The House Select Committee on January 6 concluded its summer hearings last week with a detailed examination of the 187 minutes during which Donald Trump did nothing to halt the invasion of the Capitol. But testimony at an earlier hearing frightened me as much or more.

On June 21, Gabriel Sterling, chief operating officer of the Georgia secretary of state’s office, answered committee questions. He, like Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, is a Republican and supported Trump’s re-election. 

Sterling explained how he and the secretary’s office had debunked claims of voter fraud. Yet Sterling remained frustrated because “ . . . oftentimes I felt our information was getting out, but that there was a reticence of people who needed to believe it to believe it because the President of the United States, who many looked up to and respected, was telling them it wasn’t true despite the facts.”

Sterling then related a disturbing story. “I remember there’s one specific—an attorney that we know that we showed him, walked him through. This wasn’t true. Ok, I get that. This wasn’t true. Ok, I get that. This wasn’t—five or six things. But at the end he goes, I just know in my heart they cheated.”  

How can a democracy function when people who believe election results to be bogus rely not on facts or evidence but on their emotions? How can heartfelt wishes overturn other Americans’ votes in an election proven to have been free and fair?

No question, millions of Trump supporters were bitterly disappointed when their candidate lost to Joe Biden in 2020. Newsflash: Millions of Hillary Clinton supporters were bitterly disappointed when she lost to Trump in 2016. This did not preclude a peaceful, orderly transition of power.

Republicans, conservatives, Trumpists have no call on their emotions to determine the outcome of an election. Our Constitution doesn’t work that way. But these folks were led down the garden path by a man devoid of any sense of ethics or history. No surprise.

On July 19, 2020, Chris Wallace interviewed Trump on Fox News Sunday. Wallace asked Trump if he would accept the results of November’s presidential election. Trump answered, “No. I have to see.”  

Perhaps Trump’s supporters liked that answer. I thought it appalling. Trump—demonstrating an ego perhaps suggesting a loss of contact with reality—defined any election in which he lost as fraudulent. As I wrote in “Faith Gone Awry” (July 11), many conservative Christians believed that Donald Trump was the handpicked candidate of Jesus. How can God’s choice be defeated? That can only be explained by deceit. Which leads me to counter: If Jesus wanted Trump to win, why didn’t he? Jesus surely could have manipulated the results in Georgia, Arizona and elsewhere.

The January 6 committee will return this fall prior to the mid-term elections. They probably will present additional information about the storming of the Capitol and Donald Trump’s role. They surely will offer a number of improvements to our election laws. 

Those recommendations, no doubt carefully reasoned, could provide answers to the challenge of assuring that federal elections are not overturned by states without legitimate cause accepted by the courts. Whether conservatives will find it in their hearts to evaluate those recommendations openly and dispassionately remains a baffling question.  

Order Lola Flores in softcover or e-book from or your favorite bookstore.

See the video of my interview about Lola Flores as part of Congregation Sherith Israel’s summer literary salon series.

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  1. David Newman on July 30, 2022 at 6:49 pm

    In a case that I litigated before I retired, we argued that my somewhat Trump-y defendant was willfully blind to the facts of what he was selling. We quoted the line from Paul Simon’s “The Boxer” — “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.” His lawyers went ballistic. We won.

    People are inclined — some more than others — to confuse knowledge and belief. I can believe in God or not believe in God (or be uncertain as to what I believe), but I can’t know about God. Other things — like the results of elections — are subject to knowledge, rather than belief: you count the votes, audit the results, examine the ballots, and the evidence is there for all to see. For someone to look at the evidence, accept it, and still “believe” to the contrary is simply cognitive incompetence. And even smart people can be cognitively incompetent if they want badly enough for reality to be other than what it actually is.

    This is no way to run a country.

    • David Perlstein on July 30, 2022 at 11:07 pm

      We are agreed, David. Yet sadly, many millions of Americans place belief before knowledge and expect the rest of us believe as they do. Times may get worse before they get better–assuming they do get better.

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