DFL Chairman's View: Stauber, Trump eroding legitimacy of US government

Congressman is putting his party ahead of our country

Ken Martin.jpg
Ken Martin

“If all 435 of us walked into the House of Representatives with a jersey that said ‘USA’ on the front — no labels, no name, no number on the back — we could move mountains.”

Those were Congressman Pete Stauber’s words, reported just over one month ago. Now, Stauber is refusing to acknowledge the results of a free and fair presidential election (“ Rep. Stauber's office did not respond to Washington Post survey asking about Biden's win ,” Dec. 5). This juxtaposition perfectly encapsulates the congressman’s time in office: Pete Stauber may try to appear bipartisan, but at the end of the day, his jersey says “GOP,” not “USA.”

There is nothing more sacred in America than our democracy, which is why it is deeply disturbing to see Congressman Stauber refuse to defend it. Stauber has been asked multiple times whether he agrees with President Donald Trump’s false and dangerous allegations that the 2020 election was stolen. Thus far, Stauber has either ignored the question entirely or dodged it by claiming he’s “not a lawyer” and thus cannot speak to whether American democracy continues to function. This pathetic display from Stauber is partisan politics at its most cynical and destructive.

To state the obvious, the presidential election was free and fair. Trump’s own Department of Justice declared it was unable to find any evidence whatsoever that the outcome of the election should be in question, let alone that it was stolen. Unfortunately, this has not stopped many Republican elected officials and leaders from spreading this fiction far and wide. Their delusions about a stolen election are not simply part of coping with loss, they are part of a dangerous disinformation campaign that could have wide-ranging consequences.

How much bipartisan work does Stauber imagine Congress can accomplish if a large percentage of Republican electorate believes the presidential election was stolen and that President-Elect Joe Biden is illegitimate? There’s so much that must be done to help our nation recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, and Congressman Stauber is making that work more difficult by refusing to tell his party the hard truth that Donald Trump lost fair and square.


Unfortunately, the problem could get even worse. When Trump claims that we must "root out the tremendous and horrible fraud that’s taken place" or "we don’t have a country anymore," it’s easy to imagine how some will take rhetoric like that as an incitement to violence. Republican Sen. Mitt Romney was right to warn that unfounded allegations of election theft “recklessly inflame destructive and dangerous passions.”

Hopefully, nothing will come of the destructive passions Trump is inflaming and Stauber is enabling. However, at a time of escalating political tension — which recently led to the FBI foiling a plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan, the police stopping another plot to attack a Philadelphia vote-counting site, and numerous death threats issued to local elections officials across America — nothing is certain.

The sad truth is that when election results we do not like become election results we cannot accept, the likelihood of political violence increases. By refusing to stand up to President Trump and his cronies, Congressman Stauber is allowing his party to erode the legitimacy of the United States government. Congressman Stauber bears responsibility for what that erosion unleashes.

Stauber missed his opportunity to fight back against the dangerous rhetoric emanating from his party when it would have made a difference. As a result of his inaction, the stolen-election narrative has become a part of Republican Party dogma and will likely live on for a long time within the political right.

While Congressman Stauber may have lost a future primary election if he spoke out against Donald Trump’s claims of election meddling, protecting American democracy is worth risking one’s career. Sadly, the only things Congressman Stauber seems willing to protect are his job and his party.

Ken Martin is chairman of the Minnesota DFL Party. He wrote this exclusively for the News Tribune.

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