Letter to the Editor: Extremism in the defense of what?

Published 6:07 am Thursday, April 28, 2022

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To the Editor:

State and federal legislators elected to represent Dare County have spread falsehoods about the 2020 Presidential election and are attempting to undermine principles that undergird our democratic government. Soon after the election, Senator Bob Steinberg and Representative Bobby Hanig joined 14 other members of the North Carolina General Assembly (out of a total of 170 members) in calling for a 50-state audit and decertification of the results of the 2020 Presidential election [“where it has been shown the elections were certified prematurely and inaccurately”] (Braley Dodson, WNCT News, Nov 25, 2020: https://www.wnct.com/news/13-sc-16-nc-state-lawmakers-sign-letter-asking-for-audit-of-corrupted-2020-election/ ).

Steinberg and Hanig did this despite the rejection (or voluntary withdrawal) of 76 lawsuits Republican plaintiffs had filed with state and federal courts. A review of these cases by the Stanford-MIT Healthy Elections Project found that:

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Many of the post-election lawsuits were dismissed for lack of evidence. Judges ruled against plaintiffs because either no evidence was offered to support the claim of fraud or the evidence presented was, in fact, evidence of statutorily prescribed election procedures. (Post-Election Litigation Analysis and Summaries, March 10, 2021, p. 10)

More recently, Greg Murphy, who represents Dare County in the House of Representatives, joined 62 fellow Republicans (out of 211 Republican Representatives) in voting against House Resolution 831 which called on “the United States Government to uphold the founding democratic principles of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO] and establish a Center for Democratic Resilience”: https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-resolution/831/text

Like the earlier endorsements by Sen. Steinberg and Rep. Hanig, the vote by Rep. Murphy aligns him with Representatives Boebert, Cawthorn, Gaetz, Gohmert, Gosar, Greene, and other extremists in the Republican Party.

After writing to express disapproval of his vote, I received a letter from Rep. Murphy’s office that attempted to explain his position. The letter focused on this statement in the preamble to the resolution: “Whereas democracies across the [NATO] alliance face external threats from authoritarian regimes such as Russia and China and internal threats from proponents of illiberalism;” specifically, Rep. Murphy’s letter argued that “this legislation would allow the Biden Administration to interpret ‘illiberalism’ as religion — specifically Christianity.”

Distracted by the arcane term “illiberalism,” Rep. Murphy thus ignores the primary theme of the resolution – the need for NATO to address the products of illiberalism it identifies: ‘‘‘democratic recession,’ the global erosion of democratic norms, and the rise of authoritarianism.’’ The resolution goes on to state that a ‘‘shared democratic identity is what distinguishes the Alliance from the principal threats and challenges it faces.’’ In responding to these threats, the resolution states that ‘‘NATO should reassert its core identity as an Alliance rooted in the principles of democracy.’’

According to the letter I received, Rep. Murphy’s rejection of the resolution was grounded in his belief that the Biden Administration has mounted an “assault on religious freedom.” As a Christian, I am unaware of any such assault. Indeed, I am confident that President Biden, a devout Catholic, seeks to protect and preserve religious liberty in the United States and elsewhere in the world. Unfortunately, Rep. Murphy’s accusation appears to be a shameful political ploy designed to inflame paranoia among Christians whose worldview is influenced by purveyors of conspiracy theories and disinformation.

The performance of these legislators falls far short of the standards constituents should expect in terms of informed policymaking, a commitment to democracy, and ethical behavior. Their words and deeds betray their extremism, and we should hold them accountable for what they are saying and doing.

Lynn Usher

Southern Shores