On November 30, 2020, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft boldly proclaimed that when it came to voting during a pandemic, "Missouri showed the rest of the country how to do it."
We sure did. Or maybe we would have if the other 49 states had been watching. We'll never know since none of them had the decency to express their gratitude.
Ashcroft's bodacious words had been uttered seventeen days after Donald Trump's Department of Homeland Security declared the 2020 election to have been "the most secure in American history." It is unclear why the nation needed to be shown how to run an election by the Show-Me State, but it's all good.
And it must be emphasized that Ashcroft was trash-talking at a time that the Big Lie had just been hatched as a baby fib. There hadn't been time to develop a rationalization to prove Missouri's superiority in the context of having been won by Trump.
That might, however, be a blessing. It seems our Missouri Republicans writ large — and Ashcroft in particular — are a tad confused as to how to settle upon a narrative in which sentences flow one after another.
Consider, for example, this headline from the Missouri Independent last week:
"Jay Ashcroft touts integrity of Missouri's 2020 election, but supports an audit."
Well of course he does. I mean, nothing says "we ran a clean election" like the additional comment that "we should have the damn thing audited, though."
Such is life for Republicans clumsily attempting to usher in a post-democracy era in a state in which they're already winning big. "We must take steps to assure that no election is ever again stolen from Donald Trump! As for states like Missouri (which Trump won by 18 and 15 percentage points in the last two cycles), well, that just goes to show you. Something or other, la la la. You know what I mean."
The entire situation is incoherent, which does commend Ashcroft as the man for the job. Consider this bit of electoral philosophy that our secretary of state has repeatedly expressed publicly about ballot access. This is from the Missouri Times:
"I think there needs to be a re-evaluation of what the purpose of our elections is. We've focused on convenience to the point of maybe losing what we want to get out of an election," Ashcroft continued. "We need it to be easy for every legal voter to be able to vote. But elections aren't like picking up your groceries at the grocery store; we need to make sure that as we continue to make sure it's easy to vote in elections, we don't cheapen elections — that we still have faith in how it's run, and we do it in such a way that people can still have faith. Is the purpose of an election just to elect your person or is the purpose of an election truly for legal voters to vote for who they want?"
Alrighty then. I'm not sure what to make of all that beyond feeling certain that I won't be voting at the Schnucks checkout anytime soon. And there is something unsettling about a sitting secretary of state uttering the phrase "what we want to get out of an election" in the context of state law.
Ashcroft is difficult to follow, to the point of confusion. The man displays intermittent bursts of integrity, like when he asked State Auditor Nicole Galloway to assist him in a 2018 investigation into whether Senator Josh Hawley, R-Kremlin, had misused state resources in his election campaign that year. (Shortly thereafter, in what might have just looked like a hostage statement, Ashcroft announced there was nothing to see here.)
Similarly, Ashcroft has been downright bold in declaring that President Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 election. That's pretty daring for a Republican these days, so much so that it's premature to assume that statement won't come walking back someday.
I'd love to praise Ashcroft for the shocking burst of truth. But something tells me that those words will change if — like a chained Senator Ted Cruz last week — Ashcroft lands an appearance on Tucker Carlson's "Have You Been a Naughty Nazi?" segment in which the host dresses down a fellow wingnut for disloyalty to Dear Leader and the mission.
You see, just when you want to feel good about Good Jay for having declined to advance Trump's Big Lie, along comes Bad Jay, who makes it known that he's all in with the new Texas election law, one of the nation's most blatant and corrupt voter-suppression efforts.
The Brennan Center for Justice is suing Texas and its most prominent Big Lie advocate, federally indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton, over the election bill:
"The bill makes it a crime for election officials to encourage eligible voters to apply to vote by mail. And it threatens poll workers with criminal prosecution if they try to stop partisan poll watchers from harassing or intimidating voters. These new penalties are one example of a troubling new trend of state laws that target election officials and poll workers."
Now if things are going so swimmingly in Missouri — remember how "we showed them" in 2020? — why would the state need to model itself after Texas, of all places? Aren't they about ready to secede from the Union? And are Republicans having trouble getting a fair shake in Missouri?
The answer is that there is no answer. In fact, there's not even a question. Democrats just got slaughtered in the 2020 election, including in Ashcroft's own secretary of state's race. What's the urgency for Republicans to overhaul the elections — to hit Vlad Putin's 90-percent-plus numbers?
Perhaps had they been savvier, Democrats might have gone full Trump nuts and started screaming about how Ashcroft stole the election from our duly elected Governor Nicole Galloway. It did work for the last guy.
Trump lost fair and square in a landslide in 2020, both in the popular vote (a whopping 7-million-vote whupping) and the Electoral College (a thrashing by a 306-232 vote margin). Yet all over the nation, Republican sycophants are demanding bogus "audits" from WWE-style characters like the "Cyber Ninjas" in Arizona. And even they can't invent the results that the former Psychopath-In-Chief is demanding.
So, it's only natural that Missouri will serve as a full partner in the next iteration of the Big Lie. And if that's going to be the case, what better guy than Jay Ashcroft to make certain "we get what we want out of the election"? 0x006E
Ray Hartmann founded the Riverfront Times in 1977. Contact him at [email protected] or catch him on Donnybrook at 7 p.m. on Thursdays on the Nine Network and St. Louis In the Know With Ray Hartmann from 9 to 11 p.m. Monday thru Friday on KTRS (550 AM).