There is no reasonable doubt that Congress will confirm the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris when it meets today to count their electoral votes for president and vice-president. What remains to be seen is how much decency and patriotism remain in the Republican Party.
Under Abraham Lincoln, the GOP stood for government of, by and for the people. But now, does it stand for anything other than Donald Trump?
“This is Donald Trump’s party and I am a Donald Trump Republican,” says Rep. Matt Gaetz, Florida’s enfant terrible, one of the Congress members who plan to challenge the Democratic electoral votes from up to five key states.
If you want to understand how democracies die, that’s how. An entire party turns into a personality cult. Some GOP legislators are spoiling for what even the pro-Republican New York Post, a Rupert Murdoch paper, calls an “undemocratic coup.”
The joint session to receive and count the electoral votes for president and vice-president ought to be a purely ceremonial event, as it has almost always been. Four years ago, a couple of protests from the House about counting some of Trump’s votes fizzled when no Democratic senator was willing to endorse them. They upheld the Constitution despite their disgust that the popular vote was being negated again and that foreign interference might have influenced many voters.
There is an overwhelming absence of any evidence that the nation’s votes were not cast and counted with scrupulous honesty and fairness in 2020.
At latest count, more than 90 federal and state judges, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have ruled against Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud.
The latest stunt is a lawsuit by Texas Rep. Louis Gohmert and others that asks a federal judge to invalidate the 1887 law governing how Congress counts electoral votes and give Vice President Mike Pence absolute discretion to decide which slates of electors to accept.
The law provides that both houses of Congress must vote separately on any electoral challenge that is signed by at least one senator and one representative. The challenge fails if either chamber disapproves, as the House is certain to do and as the Senate most likely will.
The real objectives, though, are to put Republican lawmakers on record for or against keeping Trump in the White House as America’s first dictator, perpetuate the insidious myths that the election was stolen from him and that Biden’s presidency will be illegitimate, and maintain Trump’s influence over a party that sorely needs to be rid of it. The word for all this is subversion.
Republican legislators who vote to uphold the Constitution will be setting themselves up for Trump-backed challenges in party primaries. Every Republican senator will have to go on the record for democracy or dictatorship.
Considering how often the government has commanded American citizens to risk and sacrifice their lives in war, it is hardly asking too much of the Congress to do the right thing on Wednesday. Indeed, most members will.
Adversity, the ultimate test of character, brings out the best in some people and the worst in others. With Trump, his conduct after losing the presidency only confirms his profound unfitness for it. There is no help for that, but members of Congress can do better than to indulge him.