IF WE LET MASTRIANO GET HIS WAY
By Tony Norman
Pittsburgh Post Gazette
July 16, 2021 – Somewhere in the multiverse of possibilities, there probably exists a place where state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin) isn’t the Lex Luthor of Pennsylvania politics. Alas, that place isn’t here.
In this universe, Mr. Mastriano, who is expected to run for governor next year, is second to none in a party that has made fealty to Donald Trump and his cult of eternal grievance over a “stolen” election part of its brand.
Unlike most of his rivals who will also be vying for Mr. Trump’s blessings going into the primary next year, Mr. Mastriano isn’t just another dim bulb cursed with more ambition than imagination. That’s not to say he towers over his fellow Republicans intellectually, but he does possess a Trumpian canniness and disregard for reality that most don’t.
As Mr. Trump’s biggest hype man in this state, Mr. Mastriano has proven that by echoing and amplifying the ex-president’s Big Lie, he displays the shamelessness that all but guarantees he’ll be the gubernatorial choice for a party that signed away its conscience a long time ago. The Associated PressAnother county raises objection to Sen. Doug Mastriano’s Pennsylvania election audit
To be an elected Republican official in Pennsylvania these days requires a declaration that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Mr. Trump and that massive election fraud took place in this state on Nov. 3, most likely in the form of mail-in ballots.
Though Republicans maintained their majority in the Legislature despite Biden winning the state, many of those who won reelection or took office for the first time are willing to cast doubt on the integrity of their own victories to bolster the wounded ego of ‘Dear Leader’ who, at a minimum, always demands a mindless parroting of the Big Lie that the entire election was illegitimate.
Mr. Mastriano’s history of enabling the former president’s paranoia and fear-mongering is particularly notorious for its indifference to reality ranging from criticism of the state’s COVID-19 mask and lockdown mandates at the height of the pandemic to the aftermath of the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6.
On Nov. 27, Mr. Mastriano was one of the architects of a resolution that would permit the Legislature to appoint a new slate of delegates to the Electoral College that would be pledged to support Mr. Trump instead of President-elect Joe Biden. (Continued)
When Mr. Mastriano was pulled out of a White House strategy session with Mr. Trump after it was confirmed that he had tested positive for COVID-19, he treated it like a badge of honor.
The next day, he told conservative radio personality Glenn Beck that he was “feeling fantastic,” signaling to his constituents that all the doom and gloom about how bad the virus could be was mostly hype.
When Texas lawmakers sued to have the results of Pennsylvania’s election thrown out, Mr. Mastriano sided with the Texas Republicans against the interests of millions of voters in his own state. He also supported an emergency lawsuit initiated by U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly to invalidate the ballots of a huge swath of the electorate. Fortunately, even the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the suits as ridiculous and without merit.
Given Mr. Mastriano’s unconditional loyalty to the disgraced ex-president, it would’ve been unthinkable if he wasn’t one of the organizers of a bus caravan from Pennsylvania to D.C. for the “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6th.
Billed as an attempt to stop Congress from certifying the result of the Electoral College, it became a bloody insurrection with the blessing and instigation of Mr. Trump himself.
When calls for his resignation poured in because of his proximity to the violence, Mr. Mastriano claimed he never participated in the storming of the U.S. Capitol and that he and his wife skedaddled back to the bus once the, um, “tourists” started getting rowdy.
Of course a video eventually surfaced showing Mr. Mastriano and his wife watching rioters destroy police barricades before moving through a breach in Capitol security themselves. Later he would insist that they were merely following the instructions of the police who were otherwise trying to keep the red-hatted mob at bay.
Because of this newly uncovered footage, there is more evidence that Mr. Mastriano is an insurrectionist based on his proximity to actual Capitol rioters on Jan. 6th than there is evidence of widespread cheating at the Pennsylvania polls in 2020 or 2021.
Mr. Mastriano’s latest shameful betrayal of democracy is his vow to use his chairmanship of the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee to launch an expensive, Arizona-style forensic audit of the 2020 election and 2021 primary here.
After visiting Arizona during that state’s forensic ballot examinations that include scanning for microscopic evidence that thousands of ballots may have passed through “foreign” hands, Mr. Mastriano and his equally paranoid allies began scheming ways to subject Pennsylvania’s democracy to a similar mugging.
Mr. Mastriano saw the much ridiculed Cyber Ninjas “auditing” Arizona’s ballots up close and was impressed enough to want to import that process to Pennsylvania. Such a sham audit reflecting the paranoia of its sponsors will inevitably be dubbed as “PArizona” if I have my way.
Mr. Mastriano wants to conduct the first phase of PArizona by reviewing ballots from York, Tioga and Philadelphia counties. The proposed audits will potentially cost each county millions because all voting machines will have to be decertified and replaced after Cyber Ninjas or some other grifter operation compromises the election system’s security. The cost of dusting ballots and equipment for bamboo fibers and manipulation by Italian hackers will be high.
Of course, Pennsylvania counties that see Mr. Mastriano’s stunt for what it is aren’t legally obligated to cooperate with such a crazy scheme. Attorney General Josh Shapiro made it clear that no county will be reimbursed for the replacement of voting machines that will be necessary after the sham audits Mr. Mastriano is proposing.
Tioga has already indicated that it won’t comply with the request for ballots, access to machines or other information. Meanwhile, Philly and York have decided to treat the lawmaker the same way most people would treat a crank standing on a soapbox in the middle of traffic raving about space aliens.
Unless Mr. Mastriano suddenly gets really good at circumventing Pennsylvania law and can figure out a way to overcome fierce opposition from the state’s two most prominent Democrats — Gov. Tom Wolf and AG Shapiro — PArizona is likely to remain a Trump-inspired fever dream. Pennsylvanians aren’t going to tolerate such shenanigans for even a second.
That doesn’t mean efforts to undermine democracy in Pennsylvania rise or fall solely with Doug Mastriano’s doomed efforts. His likely rival for the Republican gubernatorial nomination next year is former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain. If Mr. Mastriano is the Commonwealth’s answer to Lex Luthor, then Mr. McSwain is Two-Face, a Batman villain.
For those who don’t take the intersection of comics and politics as seriously as you should, Two-Face is a former hard-driving district attorney who, after being disfigured by a mob boss, allows his anger and ambition to corrupt him, turning him into one of the villains he once despised.
Mr. McSwain used to be highly thought of in Philly until he, like Mr. Mastriano, fell under the sway of the former president. In a recent letter to Mr. Trump, Mr. Mcswain now claims that he came across evidence of voter irregularities in Pennsylvania last year and ran his concern past U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr, but was ordered to keep quiet about it during the Trump administration’s last days.
It goes without saying that Mr. Barr doesn’t remember anything like what Mr. McSwain is now alleging about evidence of mass cheating. He accuses the Philly lawyer of trying to manipulate the credulous Mr. Trump with finely parsed words and double-talk that the former president will interpret in a way that supports his belief that the former U.S. attorney was held back from investigating voter fraud by his former bosses, AG Shapiro and AG Barr at the DOJ.
The recriminations and accusations of lying have begun with Mr. Trump weighing in on Mr. McSwain’s side against Mr. Barr whom he has denounced for disloyalty. Mr. McSwain’s letter to Mr. Trump isn’t holding up to scrutiny. Mr. Shapiro, who will likely be the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, also denies Mr. McSwain ever came to him with such “evidence.” Consequently, Mr. McSwain is starting to look a lot like Two-Face to everyone.
The Republican crack-up in Pennsylvania can now be compared to an extremely dumb version of the HBO series “Mare of Easttown.” The more the fictional Delaware County detective digs, the more every character is revealed to be a reasonable suspect in an unthinkable crime. But unlike Mare’s friends and relatives in Easttown, every member of the seditious caucus in Harrisburg is definitely guilty of crimes against democracy in their own dumb way.
Tony Norman: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1631. Twitter @Tony_NormanPG