Adam Frisch, the former Aspen city councilman running to defeat hard-right, Donald Trump-backing (and Trump-backed) GOP Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert, once again raises the contentious question on Ethics Alarms of whether someone can be an ethics hero by simply doing what was once understood by all to be the right, proper and civilized thing to do.
The policy here is that such conduct is not only heroic but important. Ethical societal and cultural norms are being challenged all the time, altered, edited, mutated, distorted and destroyed. It requires courage, responsibility, integrity and resilience to hold to a standard that is under attack. Once upon a time, before Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Stacey Abrams and, of course, Donald Trump and mail-in voting, it was understood in American politics that the way our system was supposed to work, and how it would work best, was for losing political candidates to graciously concede after they had lost an election, however close it might be.
The Boebert-Frisch contest is one in which nobody would fault the apparent loser for insisting that the proverbial fat lady hadn’t yet sung. It is headed for a statute-triggered recount with the latest vote totals showing Boebert leading Frisch by just 0.16 percentage points, or 551 votes. Yet Frisch said yesterday that he had called Boebert to concede, and that while the race appeared to be headed for the mandatory recount, “the likelihood of this recount changing more than a handful of votes is very small.” He went on to tell supporters, “We are not asking for this recount. It is one that the citizens of Colorado mandate through our election system. He added that Democrats should not contribute funds to the task. “Please save your money for your groceries, your rent, your children,” he urged.
His conduct was especially remarkable because Boebert is one of the members of Congress most reviled by progressives, who dearly wanted to see her lose. For a while, it looked like she was about to. Frisch would have only endeared himself to Democrats if he had given a defiant, “we will fight until the last vote is re-counted to defeat this monster and her creator, the traitorous, insurrectionist Donald Trump!” speech. But he didn’t.
It’s easy to find reasons for cynicism, as usual. The Democrats had made such a boogeyman out of the “Election Denier” that it was going to be awkward for any losing candidate in that party to question the results: even Stacey Abrams conceded this time. But if anyone had a justification to wait, it was Frisch. One could also justifiably suspect that Colorado Democrats had done everything in their power to cheat and still were behind, so it was time to surrender.
Never mind. Voting and counting votes are both processes that can never be perfect; our trust in them has to have a measure of faith, as well as a consensus that peaceful transfers of power in a stable republic are worth the occasional questionable result. If nothing else, the Florida recount fiasco in 2000 proved that.