A dangerous, undemocratic betrayal of conservative principles

On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously against an effort by Texas to overturn the result of the 2020 presidential election by throwing out the results of four states and more than 10.3 million votes. The rejection of the suit brings a close to President Donald Trump’s legal avenues for reversing his election loss. And although the majority of Alaska voters cast ballots for Trump, they have cause to celebrate this ruling, as it upholds principles foundational to American democracy and conservatism.

What’s baffling is why Gov. Mike Dunleavy and a handful of the Alaska Legislature’s most self-avowedly conservative legislators signed on to the blatantly undemocratic attempt to not only reverse a legal election, but in doing so hand states’ power over to the federal judiciary.

Gov. Dunleavy and Reps. David Eastman, Ron Gillham, Chris Kurka, Kevin McCabe, Tom McCay and George Rauscher, as well as Sen. Lora Reinbold, endorsed the Texas lawsuit on Thursday, one day before the U.S. Supreme Court unceremoniously gave it the boot. Had the suit succeeded, it would have nullified the election results in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia, four states where president-elect Joe Biden won by relatively narrow margins. In a Facebook post explaining his support, Gov. Dunleavy wrote that “There are too many important questions that need to be answered to give the American people confidence that their vote counts.” Two Facebook posts and an interview on a political podcast were the only public explanation the governor gave for his decision to commit the state to taking part in the momentous lawsuit — if he had compelling reasons for doing so, he utterly failed to make that case.

The governor’s notion — that there are important, unanswered questions that could merit the reversal of the presidential election — is bunk. Notably, neither Gov. Dunleavy nor any of the legislators supporting the lawsuit were able to articulate those questions, because they’ve all been answered. Was there substantial fraud in the administration of elections in those states? No. Were votes miscounted by an amount large enough to call the result into question? No. President Donald Trump’s attorneys have offered up these “questions” in courts across America, and have utterly failed to substantiate them. They have racked up legal losses in more than 50 such lawsuits. The fact that Biden is the next president of the United States should be apparent to every lawmaker and attorney general who supported the Texas lawsuit.

Given the facts, why would so many states support intervening in other states’ elections? The answer, clearly, is that President Trump will exhaust every legal recourse to claim victory, and a shocking number of state leaders are willing to stand with him in contravention of the facts. When a group so large refuses to accept the results of an election, it’s massively destabilizing to our republic — our system of government is predicated on the peaceful transfer of power between leaders when the people have made their will clear.

Not to be overlooked is the suit’s absolute betrayal of the bedrock conservative principle that states should be allowed to govern their own affairs. The governments of the four states that were the subject of the Texas lawsuit administered, conducted and verified the results of their elections. In the case of Georgia, the election was counted and recounted by a Republican administration — only to have a host of Republican-led states, governors and lawmakers ask the federal judiciary to overturn the results. Fortunately, the members of the Supreme Court — conservative and liberal alike — realized the catastrophic and undemocratic precedent that would set. Imagine the chaos that would ensue, for instance, if California were able to sue Alaska over its decision to allow the operation of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, using the justification that Californians are harmed by climate change and thus the burning of fossil fuels. Thanks to the Supreme Court, we’ve dodged a bullet.

Those who supported the lawsuit claimed they did so out of respect for the principle of “one person, one vote.” But clearly, their aim was keeping power in friendly hands, no matter the cost to democracy or conservative principles. That’s a betrayal of Alaska, and there can be no rationalizing it or explaining it away.

Anchorage Daily News editorial board

Editorial opinions are by the editorial board, which welcomes responses from readers. Board members are ADN President Ryan Binkley, Publisher Andy Pennington and Opinion Editor Tom Hewitt. The board operates independently from the ADN newsroom. To submit feedback, a letter or longer commentary for consideration, email commentary@adn.com.