In a Close New Jersey 2020 Presidential Race, would the NJGOP have Participated in Trump’s Fake Elector Scheme?

The information already disclosed before this past weekend about the planning and incitement by Donald Trump and his White House staff regarding the January 6, 2021 insurrection was shocking enough. The revelations on Friday about the collusion between the Trump campaign and state Republican officials in five states to establishing “fake electors” for the 2020 election were even more appalling.

This new information, in itself, if further corroborated may well constitute American history’s worst narrative of political criminality not only by the president but by his entire political party as well. This was an unquestionable attempt at election fraud and stealing an election in plain sight.

At this juncture, in order to put the Trump anti-democracy scandals in proper perspective, it is necessary to compare them with the Watergate scandal that ended the presidency of Richard Nixon.  The Watergate scandal implicated virtually no Republican members of the US House of Representatives or Senate, no individuals on the Republican National Committee staff, and only President Nixon himself and a few members of Nixon’s Committee to Reelect the President (CREEP) and his White House Staff.

By contrast, the combined criminality of the January 6 insurrection planners plus the fake elector scheme conspirators stands as an indictment of the entire Republican Party, from the grass roots to state houses, Capitol Hill, and the White House.

The presidential election outcome in all five of these fake elector states, to wit, Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Georgia was extremely close.  And this begs the question:  Would the New Jersey Republican Party have supported the fake elector scheme if the 2020 presidential election in New Jersey had been likewise close?

This question can never be answered with certainty.  A review of the record of abject fealty in 2020 and 2021 to Trump, Trumpism and his partners in crime by the New Jersey Republican State Committee, its gubernatorial nominee, Jack Ciattarelli, and its new acquisition to its Congressional delegation, Representative Jeff Van Drew (R-2), suggests overwhelmingly that the New Jersey Republican Party would have been gleefully inclined to join this Trumpian parade of election stealing horribles.

Consider the following.

In 2021, the New Jersey Republican State Committee enthusiastically joined the national Republican effort to suppress the African-American vote.

In 2020, Jack Ciattarelli, the 2021 New Jersey Republican gubernatorial candidate participated in a Stop – the- Steal rally, a gathering which had as its avowed intention support of the Big Lie.  Ciattarelli also refused to blame Trumpists for the January 6 insurrection.  Instead, he engaged in gross sophistry by blaming both political parties equally.

In 2021, the above-mentioned Republican Congressman Jeff Van Drew, twice voted to reject the certified electoral votes in two battleground states, even as New Jersey’s other Republican House member, Chris Smith, whom I have praised previously as a profile in courage, refused to join the effort to unlawfully reverse the election.

So who is there among the current leadership of the New Jersey Republican Party who when faced with pressure to join the “fake electors” scheme would have faced down the authoritarian Trumpist national GOP leadership and cried, “Halt! No more will we join in your disgraceful, unlawful effort to subvert democracy and steal the election!”

Among the New Jersey Republican leadership in 2020, only the former Assembly Republican Minority leader Jon Bramnick, demonstrated the willingness and ability to speak truth to power to the national Trumpist GOP leadership.  I am certain that he would have been a Profile in Courage and acted in accordance with the highest ethics of his profession as a lawyer and said a firm “Hell, no” to Trumpist authoritarian thugs pressuring him to cooperate with the “fake electors” scheme.

Other than Jon Bramnick, I can think of nobody else in the. current New Jersey Republican leadership of whom I am certain would have rebuffed Trumpist pressure to participate in the “Fake Electors” scheme.  The current authoritarian war against democracy of the national Trumpist GOP leadership, together with the supine submission of the NJGOP leadership to national Trumpist desires stands in sharp contrast to the pro-democracy patriotism of the national and New Jersey Republican leadership during and after the Watergate era.

When the House Judiciary Committee was holding hearings on impeaching Nixon in July, 1974, one of Nixon’s most loyal supporters on the committee was Charles Sandman, Republican Congressman from the same district now represented by Jeff Van Drew.   Yet in sharp contrast to Van Drew, Sandman put loyalty to his country and the rule of law over his personal loyalty to Nixon. Immediately after the release during the first weekend in August, 1974 of the “smoking gun” tape proving Nixon’s guilt in the Watergate cover-up, Sandman changed his position and called for Nixon’s resignation.  So did the eminent Republican Senators Barry Goldwater from Arizona and Hugh Scott from Pennsylvania.  Also joining them in advocating Nixon’s departure was the Republican Senator from New Jersey, Clifford Case.

After the departure of Nixon from the presidency, his successor as president, Republican Gerald Ford, a good and great man, succeeded in his mission in bringing about a sense of healing to America.  This is in sharp contrast to the authoritarian Republican thug, Kevin McCarthy, the likely next Speaker of the House of Representatives who is already threatening to achieve retribution by denying seats on key committees to Democrats who investigated Trump.

The current continuing Trumpist Republican decadence is not only a mortal survival problem for the GOP.    It is a problem for American democracy itself, which requires two competitive parties that above all both fully retain legitimacy.

There are four tests for legitimacy of a political party in a democracy: 1) Compliance with the rule of law; 2) Recognition of civil liberties; 3) Acceptance of election defeats; and 4) Condemnation of violence.

The Republican Party of the Watergate era never lost its legitimacy at either the national or New Jersey state level.   The Republican Party of the Trump era has failed all four tests of legitimacy by its involvement with the January 6 insurrection, its Congressional efforts to deny certification of the electoral votes, and the Fake Elector scheme.  The New Jersey Republican Party has lost legitimacy by failing to live up to its high standards of independence and ethics established during the Watergate era but instead condoning all the misfeasance and malfeasance of the Trumpist national party and indeed participating in it.

The loss of legitimacy by the national Republican Party is a tragedy for American democracy, especially since the GOP expresses no desire to heal itself.  The need for a new center-right third party to compete with and eventually replace the current Republican Party is more profound than ever.

Alan J. Steinberg served as regional administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as executive director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.

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6 responses to “In a Close New Jersey 2020 Presidential Race, would the NJGOP have Participated in Trump’s Fake Elector Scheme?”

  1. Oh, I wish they would have tried. The Republican Cult in New Jersey would have been finished. Shitheadarelli and Van Douche would be spending time in federal prison

  2. The MSM propaganda spin has reached epically laughable proportions. Please do keep it up, though. Even staunch liberals are beginning to doubt it. As for the RINO’s…they need to be outed en masse. Still, red wave incoming….

    • I’m confused. Is that the red wave we were supposed to expect in 2018 when the GOP lost the House in a landslide? Or the red wave we were told to brace for in 2020 when the GOP lost the Senate and the White House in a landslide? Or is it a totally new red wave?

  3. …………..…….COURAGE NEEDED
    Disheartened and disappointed, I must admit that I, too, think that the NJGOP
    would have participated in Trump’s Fake Elector Scheme.

    Yes, there would have been a few exceptions, and I emphasize few.
    It saddens me to think the NJGOP, our legislators, lack the moral fiber,
    the emotional strength, even the common sense to speak out about
    the evilness and insanity of Trump and Trumpism.

    J.R.R. Tolkien…..Courage is found in unlikely places

    PS…..Outstanding column. Alan Steinberg.

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