Often a truer word spoken

Chris Christie is not a subtle man. He wears his pants high and his standards low and will tell a teachers’ union they need a slap in the face.

He once fired a rival’s cousin as punishment for failing to appoint his preferred education commissioner. Another time, his office shut down a bridge to create traffic congestion for a Democratic mayor. His deputy chief of staff was later charged over the scandal and a port official pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy.

On election night, however, even Christie, a former Republican governor, could condemn what Donald Trump was saying. “There’s just no basis to make that argument tonight,” he said as the president claimed he had won and called for the counting to stop. “There just isn’t … I disagree with what he did tonight.”

Rick Santorum, a former Republican senator who is sceptical of abortion rights and evolution, made a similar point: “I was very distressed by what I heard the president say … The idea of using the word fraud, and fraud is being committed by people counting votes, is wrong.”

And then there is Scott Morrison, asked directly about whether Trump’s lies undermined democracy: “Ummm, I’m not a participant in the US political process. I am a partner. Australia is a partner with the United States. And we respect the decisions that the American people make in their democracy ... It’s not for me to run a commentary on those things and I won’t. I work with the president of the United States as the prime minister of Australia – and I’ve enjoyed a very productive working relationship with the president.”

Here is a president whose own party rushes to defend the institution he is molesting, and Scott Morrison’s strongest rebuke is that he will wait and see. “The thing about great institutions and democracies is they deal with whatever challenges come,” he says.

Joe Hockey, who until January was this government’s ambassador to the US, also raised unfounded doubts about the count. He is now working as a lobbyist in Trump’s half-drained swamp. Hockey said the margin in the District of Columbia was “hard to believe” – although it was almost identical to the past three elections.

George Christensen, a sitting member of Morrison’s government, posted graphs depicting what he called a “Democrat vote fraud”. He claimed these showed “dodgy extra votes … just like the President said!”

Other former Liberals said the election was either a miracle or a con. “Joe Biden can’t get more than a dozen people to a campaign rally but manages to get the dead to vote in swing states,” Cory Bernardi wrote. “He’ll walk across the Great Lakes next!”

Democracy is fragile, just as truth is. Donald Trump has no respect for either. He has set about dismantling both. Morrison surely must value at least the former, although he utterly failed to defend it this week. It is hard to know if it is cowardice or indifference or if the distinction matters.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on November 7, 2020 as "Often a truer word spoken".

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