What has become of my party? After a career spent in Pennsylvania and national politics as a Republican, I’m disappointed to see some Republicans’ behavior in the aftermath of the election. Pennsylvania Republicans used to be — and ought to be — better than this.
From 1979-1988, I served as the top political aide and secretary of administration for Pennsylvania Gov. Dick Thornburgh and served on the GOP State Committee leadership. When President Ronald Reagan asked him to serve as attorney general, and President George H.W. Bush asked him to remain, I served as his principal aide. I was honored to work in an administration that cared so deeply about advancing the conservative agenda, including the selection of federal judges.
And like many Pennsylvanians, I felt pride for my state’s role in the American story. Our state was founded on the principles of tolerance for all. It’s no accident that our first city was named for brotherly love. It was here that American unity was born, in the mind of Benjamin Franklin, who admonished the other colonies: Join or Die. It was here that Abraham Lincoln spoke of government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”
Yet, some Pennsylvania Republicans have tried to undo this election. Rep. Mike Kelly introduced a lawsuit that attempted to throw out millions of mail-in ballots and have the certification of the election delayed. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court quickly rejected the lawsuit.
Lawsuits brought by the Trump campaign have similarly been tossed by federal judges appointed by Republican presidents, including Donald Trump, for complete lack of evidence.
Yet, some of the Republicans in the General Assembly are picking up where the lawsuits left off. Sixty-four Republican representatives released a statement demanding the U.S. Congress block Pennsylvania’s electors from voting for Joe Biden in the Electoral College.
Anyone who still harbors suspicions about who really won the election should ask those who ran it — including Republicans. Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt has stated that the Trump campaign’s claim that Republican poll watchers were unable to view the counting process was fictitious. It’s also worth noting that Trump significantly improved his showing in Philadelphia from four years ago, which is inconsistent with massive vote fraud.
Perry County Commissioner Gary Eby, Dauphin County Commissioner Mike Pries, and Cumberland County Commissioner Gary Eichelberger have continually defended the integrity of the election. Republican State Sen. Jake Corman, president pro tempore of the Senate, stated that there were zero legal avenues for the assembly to appoint any new electors to the Electoral College and no evidence of widespread fraud.
Even William Barr, the current attorney general — and a close former colleague of mine — said that he has seen no evidence of any fraud that would have changed the outcome of the election. What more needs to be said?
What troubles me most about the allegations of illegitimacy in the election isn’t what it says about mail-in ballots, legal procedures, or legislative legerdemain. It’s what it says about how we view each other.
Why is voter fraud a crime? Not because the “wrong” candidate might win, but because it is theft from another American. The feeling of national brotherhood — that being an American is something special, something that transcends party affiliation — is nowhere to be found in these shameful efforts to disenfranchise thousands of Pennsylvanians. It is an attack not only against our system but against our people.
Throughout my career in politics, I saw firsthand the importance Reagan, Bush, and Thornburgh placed on unity. We never wanted to defeat our political rivals, but affirmatively win their support on the merits of our ideas, even if it meant making concessions. We never demonized those who disagreed with us because we knew we would need their support in the future. This is how, to paraphrase Franklin, you keep a republic.
When President Bush lost reelection, I was disappointed because I thought he deserved reelection. But my former colleagues in the administration, including Barr, also recognized that our democracy came from the people directly and that they had spoken. This is what it means to live in a democracy and to have respect for your fellow Americans. I am grateful that there are some Republicans in Pennsylvania who still keep that faith.
Murray Dickman was a senior aide to Gov. Dick Thornburgh and an official at the Justice Department under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.