To get a sense of the Neverland President Trump and his administration are creating in Washington, consider what’s happening today at the White House.
The president is set to announce creation of a commission to examine a threat to our democracy, voter fraud, that exists almost exclusively in his imagination and the imaginations of some of his political allies. There is no reason to think it will be anything other than a waste of time and money.
At the same time, the White House is actively working to shut down an investigation of a real threat to American democracy, validated by 17 different intelligence agencies. Last week, the president branded that investigation “a total hoax;” on Tuesday, he stunned the nation and touched off a political firestorm by dismissing FBI Director James Comey, the man leading the investigation, and insisting he did so because Comey treated Hillary Clinton shabbily during the run-up to last year’s presidential election.
And yes, that’s the same “Crooked Hillary” Clinton who Trump argued last year should be sent to prison.
The Comey firing has been thoroughly dissected in the media. But today’s development, creation of what the White House is calling the President’s Commission on Election Integrity, merits a closer look.
The commission will be led by Vice President Mike Pence and Kris Kobach, the secretary of state in Kansas. Kobach is considered a rising star in Kansas politics and has built his career largely around claims that hordes of illegal immigrants are voting in our elections. Among Kansas’ 1.8 million voters, he has identified and convicted a grand total of nine vote fraudsters; now, with Trump’s encouragement, he can go national with his wild goose chasing.
The Brennan Center for Justice, which has been searching for more than a decade for evidence of voter fraud, has essentially come up empty. Its researchers have assembled a list of 19 studies by an assortment of Democrats, Republicans, academics, journalists and state election officials, all of which concluded that the “problem” is essentially non-existent. Perhaps the most exhaustive of those studies, conducted in 2012 and funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, found only 10 cases of voter impersonation fraud among 146 million voters.
Against such scholarship, we have the president’s unsupported and already debunked assertion that Hillary Clinton outpolled him last November only because millions of people voted illegally.
To be fair, I should add that the Pence-Kobach commission has a second mission, to examine voter suppression – a real problem. Unfortunately, Kobach has played a prominent role in creating that problem; his fearmongering about voter fraud has helped spur state legislatures across the country to adopt voter identification requirements that are needlessly keeping thousands of eligible citizens from casting ballots. In just one critical state, Wisconsin, the Associated Press reported last month that up to 300,000 otherwise eligible voters lack any of the IDs the state now requires for voting.
Where all this leads is anyone’s guess. It’s pretty much impossible to see how the new commission can come up with any evidence to validate the administration’s claims of widespread voter fraud. And it’s impossible to imagine that Trump will permit the commission to do anything other than claim it has found such evidence.
Welcome to Neverland.
Issues: Voting and Elections