Trump’s Election Lawsuits

Image courtesy of WikiMedia Commons under a CC-by-SA 2.0 license.

I haven’t talked much about President Trump’s legal challenges because they never had much of a chance of success. These lawsuits have been played up in the press, but the substance to them hasn’t been enough to warrant significant attention. While his antics – his lawsuits and much of the coverage surrounding it – might make for dramatic news programs, they’re not sufficient to create actual legal challenges to the election.

These lawsuits have been dismissed quickly.

To people unfamiliar with the U.S. legal process, it might seem like courts are under siege from Trump’s lawyers. However, the significant things to look out for are found in how quickly these lawsuits are getting dismissed. Early on in the legal process, parties will file things called “pleadings.” It’s a fancy legal term which refers to the claims made by plaintiffs (here, Trump) and other parties involved.

Early on in the legal process, the pleadings contain the entire case. These are bare allegations on paper. Plaintiff says Defendant stole my bike, that kind of thing. Defendant has a choice to have a hearing and file a motion to dismiss. This is what many of the defendants have done with Trump’s lawsuits.

It’s important to understand that at this phase of proceedings, courts have to give Trump a lot of leeway. They have to look at Trump’s documents in their most favorable light. If it is possible at all for Trump to have a case, the motion to dismiss is denied. But, if a court can’t connect the proverbial dots for Trump, then he loses as a matter of law, and the motion gets granted.

Thus, when these cases get dismissed (or even withdrawn), it’s a giant signal that says, “There’s nothing going on here.” It means that, whatever is said in public, none of it is getting backed up by facts.

There’s no threat to democracy here.

It can feel like a threat at times, with Trump supporters demonstrating in favor of false beliefs. Thousands of people marching in support of these beliefs make for scary headlines. If there is a threat here, it’s not to the election. Rather, it’s in the willingness of people to insist on the truth of a poor lie.

That threat isn’t new, and it’s never going to go away in a free society. They’ll make excuses – as others have made in the past – about why nobody believes them. Everything has to be a conspiracy wrapped in disinformation smothered in doublespeak.

To me, people promoting Mr. Trump’s fact-free allegations are no different than anyone else promoting vestigial garbage beliefs. Nazis will swear on a stack of Mein Kampfs that Jews are up to no good. Klansmen will rant about keeping races separate. Religious extremists will tell anyone who’ll listen about the evils of the gay agenda. These are people who behave like wishing something to be true is the same as making it true.

Yes, they can talk about the terrible things they wish on others. Nobody has to listen.