The contrast is striking enough it doesn’t require much more than simple retelling.
On Monday, Jack Arends, 64, of Everett, sat at small desk in the Senate chambers of the state Capitol in Olympia and, as an elector for Washington state’s Democratic Party, cast his votes for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
In years past, the act has gone by without too much notice; a procedural vote by the 538-member Electoral College that recognizes who the majority of voters in each state backed for the two highest offices in the federal government. Democratic slates of electors voted in the states where Biden and Harris won; Republican electors cast their votes in the states where President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence prevailed. The final tally was 306 for the Democratic ticket, 232 for the Republican ticket.
For reasons well-understood in our nation but more personal for Arends, this year wasn’t like any other.
Secretary of State Kim Wyman, overseeing the ceremony, stated what has been obvious for the weeks that have followed the Nov. 3 election:
“The ceremony and tradition of this meeting marked an end to one of the most contentious elections of our time. While some people continue to call into question this election, average citizens from all walks of life will step up today to exercise their responsibility to perform their constitutional duty.”
For Arends, performing that constitutional duty was bittersweet in that it likely caps a long career serving the state’s political system as a precinct committee officer. Doctors have told Arends that he suffers from an inoperable heart valve problem.
“I don’t know how much time I am going to have on this earth, but I am going to make it count while I am here and that includes being an elector,” Arends told The Herald’s Ian Davis-Leonard ahead of the proceedings. “It’s that one last box I want to check; I am determined to check it.”
Also on Monday, state Rep. Robert Sutherland, R-Granite Falls, took to Facebook to make his own political statement: “Joe Biden is not now, nor will ever be my President. … Stay tuned, big things happening soon at the Federal level.”
Further down in the thread, Sutherland, who won re-election to his legislative post — in the same election — expanded on those “big things.”
“Prepare for war. It appears inevitable at this point,” he wrote.
Thursday, still feeling the need to explain, he continued: “I believe there is an active coup attempt against the POTUS happening right now. I believe there are many bad actors involved, China included. I believe the division between left and right is at a critical point, which, given the right set of circumstances (e.g. a successful coup) might very well lead us into a second civil war,” he wrote Thursday afternoon.
Sutherland went on to say that he didn’t want a second civil war, but his words seek to gin up more than disappointment. There’s a difference between expressing dissatisfaction with the outcome of an election and instead playing up fears that the supporters of the other party are engaged in the overthrow of the government.
Sutherland, of course, is not alone in pursuing his allegations of voter fraud and “rigged” elections.
Two members of Washington state’s congressional delegation — Reps. Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris Rodgers — signed an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court by Texas’ attorney general that attempted to challenge other states’ election procedures and throw out legitimate votes and overturn elections that were won by Biden and Harris.
The Supreme Court, with its custom-made 6-3 conservative majority, quickly rejected the lawsuit, stating Texas lacked standing to challenge the other states. It’s one of scores of legal challenges that have been dismissed for lack of evidence, lack of standing, lack of coherence or all three.
Meanwhile, Republican gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp has filed suit against Secretary of State Wyman, a fellow Republican, following his loss to Gov. Jay Inslee by 13 percentage points, again alleging “intolerable voting anomalies,” including dead voters and fraudulent votes by non-Washington residents.
A Dec. 4 statement by Wyman, prior to the lawsuit’s filing, said her office has not been shown evidence that supports any of those allegations.
No one expects Sutherland, Newhouse, McMorris Rodgers, Culp — nor certainly President Trump — to be happy with the outcome of the election. But, as no evidence has been produced that has thus far convinced the courts of the allegations of mismanagement or fraud, it’s time for the rabble-rousing accusations of rigged elections and coups to end.
Jack Arends, as he fulfilled his duties, was armed with nothing more threatening than two Sharpie pens to mark his ballots and a beret that read “Play Nice.”
Good advice, that.