John M. Crisp, Tribune News Service
Which should we be most worried about, our species or our nation?
First, our species: Our world’s most prominent leaders, as well as 20,000 diplomats, executives and activists, are convening in Glasgow this week to talk about the threat that climate change presents for our species. Good for them.
But climate activist Greta Thunberg recently summed up 30 years of talking about climate change this way: “Blah, blah, blah.”
There is reason to believe that her cynicism is justified. Despite considerable alarmist handwringing and well-intentioned rhetoric, we’ve actually done very little to slow climate change. In fact, the planet’s warming has developed its own apparently unstoppable momentum. The prospects are dim.
But then there’s our nation to worry about. We could describe our current political dysfunction in various ways, but last week a very ominous number emerged from a recent Politico and Morning Consult poll. Two thousand registered voters responded to this question: “Do you think the results of the 2020 presidential election should be overturned?” Thirty-five percent said “Yes, definitely” or “Yes, probably.” Among Republicans, 60 per cent said the same.
The indication that one in three Americans believes that Biden’s presidency is illegitimate and that he should be replaced by former president Donald Trump is not as alarming as the fact that this position is based on essentially no evidence.
When it comes to election skepticism, the burden of proof is on the doubters and deniers, and in the case of the 2020 election they simply have not been able to develop any evidence that rises above anecdote, assertion and innuendo.
On the contrary, a wide array of academics, politicians, historians, state officials and people who study such things have found that no credible evidence of election fraud exists and certainly not any level that would affect the outcome of the 2020 election.
Election results have been challenged in the courts more than 60 times, and judges appointed by both Republicans and Democrats have found no merits in the suits.
Republicans as prominent as Trump’s former attorney general William Barr have asserted that the election was secure and honest. Shortly after the election, Barr told the Associated Press that US attorneys and F.B.I. agents had investigated complaints and “we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”
Yet the lie persists and has been the driving force behind unnecessary audits, threats against election officials and a slew of new laws that are designed to make voting harder rather than easier.
Where does the lie get its strength? As far as I can tell, it depends largely on the idea that the Constitution grants the power to control elections to state legislatures and, thus, Republicans contend, changes in election procedures have to be approved by the legislatures themselves.
The reductio ad absurdum suggests that the relocation of a polling station by a local election official would require the convocation of the legislature to approve it. In practical terms, Republicans are applying this rationale to cast doubt on voting practices that encouraged record turnout in the middle of a pandemic. And Republicans are deeply threatened by record turnout. This specious rationale serves as the basis for most of the misguided skepticism about the election, despite the fact that even if the rationale were accurate, it doesn’t indicate that voter fraud actually occurred or that one side would benefit over the other.
Yet the Republicans have managed to beguile a significant portion of our nation into believing that the election was fraudulent. And without faith in our elections, we do not have a democracy.
So, which is the greater threat, climate change or this Republican lie? I predict our species will survive climate change, even if the world turns into the place that philosopher Thomas Hobbes described in 1651: “No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
But can our democracy survive this systematic and intentional erosion of faith in our elections? No.
Researchers from Cambridge University, the University of East Anglia and London-based SOAS looked at a "realistic scenario" known as RCP 8.5, where carbon and other polluting emissions continue rising in coming decades.
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