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Sedition: the act of a person forcefully trying to overthrow, take down, hinder, or delay the government or its laws by doing so through words or speech; conduct or speech that incites individuals to violently rebel against the authority of the government; inciting or participating in rebellion against the constitutionally established government, its processes and institutions, or the rule of law.

Our concerns about election deniers who have run for, and in some cases won, elective office (and about those who support them) are justified. Yet for too long we have self-crippled our ability to fix this travesty. We have tended to attribute election denialism to conspiracy theories generated by wackos. This over-simplifies—in fact it trivializes—the problem, which then makes it far more difficult to solve (if it is even solvable). Trivializing election denialism as merely the province of wackos leads us to see it as though it is a one-stop problem with a one-stop solution: waking the unwoke.

It is not a one-stop problem. The problem is not that election deniers are unwoke (or it is not only that they are unwoke); it’s that election deniers fail to distinguish between outcomes that are theoretically possible and those that are realistically likely. This happens for many reasons: Some deniers are believers, some are cynics, some are confused, and some are running PsyOps. In the case of potential voter fraud, deniers are not wholly wrong. Our existing anti-voter-fraud systems are elementary, and it is possible, even easy, to skirt them. What deniers refuse to consider—because to consider it would undermine their agendas—is the reason that our anti-voter-fraud systems are elementary. They don’t need to be more complicated. The systems we have are working just fine; they are elementary because, though cheating is easy, no one is doing it.

Well, not no one: There have been a few recent instances of voter fraud, although, so far as we know, all have been committed by right wingers who were attempting to a) thumb local election scales, based on the snake-eating-its-own-tail logic that they believed they had to because Democrats were cheating (they weren’t); or b) prove the ease of voter fraud, something everyone already knew. In fact, between 1776 and 2016, our simple and open elections systems were a point of national pride. Cheating to show how easy it is to cheat is like randomly shooting a stranger on a crowded street to prove how easy it is, then proposing, as a remedy, that sufficient police be hired and placed six feet apart on every block. (Only a police state can obviate the need for a police state.)

These two positions—what might happen in an election vs. what does happen—are irreconcilable. They share no common ground because they exist within mutually exclusive paradigms. The former position is fantasy, the latter reality. Though myriad human misbehaviors are conceivable, and many of them are, alas, performable, it is realistically impossible to guard against everything that we can imagine doing. Nor do we manage our lives that way. It is possible that someone riding a bicycle will be struck and killed by lightning, in fact it has happened, but we ride our bicycles anyway, and we don’t carry lightning rods.

But here’s where it gets as serious as a heart attack. One of the drivers of fascism derives from governments imposing arbitrary regulations based on the anxiety of the month: One month it’s voter fraud, the next month it’s socialism. Of these two positions, one is American, the other authoritarian.

Among the radical departures our Founders pursued, based on their knowledge of previous approaches to governing, was to structure a government based on minimal intervention in citizens’ lives, and then only when deemed necessary by representatives of the people. (In that limited sense, American government has always been infused with a libertarian spirit.) So in response to their dissatisfaction with government by codified whim, the Founders built our system so that citizens’ behavior is assumed legal except where it is specifically declared illegal, and then those in power must justify making it illegal. The Founders set up our system so that people would be left alone to pursue their happiness unless their pursuit interfered with others pursuing theirs. The old American saw is that we’re free to swing our fists as long as no one else’s nose is in the way.

Our Constitution also recognizes that humans, even with the noblest of intentions, are both fallible and self-deluding, so it is a litany of thou shalt nots. The Founders’ intent was to limit a government’s potential for abusing power, which to them meant abusing its citizens. The Constitution is comprised of boundaries, limits, checks and balances, prior restraints.

It is intellectually and politically lazy to talk about limiting government. It is not government that abuses citizens, it is citizens acting in the name of government who abuse citizens. That’s what a “government of laws, not [people]” means. The Founders, having seen what humans can talk themselves into doing to one another—often under the rubric of doing something for one another (what a difference a preposition makes)—tried to foresee and prevent many of those things.

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Where this matters in a discussion of election denialism is that in our Constitution, government intervention—law—is deemed appropriate based on what people are doing, not on what they might do. The former skews toward individual liberty, the latter toward oppression. Deniers claim that onerous and complex regulation of voting is justified and necessary because it’s possible that someone might cheat. To prevent that—to “secure the integrity of our voting systems”—they propose creating a corpus of regulations, and even in some cases a force of election police, that will be (in some cases is designed to be) misused in exactly the way the Founders deliberately intended to prevent. Passing laws based not on what people are doing but on what they might do is itself Un-American. Advocating such laws is advocating the subversion of the Constitution. That, by definition, is sedition.

Concisely, the Blue Army’s position on anti-voter-fraud regulation works inside the traditional Constitutional structure of minimal government (there is no justification for further regulation of voting because there is no consequential amount of cheating), while the Red Army’s position works outside the Constitution and against it. The Blue Army’s position is patriotic; the Red Army’s position is seditious—not corrosive, not undermining, not disruptive of democratic norms—but seditious, and it is well past time for Blue Army politicians to start saying so. But preventing Democrats from doing that is our nation’s long (again between 1776 and 2016) tradition of honoring the concept of “loyal opposition,” the idea that people can and are entitled to have differing opinions yet can still pledge allegiance to the Constitution. But election deniers’ “opinions” are not opinions as the Founders understood that term, as conclusions grounded in facts. They assumed citizens would want their opinions grounded in facts, and that’s why they insisted on free speech. They were fine with private opinions, i.e. religion, being grounded purely in belief, but they did not believe that citizens were “entitled” to circulate public opinions based on made-up crap in the marketplace of ideas.

Election denialism is not a “difference of opinion.” It is not “voter suppression.” It is not misguided or confused citizens passively “undermining our democracy”—please someone save us from Demsplaining— that will resolve on its own when deniers come to their senses.

Election denialism is not “free speech.” Election denialism is trying to destroy the fire department so that when someone in a crowded theater yells “Fire!” the fire department can’t adequately respond, the theater burns to the ground, and there are casualties and deaths. Election deniers manipulate our reverence for free speech to attack the institutions that protect free speech. They are not loyal opposition; they are disloyal opposition, and election denialism is sedition.

Election deniers are no less seditious than the Capitol rioters of January 6th, and like them, they should be prosecuted, especially the Denier in Chief, who should be prosecuted for both sedition and conspiracy to commit sedition. The evidence, based on texts sent, phone calls transcribed, and video distributed, is clear. Indict him and try him—assuming 12 impartial billionaire imbeciles can be found—before a jury of his peers. (Not that Merrick Garland will indict him. Garland is still hoping for a Supreme Court seat and will do nothing that might ignite far right opposition at a confirmation hearing.)

So the fundamental problem with election denialism is neither “voter suppression” nor that wackos equate disagreement with evil and want to deny the vote to those with whom they disagree (although it is in part that). The problem is that election deniers misunderstand who we are and what America stands for. By actively working to undermine it, they are seditious.

How to fix this? Beats the crap out of me. That’s well above my pay grade. I honestly don’t know. I don’t know if it can be fixed short of turning off the internet, which functions as a sedition-powered megaphone. What I do know is that the only chance we have of fixing any complex problem is to end our own denialism, to look at a problem head-on, to see it fully, and to engage with it in all its ferocity. What I do know is that it is time to stop behaving as if election denying candidates and their supporters are just citizens with normal differences of opinion to which they’re entitled. They are not; they are seditious, and when we pretend otherwise, we are abetting those who seek to take away something we hold dear.

What I do know is that in a nation founded on the notion that those given power must do the people’s bidding, that the people’s bidding is expressed in the outcome of elections, and that every loyal citizen’s franchise is fundamental and sacred, election denialism is sedition. It is time to be saying so, loud and proud.

Election denialism is sedition.

If we don’t take seriously deliberate attempts to undermine our government, who will?

Age of Sedition