Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Dear Republicans: Prove it or shut up

Last week, President-elect Donald Trump claimed that enough illegal immigrants had voted in the 2016 presidential election to more than account for his 2.5 million-vote deficit in the popular vote. When that claim was attacked as utterly without substance, Trump's defenders rushed to argue otherwise.

In a "60 Minutes" interview broadcast last night, House Speaker Paul Ryan was asked whether he agreed with Trump, or whether he agreed with those who accused the president-elect of total fabrication.

“I don't know,” Ryan responded. “I'm not really focused on these things.”

Well, I do know. I call total and absolute BS¹.

If Trump honestly believed that millions of illegal votes had been cast against him, he would not content himself with tweeting complaints about it. If Ryan  thought it was even possible that millions of illegal immigrants had voted in this election, affecting the outcome of many down-ballot races, including races for Congress, then he and his fellow Republicans would already be launching massive congressional investigations, and the likes of Trey Gowdy and Jason Chaffetz would be salivating at the prospect of leading those high-profile probes.

Jeff Sessions, Trump's nominee for attorney general with a long if unsuccessful history in trying to prosecute vote fraud cases, would likewise be announcing a full-blown national investigation to find and prosecute those voters.

Instead, we get nothing. Silence.

So let me issue a challenge to the Republican Party and its supporters:

You now have control of the awesome resources and authority of every branch of the federal government. I'm not going to appeal to your patriotism, or to your devotion to rule of law, to democracy or the Constitution. I'm going to appeal to your own self-partisan interest, because that seems the most powerful animating force in the universe right about now.

Go out and prove it.

If you are successful, you could validate what has become a central tenet of modern conservatism. You could silence and humiliate people like me, who consistently point out that you have no evidence to justify the claims that you make. You could build an overwhelming political and legal case for the strictest voter-ID laws imaginable. You could ensure that the millions of illegal votes allegedly cast against you in 2016 would never be cast against you again.  The partisan advantages of proving this voter fraud that you have been whining about for a decade now would be overwhelming.

All you have to do is prove it.

Create a bipartisan investigatory commission, give it subpoena power and a full staff. Find those people who are allegedly making a mockery of our democratic system, and prosecute and jail them, because if they exist, then they damn sure ought to be prosecuted and jailed. A vote-fraud scheme on that scale would have to be organized and orchestrated;  find the orchestrators and organizers, and prosecute them to the absolute full extent of the law.

If literally millions of such illegal votes were cast -- apparently even in states with Republican election officials, legislatures and governors-- then you should have no problem whatsoever in producing not a scattered handful of convictions and not a hundred, but thousands of them. Even 3,000 such convictions would amount to just one conviction for each 1,000 criminal acts that you allege to have occurred nationwide.

Prove it, or shut the hell up.

¹ Baloney situation.

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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.