By Stuart Stevens
Pardon me if I don’t join in the celebration of the Supreme Court decision on Moore vs. Harper. Yes, it is indeed good news that the court ruled that legislatures do not have the right to overturn the popular vote. But what is lost in the post-ruling analysis is the context of the forces working every day to change the election laws in America. For this powerful and patient group, the Moore vs. Harper decision is a temporary setback in their long war. While the majority ruled against, we now have three Supreme Court Justices who have gone on record supporting the radical independent state legislative theory. This is a critical step in the normalization of what not very long ago would have been considered as looney as reaffirming the Dred Scott decision.
The model for the efforts to change American election laws is the dedicated effort by the Federalist Society to change America’s courts into a conservative bulwark. What began as a weekend meeting in New Haven in 1982, the Federalist Society has spent decades working to dramatically shift American juris prudence in a conservative direction. The process was slow, with many setbacks, but considering decisions like the overturning of Roe V. Wade, it is difficult to argue the Federalist Society did not win and is continuing to win.
Leonard Leo was the driving force behind the Federalist Society, and he has now expanded his efforts to fund a loosely affiliated network of groups dedicated to changing the legal structure of American elections. Flush with the recent donation of $1.6 billion dollars, the largest donation to a political organization in American history, Leo has formed the Honest Elections Project to serve as the coordinating group for the efforts to fundamentally shift the legal structure of American elections.
One of those groups is the Conservative Partnership Institute, a typically bland name for an organization dedicated to accomplishing the goals of the January 6 insurrection. With a budget of over $45 million, it is a home for key election deniers like Mark Meadows, a Senior Advisor, and Cleta Mitchell, who serves as a “Senior Legal Fellow.” Mitchell joins a long list of those who had perfectly normal careers before eagerly buying a ticket on the Trump crazy train. Mitchell was once the force behind Oklahoma’s passage of the Equal Rights Amendment as a Democratic member of the Oklahoma legislature. She became involved in the term limits movement in the 1990s and drifted rightward. When Trump was elected, she was a partner in the DC law firm of Foley and Lardner, which is as establishment Washington as it gets. Then, on January 2, 2021, she was in the Oval Office when Trump called the Secretary of State of Georgia and pressured him to do what was necessary to reverse the election results. “All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.”
Over the course of the call, Mitchell repeatedly interjected to push the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his lawyers, attempting to bring some coherence to the jumbled confusion of contradictory numbers and conspiracy theories that Trump was regurgitating. At one point, they had this exchange:
Trump: No, but I told you. We’re not; we’re not saying that.
Mitchell: We did say that.
Mitchell’s law firm had asserted that it was not involved in any election denial efforts. When the Washington Post broke the story of the call, Mitchell’s defense was that she was not Trump’s attorney of record. But once you’re sitting in the Oval Office helping a president pressure an election official to reverse the outcome of a presidential election, that’s a nuance of little meaning. She resigned from her firm and now is part of the broad Republican effort to elect election officials who embrace the Big Lie. Why try to convince an honorable election official when you can elect one who is on your side? Much more efficient.
In low-profile events that are largely hidden from the press, a coalition of Republican groups that call themselves the “Election Integrity Network” hold regular meetings for election officials, their staffs, and potential poll workers as part of a multi-pronged strategy to change the electoral process in America. “This fight is not just about what happened in 2020,” Mark Meadows said two years after his involvement in the failed Trump coup. “This fight is about every future election, whether it is at a state level or a federal level or the highest office in the land.”
At one meeting in Arizona in the spring of 2022, leaked audio revealed Cleta Mitchell expanding on the Great Replacement Theory of a Democratic plot to reduce the power of white voters. She showed a picture of Jesse Jackson speaking at the Pepsi-sponsored Goodwill Games between the United States and the Soviet Union in front of the flags of both nations. “You know the American flag. Do you know what that other flag is?” Mitchell asked, pointing to the Soviet Flag. “The Communist Party of America. This was the 1980s. And Pepsi—you think that this is new? This business of the woke corporations throwing in with the left? This started a long time ago.”
She continued, articulating the fear that unites white movements, from the KKK to the MAGA Republican Party. “That is their goal. If we can mobilize people of color and get them registered to vote, we will change America. They call it the ‘New American Majority.’”
In another leaked audio tape of Mitchell speaking at an RNC donor meeting, she puts it bluntly:
“Whenever anybody starts telling you that they’re worried about democracy or protect democracy, or they’ve got a democracy in their name, those are not friends of ours.”
While the Moore vs. Harper decision was a victory for democracy, we must face the reality that today in America, there are people who wake up every day with the intent to end the American Experiment. They are smart, organized, well-funded, and powered by the conviction that they are saving the true America. Their mission is evil, but they do not appear evil. These are not Brownshirts or drunken brawlers. They are lawyers, politicians, and business leaders. Their blandness is a camouflage for the radical nature of their intent. They believe their victory is inevitable. It is up to each of us who still believe in the American experiment to prove them wrong.