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Rule of law

Last week Wednesday, Rep. Tom Tiffany (RSeventh) was one of 121 members of the House of Representatives to object to electoral votes from two states, Arizona and Pennsylvania, in a move to derail a Joe Biden presidency.

The Minocqua Republican, a Trump loyalist, may have done what hundreds of thousands of north central Wisconsin voters wanted him to do. But what he did was wrong and for the wrong reason.

The congressman explained his actions last week in a Tuesday press release. He said he had to object to the Electoral College votes because the Wisconsin Supreme Court failed to disqualify crucial ballots cast for Biden in Dane and Milwaukee counties: “Wisconsin’s legislature did their job by enacting common-sense laws to safeguard the integrity of our elections system which I supported as a state senator,” he said. “Unfortunately, our state supreme court failed in their responsibility to uphold them, and a handful of county clerks chose to subvert them.”

There is a major problem with this critique. It is not up to a congressman to say what the law is. Even a former state senator who wrote the law can’t say what the law is. No single person can say what the law is. That job rests with the courts.

In the case cited by Tiffany, the Wisconsin State Supreme Court looked at the allegations of voter fraud and ruled 4-3 against the Trump campaign. Justice Brian Hagedorn wrote the majority opinion: “The claims here are not of improper electoral activity. Rather, they are technical issues that arise in the administration of every election. In each category of ballots challenged, voters followed every procedure and policy communicated to them, and election officials in Dane and Milwaukee Counties followed the advice of WEC [Wisconsin Elections Commission] where given. Striking these votes now — after the election, and in only two of Wisconsin’s 72 counties when the disputed practices were followed by hundreds of thousands of absentee voters statewide — would be an extraordinary step for this court to take. We will not do so.”

In refusing to accept the majority vote of the Electoral College, Tiffany refused to bend to the decision of the nation’s high courts, including the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Like a king, Tiffany claimed the law for himself. And, like royalty, he saw things his way. Thus the congressman sought to undo Biden’s win in Wisconsin, but not undo his own election, even though the same election rules were followed in both contests.

Last week Wednesday was a day of insurrection in the Capitol. Following his vote to object to Biden’s election, Tiffany decried the violence of the rioters, the damage to property and loss of life. But this rings hollow. That’s because what Tiffany and the rioters did was the same thing. They each took the law into their own hands. They said they were the law. Tiffany said the insurrectionists should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Again, empty words. The congressman has not called for the impeachment of Trump, the man who inspired the Capitol mayhem.

To be clear, Tiffany did not take ram rods to the locked doors of the Capitol. He did not break the windows or storm the barricades manned by Capitol police. He did not kill a Capitol policeman with a blow from a fire extinguisher. What Tiffany attempted to do, however, was far worse. He worked in common purpose with the insurrectionists to sideline the Electoral College and force a commission to select the next president, nullifying the majority vote of millions of Americans.

Tiffany sought to end the rule of law in America. Thankfully, he failed.

Editorial by Peter Weinschenk, The Record-Review