It doesn’t happen especially often, but now and again you do see it: An actual, clear-cut, indisputable profile in courage.
Today’s rare example: Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.
This arises from one of the misbegotten legal actions of recent years, coming out of - surprise - Texas, which is suing in federal court to interfere in how several other states conduct their elections. It is a completely unprecedented kind of interference - states historically always have left each other alone in the conduct of their elections, and even the federal government generally has stayed at a remove. But Texas is suing four states that voted for Democrat Joe Biden for president seeking to throw out millions of votes because it didn’t support the candidate Texas officials supported.
Do not be fooled by any - any - of the arguments about flawed election processes in those sued states (or any others, for that matter). Those states and their elected officials have been challenged in court over and over, dozens of times, in the last month, and no evidence of any substantial problems has been developed, with the result that nearly every legal challenge has been aggressively thrown from the courts - often by judges appointed by Republicans, including Donald Trump. If someone has evidence of significant electoral wrongdoing, they should bring it forward. So far, the most strenuous efforts of Trump supporters have come up dry. This was a clean election. These vague, unsubstantiated claims of fraud are the fraud.
Why do you hear of election fraud in rallies and press conferences but, from shame-faced lawyers, none in court? Because lying to judges in court can have serious professional repercussions.
Nevertheless, Texas has been assembling support from Republican officials in other states. At this writing 17 Republican states’ attorneys general have signed on. It’s become a national conservative litmus test.
Wasden said he wouldn’t join. Here’s the substance of why:
“As I have done since the day I took my oath of office – in which I pledged to uphold and protect both the Idaho and U.S. constitutions – I strive to protect the State of Idaho’s legal interests. As is sometimes the case, the legally correct decision may not be the politically convenient decision. But my responsibility is to the State of Idaho and the rule of law.
“This decision is necessary to protect Idaho’s sovereignty. As Attorney General, I have significant concerns about supporting a legal argument that could result in other states litigating against legal decisions made by Idaho’s legislature and governor. Idaho is a sovereign state and should be free to govern itself without interference from any other state. Likewise, Idaho should respect the sovereignty of its sister states.”
Actually, this is a sound conservative stance. He makes a fair states-rights point: If Idaho can sue Wisconsin and Georgia to try to get them to overturn the will of their voters, then why shouldn’t California and Oregon be able to sue Idaho to overturn its results? Open the door, and you never know who may walk through. (The Wisconsin rebuttal brief makes a similar point.)
That, of course, is in addition to the simple glaring dishonesty of the Texas project.
Wasden’s reference to political convenience also is on target. He will be taking no end of heat, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a flash mob of armed protesters show up at his house, since this seems to be the expanding modus operandi in Idaho on the right. Odds are his office has been fielding physical threats by the time you read this. (Idaho’s legislative leadership also called on him to join with Texas.)
Compare that to the craven response by Governor Brad Little who, following up on Wasden, said he would have an attorney file a brief supporting Texas. His statement as to why: "Idaho's elections are safe and secure, and we expect the same of other states. Protecting the sanctity of the voting process is paramount to ensuring a strong democratic process, and our citizens need the confidence that their vote counts.” (Notice the absence of actual specifics in other states.)
He does not say how spreading fake rumors and distrust in the elections held by other states, which is what the Texas suit does and is designed to do, will help give our citizens “confidence that their vote counts.”
There’s a reason profiles in courage are rare: It’s hard to stand up to the crowd. Wasden is not a newcomer to that role; he’s taken gutsy stands before. This may be his gutsiest.