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MAGA protests are getting hotter, not cooler, as the 2020 election recedes into the past. Photo: Getty Images

It has now been well over a half-year since the 2020 general election, and nearly six months since all 50 states certified the 2020 presidential vote’s winners and losers, awarding the White House to Joe Biden. Bizarre rituals like the endless and farcical election “audit” in Maricopa County, Arizona, are drawing widespread mockery, even from Republican elected officials. But instead of serving as the last after-shock of Donald Trump’s fact-free effort to overturn his defeat, the audit fever seems to be spreading, as the Washington Post recently reported, from Arizona to Georgia, Michigan, New Hampshire, and now Wisconsin. There’s even an effort underway to recount the presidential vote in San Luis Obispo County in California, a state Biden carried by well over five million votes.

We are obviously far beyond the point when the election result confirmed by Congress under a MAGA mob attack on January 6 is going to be reversed, as some of the “audit” and “investigation” advocates acknowledge. So what’s up?

The situation in Wisconsin cast some light on it all, as reported by the Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal:

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is hiring retired police officers to investigate aspects of the November election, joining with Republicans from around the country who have questioned President Joe Biden’s victory.

Vos, of Rochester, said he recognizes Biden narrowly won Wisconsin and is not trying to change the results.

He said he hopes the investigators can get to the bottom of issues Republicans have raised unsuccessfully in court, such as how the state’s largest cities used more than $6 million in grants from a private group to run their elections.

In fact, Vos is launching a fishing expedition, giving these unofficial “investigators” three months to follow up on “tips” on election irregularities — some specific, some general, some purely hallucinatory.

The Speaker’s stated rationale is identical to the boostrapping excuse cited by those who wanted to stop congressional confirmation of the results in January:

“A sizable chunk of people believe the election was illegitimate. And democracy cannot flourish if both sides don’t believe in the end both sides had a fair shot.”

So because Trump told MAGA folk the election was “rigged” long, long before November, a charge rejected by election officials from both parties and judges from every persuasion, investigators will try to find evidence to support all these vague suspicions. If they do, of course, this will simply increase the delegitimization of the election that Trump has promoted, instead of making democracy “flourish.” And as Vos acknowledged, investigators may pre-justify Republican efforts to change the rules going forward:

My job is to be frustrated with the result, which I am, especially with what’s going on in Washington, D.C. … My job is to say where are the laws being followed, where are they not? If they’re not being followed, how can I fix it?”

It’s a “solution” in search of a problem, of course. But it does represent a rational, if somewhat evil, three-pronged strategy to (a) satisfy Trump and his allies; (b) justify voter suppression measures, and most ominously (c) precondition Republican voters to mistrust adverse results if they arise in 2022 or 2024. No wonder it’s an approach that is appealing to more and more Trump-adjacent Republicans, even in states he lost decisively.