I’ve always liked Ed. Ever since dairy farmer and Republican state senator from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan Ed McBroom was a state representative, I found him to have a calm and thoughtful disposition. I personally disagree with most of his politics (he wants to end abortion and allow wolf hunting, as two examples), but after covering him as a local NPR reporter for several years, I have to give him credit for always attempting to have the best interest of his constituents at heart.
Now, McBroom is being touted as some sort of hero following his release of a report on the security of Michigan’s elections after an eight-month “investigation.” The report says what we all know: Pervasive fraud in the 2020 election was a lie. But the fact that a Republican is saying it has garnered him a glowing profile in the Atlantic. The piece takes special care to emphasize the pain and frustration McBroom has endured since releasing the report but nevertheless standing by “the truth.” It’s yet another example in a growing genre of stories that canonize Republicans who clear the lowest bar of reality-based governance.
But reader, this man is not your savior.
What Tim Alberta’s profile and other recent deep dives into the dairy farmer from Vulcan fail to reckon with is that while McBroom may have reached the right (and politically difficult) conclusion, he still spent eight months giving a platform to the idea of fraud.
Both of Michigan’s legislative chambers conducted “investigations” into the 2020 election in November. The investigations, particularly in the state House, made Michigan a laughing stock, with Saturday Night Live lampooning one hearing in its cold open, and both chambers’ investigations kept going for months. Following a nationally publicized hearing where Rudy Giuliani was allowed to question “witness” after “witness” on proclaimed fraud, the House committee hearings seemed to die out with no real resolution after several months of testimony.
While the Senate hearings did not reach the Rudy Giuliani hostage situation that happened during the House hearings, McBroom still spent eight months on it. And those eight months gave many people the opportunity to share dangerous lies as the guise of his investigation gave them cover. McBroom and other Republican members have constantly held up these hearings as a means of getting to the truth of what happened during the 2020 election. But here’s the thing: There was never any actual evidence of wrongdoing. People kept saying that they believed there was fraud, but Michigan’s Legislature opened investigations without anything on which to base these beliefs. They were hearings in search of evidence in order to prove something everyone already (baselessly) believed to be true.
This is just … not how things are supposed to work? Think of it this way. If you called the police and said your television had been stolen, but when police arrived you could produce zero evidence that you ever even owned a television, do you really think police would or should spend eight months trying to figure out who stole your possibly nonexistent television?
And yet McBroom is now being venerated because he finally came up with the right (obvious) conclusion. With his “mess of sweaty blond hair” and “thick arms, which bulged from a red cutoff button-up shirt,” McBroom comes off as a man of the earth, but with a philosophical streak, in the Atlantic piece. He muses about his worry that his report will not reach the people it needs to reach:
“I can’t make people believe me,” McBroom said, an air of exasperation in his voice. “All I can hope is that people use their discernment and judgment, to look at the facts I’ve laid out for them, and then look at these theories out there, and ask the question: Does any of this make sense?”
What actually didn’t make sense was opening a monthslong investigation in November after clerk after clerk testified that there was no fraud. But still, the report itself is feisty and pulls shockingly few punches, going so far as to call on the Michigan attorney general—a Democrat—to investigate those who have furthered the lies, especially those who did so using the Antrim County saga, where an inputting error caused Joe Biden to initially come out with an overwhelming win in the Republican stronghold. (Though that error was quickly corrected, the example has been used to fuel many accusations of fraud, in Michigan and elsewhere, because Trump himself glommed onto it.)
To call on Attorney General Dana Nessel—the proud progressive thorn in the side of Michigan Republicans—to potentially file charges against the “Stop the Steal” loyalists was a bold move. “Fraud is fraud,” McBroom told the Atlantic. “If they lied to people to make money off people, that’s a crime.”
But the biggest issue with McBroom is that while McBroom’s report touts the truth, McBroom himself is still calling for changes to the state’s election system. And his reason for supporting bills that would require ID for mail-in ballots and in-person voting? Fraud.
“We hear a lot about how there was only this little bit of fraud and therefore nothing else is needed. But just because you can say we caught this amount of fraud isn’t somehow compelling proof that there wasn’t more that wasn’t caught,” McBroom said on the Senate floor during the chamber votes on June 16, just a week before his Oversight Committee released the report. “That’s really a mischaracterization and a bit of a red herring.”
To say that all the evidence of your monthslong investigation yielded nothing and then to suggest there might still be more fraud that wasn’t caught is like asserting a brick wall is in great condition after careful analysis, and then insisting on shoring it up anyway just in case. It’s actually more nefarious than that, because it uses one of the central reasons the Republicans’ voter fraud concerns are so salient with their base: It’s extremely hard to prove a negative. McBroom took the extraordinary step to spend months carefully investigating this claim. The real issue is that even he isn’t satisfied by his own results.