U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) speaks during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Oct. 7, 2021, in Washington, D.C. The hearing was being held to examine a Republican-led Arizona audit of the 2020 presidential election results in Arizona’s most populous county, Maricopa. (Joshua Roberts-Pool/Getty Images)
Republican Party leaders in Colorado say they want to get past stop-the-steal rhetoric. They say voters aren’t interested in hearing about the “big lie” that the 2020 election was rigged against former President Donald Trump. They say they want to look ahead and focus on issues like gas prices, crime and education.
Then they contradict these assertions with whopping gestures of election denialism.
That is what is happening this week. The state’s GOP leaders invited one of the country’s most prominent election deniers, Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, to give the keynote address at the party’s annual fundraising dinner, which occurs a day before the state party assembly on Saturday.
The message is unavoidable: Election denial is a value that party leadership celebrates and promotes.
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Even among the most vocal election deniers in Congress, Biggs stands out. He was until recently the head of the House Freedom Caucus, whose members, including Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, are among the Republican Party’s most politically extreme. Even some other Republicans deride them as “grifters” and “performance artists.”
Biggs was reportedly instrumental in helping to plan the Jan. 6 “stop the steal” rally in Washington, D.C., that preceded the insurrection. A lead organizer of the event, Ali Alexander, said of Biggs and Reps. Paul Gosar and Mo Brooks, “We’re the four guys who came up with a January 6 event,” according to The Intercept.
Biggs later allegedly sought from Trump a preemptive pardon for himself for his role in the insurrection, and he is one of the GOP representatives who have attracted the interest of the congressional Jan. 6 committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Election denialism as advanced by a minority of conservatives has already corroded faith in elections to a critical degree ... And it threatens to cast doubt on every future election.
In October, after a GOP-led election “audit” in Maricopa County, Arizona, that was widely viewed as a sham but nevertheless affirmed President Joe Biden’s victory, Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland asked Biggs during a congressional hearing who won the election in Arizona. Biggs responded with a lie: “We don’t know.”
Raskin correctly diagnosed the problem. “Donald Trump refused to accept the results,” he said. “And unfortunately, we have one of the world’s great political parties, which has followed him off of the ledge of this electoral lunacy, and it’s dangerous for democracy.”
Colorado Republican leaders, by inviting Biggs to headline their biggest annual event, are taking the state party off the ledge.
The party chair, Kristi Burton Brown, who ultimately decides who gets to speak at the dinner, has tried to walk the line between truth and the political reality that a sizable segment of her party rejects the truth. Although at times she has claimed that “plenty of voter fraud” occurs, she has not joined other Republicans in giving voice to the most offensive election lies. She even seems to have calculated that conspiracy theorists in the Republican ranks are damaging the party brand, as when she called on Tina Peters, the Mesa County clerk running for secretary of state, to suspend her campaign after Peters was indicted on election conspiracy-related felony counts.
But Burton Brown cannot bring herself to say Biden won the election fair and square. Instead, she says, “We have to acknowledge, yes, Joe Biden is in the White House, and there’s not a provision in U.S. law to do anything about that,” as she told a conservative radio host in September.
That’s a form of avoiding, not telling, the truth. Welcoming Biggs to one of the party’s most high-profile events mocks the truth.
And it’s not just the Biggs appearance. On Saturday, state party assembly participants will consider adoption of proposed party resolutions, including one that concerns “integrity in elections.” It says “people of Colorado, on both sides of the aisle, continue to mistrust the accuracy of election results” — the stuff of conspiracy theory — and calls for the elimination of automatic voter registration and other voter suppression measures.
Many Colorado Republicans say a significant portion of the party wants to move on from claims of fraud and trusts elections. But election denialism as advanced by a minority of conservatives has already corroded faith in elections to a critical degree. It led to the violence of Jan. 6. It has persuaded a majority of Republican voters to believe the election was stolen from Trump. And it threatens to cast doubt on every future election.
Biggs’ presence at the GOP dinner reflects contempt for democracy, but Colorado Republicans can refuse to be present for it. They should skip the event. That would signal to their peers, to their voters, and to all Coloradans that their interest in election integrity is sincere rather than cynical.
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