Note: This appeared in the “Life, Under Construction” newsletter that was published on February 19, 2024. The “Life, Under Construction” newsletter is published every Monday and Thursday. Click the button for subscription information.

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A Profile in Lacking Courage

“Everything will be all right. And even if it isn’t, we’ll have the consolation of having lived honest lives.” – Alexi Navalny

“And I hope Mike is gonna do the right thing, I hope so. I hope so. Because if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election.” —Donald Trump

Andrew Hitt, the former chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, is continuing his “forgive me” tour. Hitt appeared on the news magazine show 60 Minutes to tell how he became a fake elector from Wisconsin after the 2020 presidential election.

Hitt added a new wrinkle to his story: fear. According to Hitt, he feared what the MAGA Trump supporters would do if the party chairman ignored the party lawyer and decided against signing the document to misrepresent himself as a presidential elector from Wisconsin.

“… If I didn’t do that, and the court did throw out those votes, it would have been solely my fault that Trump wouldn’t have won Wisconsin,” Hitt told “60 Minutes” correspondent Anderson Cooper in a clip released to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Can you imagine the repercussions on myself, my family if it was me, Andrew Hitt, who prevented Donald Trump from winning Wisconsin?”

This is a new claim by Hitt, and a rather curious one. It’s not as if Hitt was afraid of the consequences of his political activities before. Republicans had encouraged the voters to fear Black Lives Matters and the possibility their communities could be the next Madison or Kenosha. It was fear-mongering that continued through the end of Trump’s term when Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said of the January 6 Insurrection, “…had the tables been turned and President Trump won the election and tens of thousands of Black Lives Matter and antifa, I might have been a little concerned.”

Yet Hitt told the chairmen of the county Republican Party chapters that the purpose of the Trump-requested recount was not to find more votes for Trump, but to find ballots to throw out. Hitt now claims that he was “uncomfortable” with the strategy, but at the time he was an enthusiastic promoter of it.

Those ballots that were targeted came from Dane and Milwaukee Counties, the homes of the state’s largest minority populations of voters. Disenfranchising large numbers of Black and Hispanic voters in Trump’s name was not a problem for Hitt, but signing on as a fake elector was done out of fear?

Hitt did everything Trump’s most rabid supporters expected of him. He was also a rather obscure party functionary who never held public office. His face and his name were known in political circles, but how many people in the real world knew who he was? If he quietly passed on signing the statement claiming to be an elector from Wisconsin, who would’ve known?

Or, Hitt could’ve shown some bravery and opposed it entirely. If he thought it such a bad idea, why did he put his fellow signers into the position of putting their names onto an unpatriotic document of such dubious morality and purpose?

Instead, as Hitt has explained before on the interview show UpFront, he gave in because he didn’t want to be “the one” to deny Trump the White House. “Our lawyer is saying, ‘If we don’t do this, Andrew, if you don’t have the electors meet, and Trump wins, it will be you who caused him to lose Wisconsin completely. You will be responsible for him forfeiting Wisconsin,’” Hitt said. “Think about the pressure and the amount of repercussions that would have arose.”

Yes, think about the pressure and the repercussions of Hitt’s actions, which he conceded led to the chaos and violence of the Insurrection of January 6.

There was no chance that any recount would secure Trump a victory in Wisconsin, so Hitt and his fellow Republicans followed another plan. They would try to cause enough doubt in a legitimate election to give a Republican-controlled Congress the opportunity to throw out the results in Wisconsin and other states. That included the recount which wasn’t a recount, it included Hitt and others becoming fake electors, and it included pursuing victory in the courts without any evidence to support Trump’s claims of fraud.

The latter part of the strategy was pursued on both the state and federal levels. In Wisconsin, that meant a case that eventually made its way to the state Supreme Court. There, one conservative Supreme Court Justice, Brian Hagedorn, joined the three liberal members and rejected Trump’s appeal, saying his objections to how Wisconsin conducted the election should have been made prior to the votes getting cast.

It was similar to a ruling by federal Judge Brett Ludwig, a Trump appointment, who wrote, “A sitting president who did not prevail in his bid for reelection has asked for federal court help in setting aside the popular vote based on disputed issues of election administration, issues he plainly could have raised before the vote occurred.”

Hagedorn, however, became the target of the MAGA crowd, many of whom had supported his election to the state Supreme Court. In an interview with the New York Times, Hagedorn said of the backlash:

“Yes, I’ve been called a traitor. I’ve been called a liar. I’ve been called a fraud. I’ve been asked if I’m being paid off by the Chinese Communist Party. I’ve been told I might be tried for treason by a military tribunal. Sure, I’ve gotten lots of interesting and sometimes dark messages.”

What kind of dark messages? Hagedorn told WISN-TV,

“I’ve definitely had some extra police protection,” Hagedorn said. “Not just me but some of the justices because of some of the things directed our way. I’m not aware of any specific death threats, necessarily. There are some things that are concerning and not fun as a father of five children to hear. It’s been the case that my 12-year-old daughter asked me at one point, ‘Dad can we play in the front yard today or should we play in the backyard?’”

Hagedorn and the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued the opinion dismissing Trump’s lawsuit the same morning Hitt and his fellow fake electors snuck into the state Capitol. They were even aware of what the Supreme Court did.

Yet Hitt, despite that example of real political courage, had a moment of fear the day before, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Hitt also texted Jefferson, “Tomorrow is going to be wild,” after discussing which of three rooms in the Capitol to hide in with Wisconsin Elections Commissioner Bob Spindell to avoid media scrutiny of the paperwork signing because both Hitt and Spindell were public figures.

They could’ve done the “perp walk” together with newspapers covering their faces. Instead, Hitt is on national television explaining his fear of retaliation from Trump supporters who will finally be able to put a face to the name of the Republican leader who now claims he won’t support the former president.

Whatever regrets Hitt now expresses, whether they’re sincere or not, they’re not nearly the regrets the rest of us have that our democracy depended on Hitt and others like him. Fortunately, we had people of real courage like Hagedorn.

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