours, Republicans began to slip Trump’s second term through their fingers, yelling badly and shouting conspiracy. No state has cornered the hysteria market like Michigan.
First, it was breathless allegations against Antrim County, a rural Republican redoubt in northwest Michigan with a turnout of 16,044, with unofficial returns showing that Biden led Trump by 3,000 votes. (A human error resulted in the candidate totals being implemented, the district clerk said, and it was quickly corrected, although that did nothing to prevent contextless social media posts about the bug from going viral, or the Slow down rumors of Governor Whitmer buying local officials for owning a vacation home in Antrim County.)
Then it was Stu Sandler, a longtime Michigan GOP agent and top advisor to James’ US Senate campaign, who preemptively declared victory and accused the Democrats of attempting to steal the seat. “John James won this race. The ballot papers are counted. Stop making up numbers, stop the process and cheat the system, ”Sandler tweeted. (James, clinging to a small trail that was about to disappear, tweeted that sinister claim again immediately. Sandler later deleted it, telling me he apologized for tweeting “in the middle of an intense moment” – but stuck with his for a long time alleged “irregularities” that have harmed his candidate.)
The real madness was saved for Detroit. By early Wednesday afternoon, hundreds and hundreds of Republicans had come to the TCF center to respond to an all-hands-on-deck letter issued by the State party and circulated by local officials. Cox, the party leader, tweeted a video of her comrades standing in front of the locked building downtown. “Republican campaign workers blocked entry to the TCF Center in Detroit! That is monstrous! ” She wrote.
What was really monstrous was Cox’s dishonesty. At the time of her tweet, there were already several hundred election workers, lawyers and representatives of her party Within The TCF center monitors the number. By law, Republicans were allowed to have 134 challengers in the room, one for each table table. In reality, the GOP had far more than that, according to affidavits from impartial election observers at the TCF center. Due to the overflow, election officials finally decided to cordon off the complex, starting with the glass siding room where the tabulation work was carried out. This left dozens and dozen Republicans trapped behind the glass – in addition to the hundreds of others locked outside with Cox. Some began to hit hard on the inner windows; others began filming workers handling the ballot papers, in violation of state law. To protect workers, TCF officials covered some windows with cardboard – a decision Thomas said he had not been consulted on but absolutely agreed to.
“The people outside of this room did exactly what the law says, you would expel people to do it – they interfered with the choice,” said Thomas. “Everyone else in the room – the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, the ACLU, the non-partisans – still had a number of challengers in the room. Incidentally, the Republicans had far more challengers in the room than they are entitled to. “
What made this behavior all the more confusing, said Thomas, was that the elections were conducted more transparently than any he had ever taken part in. At the end of each of the 134 tables there were monitors that “showed every key press that was made”. so that the challengers could see exactly what was happening. But he realized that none of it mattered. After dealing with Republican electoral challengers for decades, it is clear that the people who invaded TCF on Wednesday were not educated or were there for all the right reasons.
“In contrast to the people who were there Monday and Tuesday, these people were completely unprepared on Wednesday. They had no idea how the system worked. They had no idea what they were there for, ”said Thomas. “Many of them – not all, but many of them – have been on a mission. They clearly believed that mass fraud was taking place in Detroit, and they were on a mission to catch him. “
As conspiracy theories spread throughout the far-right information universe – Sharpie markers disenfranchising Trump voters in Arizona, a tagged Biden / Harris van unloading boxes of ballots in Nevada, suspicious voter turnout patterns in Wisconsin – Detroit held a special place at the heart of the President a.
When Trump spoke to the nation from the White House on Thursday evening and insisted that the elections had been “stolen” from him, he kept reverting to alleged wrongdoing in Michigan’s largest city. Detroit, he grinned, “I wouldn’t say has the best reputation for electoral integrity.” He said the city had “hours of unexplained delay” in counting the ballots, and when the late batches arrived, “nobody knew where they came from.” He claimed that Republicans were “denied access to watch censuses in Detroit” and that the windows were covered because “they did not want anyone to see the census”.
All of this was a lie. Republicans here – from Ronna Romney McDaniel to Laura Cox to federal and local lawmakers – knew it was a lie. But they didn’t lift a finger in protest when the President belittled Michigan and undermined America’s democratic norms. Why?
In the days after Trump’s shameful speech For the nation, two realities were inevitable for the Michigan GOP elite. First, there was no evidence of widespread electoral fraud. Second, they couldn’t afford to admit it publicly.
McDaniel was a case in point. Born into the Michigan royalty – granddaughter of beloved former Governor George Romney and niece of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney – she knows state politics as well as anyone. McDaniel worked here for her uncle’s campaign and then as a national committee woman and chair of the state party. She earned respect for her shrewd, studied approach. She spun and overdone and played the game, but she was generally viewed as overboard.
That changed after Trump’s 2016 victory. McDaniel was tapped by the president-elect to take over the Republican National Committee – on the not-so-subtle condition that she removed “Romney” from her professional name – and turned into an archetype of the GOP sycophant the Trump era. There was no lie too fancy to parrot, no behavior too inappropriate to justify, no abuse of power too obvious to allow. Longtime friends worried McDaniel wasn’t just humiliating himself in public. she seemed to be changing privately. She was no longer coolly detached from the passions of politics. If anything, she turned into a true MAGA believer.
So there was some relief when McDaniel told several confidants over the past few weeks that she doubted there was any scalable electoral fraud in Michigan. Even so, McDaniel told friends and Republicans to stay the course with Trump and his legal team. It wasn’t about pampering him, she said, but about demonstrating readiness to fight – even if the fight couldn’t be won.
If this sounds illogical, McDaniel’s thinking is actually pretty linear. The RNC will vote on the position of chairman in January. She is eager to keep her job. It’s bad enough that despite spending a tremendous amount of time and resources in Michigan, McDaniel was unable to deliver her home state for the president. If that proves viable, McDaniel’s offer would end immediately if he abandons the beating president in the last, desperate moments of his re-election campaign. No matter how obvious the result is – to McDaniel, to the 168 members of the RNC, perhaps even to Trump himself – any hint of surrender would be unforgivable.
Because of this, McDaniel has given its employees, starting with top spokeswoman Liz Harrington, approval to spread countless verifiable lies in the weeks since election day. Because of this, the RNC tweeted a video clip of disgraced attorney Sidney Powell on McDaniel’s watch claiming Trump “won on a landslide” (when he lost more than 6 million votes nationally) and alleged a global conspiracy to rig the elections against him. Because of this, McDaniel felt at ease about to dump a highly respected Republican employee under the bus in her own backyard, suburban Detroit, Oakland County, for a human error that was fixed from start to finish by transparency. (The clerk, Tina Barton, described McDaniel’s allegations of fraud as “categorically wrong”.)
Honesty and decency were not hallmarks of Republicanism during Trump’s presidency. They are certainly not priorities now. As Trump steps into the tortured twilight of his presidency, all that matters to someone like McDaniel – or Cox, the state party chairman facing his own imminent election – seems to be unconditional allegiance to the president.
“The unfortunate reality within today’s party is that Trump retains an influence that is forcing party leaders to continue on the path of realizing his fantasy of reversing the outcome – at their own expense,” said Jason Cabel Roe, a Michigan-based GOP -Strategist who once worked as a saleswoman for McDaniel and whose family goes back generations with hers. “Honestly, it excuses its role in continuing to amuse him. The election wasn’t stolen, he blew it up. Up until the past two weeks, he has apparently been doing everything to lose. Given the proximity, it’s nobody’s fault except Trump. “
Roe added: “But if you want a future within the party, you have to remain faithful. Conservatives in principle who respect the rule of law and speak up suddenly find themselves outcasts in a party that is no longer about conservatism but about Trumpism. Just ask conservative heroes like Jeff Flake, Justin Amash, and Mark Sanford. “
The same principle applies to Chatfield and Shirkey, the heads of state who were called to Washington to meet with Trump last week. Under normal circumstances, no one would allow anyone to meet the President. But the circumstances under which the Michigan GOP leadership was secretly with Trump were far from normal.
Just days earlier, a Wayne County Canvassing Board meeting had turned into a pandemonium after the two GOP members initially refused to confirm the county’s findings. There were legitimate concerns about some inconsistencies in the weighing of Detroit’s survey books. and yet these inconsistencies were minimal compared to the 2016 election, when Trump won by 15 times less than the lead – and when the board unanimously voted to confirm the result. Monica Palmer, one of the GOP recruiters, caused a stir when she offered to certify the rest of Wayne County – counties like Livonia – without certifying Detroit. (Livonia, which is 95 percent white, had more electoral irregularities than Detroit, which is 80 percent black.)
Jenna Ellis, Trump’s campaign attorney, tweeted siren emojis, announcing, “BREAKING: Tonight, the Wayne County, MI County Board of Canvassers refused to confirm the election results. If the state board follows suit, the Republican legislature will choose the voters. Huge victory for @realDonaldTrump. “
This turned out to be wrong in two ways. First, after a period of heavy public comment, the Wayne Board reversed course that night and voted unanimously in favor of confirming the results after the Democrats agreed to examine the county’s numerical inconsistencies. Second, the notion that under no circumstances would the legislature be free to send its own partisans to the electoral college actually had no basis. Under Michigan law, the only voters eligible to represent Michigan are those who vote for the referendum winner. There is no discretion for anyone – the governor, the legislature leaders, the county or state level recruiters – to do anything other than obey the law.