Maybe Palmer and Hartmann ended up feeling bad about what they’d done; it seems unlikely. Appealing to the conscience of modern Republican hard-liners is not something that has ever worked at scale. In Georgia, Brad Raffensperger is under sustained, organized attack for believing his job as secretary of state is to administer elections rather than to help his party accumulate power. Each individual attempt to overturn the election may be pathetic and comical on its own terms, but the widespread (re)adoption in the U.S. of a model of politics in which public servants are overtly expected to maintain loyalty to an ethnic faction rather than the broader citizenry is not funny at all. People have been warning for a while that someday there’ll be a more capable and ruthless version of Donald Trump, but Republicans’ current rear guard actions against the election results demonstrate that, for his party, the necessary ruthlessness is already in place. They just need a closer margin of votes to apply it to.
A movement that’s willing to engage in the straightforward racial disenfranchisement of an entire city and risk the failure of government in order to overturn an election will probably not be beaten back by making its supporters feel guilty. Perhaps the only solution is to promise the kind of mutually assured frustration that the residents of Wayne County delivered—a level of pushback, outrage, vigilance, and friction that makes the process exhausting on both sides. Maybe Monica Palmer and William Hartmann just got scared of how they’d be perceived nationally and tired of getting yelled at and threatened with lawsuits themselves; if so, good. That’s how they should feel. They should feel like they are outnumbered, and that everyone else is tired of their shit, because it’s true.