Rep. Don Young talks during a June 2021 interview with the Empire. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

Rep. Don Young talks during a June 2021 interview with the Empire. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

Opinion:Where’s Don Young when America needs him?

Once upon a time, avoiding political controversy was completely out of character for Young.

  • By Rich Moniak
  • Monday, October 4, 2021 11:23pm
  • Opinion

By Rich Moniak

When Rep. Don Young voted against impeaching then-President Donald Trump, he called the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol “an act of terror against American Democracy, law enforcement and members of Congress.” And he correctly implored everyone to “recognize that our toxic discourse can have dangerous consequences.”

That “act of terror’ was inspired by Trump’s lie that the election was stolen. He spewed more of that poison last weekend after the Arizona audit report was released. And Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., issued a dire warning to Young and their Republican colleagues in Congress. “Silence enables the liar. Silence helps it to spread.”

That’s exactly why Trump’s lie is believed by many Alaskans who Young counts as his supporters.

This time, Trump is claiming the Arizona audit uncovered “enough fraudulent votes, mystery votes, and fake votes to change the outcome of the election 4 or 5 times over.”

That’s absolutely untrue. The auditors made no conclusive claims of fraud. They did raise some questions. But it’s the obligation of every American to examine the official explanation to each and every one before drawing conclusions.

For instance, the auditors reported about 23,000 mail-in votes were cast by people not living at the address listed with their voter registration. That doesn’t make them illegal. In fact, most were either military members or snowbirds who are known to vote Republican. The latter is why Arizona instituted mail-in balloting before 2020.

Trump reacted the same way in July when the auditors claimed that 74,000 more mail-in ballots were received than had been sent out to voters. In their final report, the auditors admitted that statement was “unintentionally misleading.” In other words, it wasn’t true.

But in both instances, calls to “decertify the election” were made by supposedly responsible people, including some Republican officials and candidates.

Jerome Bell, a 27-year military veteran running for Congress in Virginia, showed how dangerously toxic the discourse has become. “Audit all 50 states” he tweeted last week. “Arrest all involved. Try all involved. Convict all involved. Execute all involved.”

We need to look no further than the mayoral runoff in Anchorage, narrowly won by conservative candidate David Bronson, to see evidence of how the disinformation and lies is breeding insane levels of mistrust for election officials. The Clerk’s Office and Elections Team for the municipality reported that “the number of observers strained the small staff at the Election Center.” And that they were subjected to “intense scrutiny” and “unprecedented harassment.”

According to a former Republican Party communications director, election officials “deserved scrutiny, at least in the eyes of conservatives, many of whom are now less accepting that election centers around the country are being run fairly.”

She used the 2020 election to justify a request by one observer to inspect “thermal totes filled with pizza boxes … just to make sure those were pizzas.” And suggested Bronson’s team had a legitimate concern that election officials might print bar codes on blank ballots to change the outcome of the election.

Now imagine if Bronson lost by only 1,000 votes. There would likely have been howls from the right that the election was stolen. And who knows what kind of chaos might have followed.

This is the America spawned by Trump’s refusal to accept the results of the 2020 presidential election. Only Cheney, Sen. Lisa Murkowski and a few other Republican party members have shown the strength and integrity to defend the truth.

Unlike 126 of his Republican House colleagues, Young at least deserves credit for not endorsing the frivolous Texas lawsuit that sought to overturn the election. And for voting to certify the elector college results on Jan. 6.

I know he’s not the only Republican elected by all Alaskans whose silence has the effect of condoning Trump’s lie. Sen. Dan Sullivan, Gov. Mike Dunleavy, and Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer haven’t said a word about it either.

But once upon a time, avoiding political controversy was completely out of character for Young. And more than ever, America needs Alaska’s elder statesman to deliver a hard truth in his patented brusque manner. If he isn’t up to it, then he can no longer claim to be a defender of the Constitution.

• Rich Moniak is a Juneau resident and retired civil engineer with more than 25 years of experience working in the public sector.

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