The votes from the 2020 election are pretty much all counted now. Biden won 25 states and Trump won 25 states. But the results are far from even. 81,281,888 Americans voted for Biden (51.3%) while just 74,223,251 voted for a sitting president who has always had a whiff of illegitimacy about him. Biden won 306 electoral votes and Trump won 232 electoral votes. Over the weekend, the Washington Post released a tape of a phone conversation between Trump and Georgia's Secretary of State in which Trump tried to get him to throw out the results and give Trump Georgia's 16 electoral votes. That isn't going happen and even if it did, Trump would still be far from being reelected.
This week, most congressional Republicans will try to trash democracy itself and overturn the election, just as votes in Georgia's Senate election are being counted-- an election that will determine control of the Senate... and whether or not Biden can appoint judges and his own cabinet and whether or not the Senate reaffirms it's reputation "as a place," the way Adam Jentleson terms it in his new book, Kill Switch, "where ambitious legislation goes to die."
In an essay The Atlantic published this morning, Worse Than Treason, Tom Nichols noted that "This is sedition, plain and simple. No amount of playacting and rationalizing can change the fact that the majority of the Republican Party and its apologists are advocating for the overthrow of an American election and the continued rule of a sociopathic autocrat."
Today, the “sedition caucus” includes at least 140 members of the House-- that is, some two-thirds of the House GOP membership-- and at least 10 members of the Senate. Their challenge comes after weeks of insistence that the 2020 election was rigged, plagued by fraud, and even subverted by foreign powers. The president and his minions have filed, and lost, scores of lawsuits that ranged from minor disputes over process to childlike, error-filled briefs full of bizarre assertions.
Instead of threatening to gavel these objections into irrelevance, as Biden did four years ago, Vice President Mike Pence “welcomes” these challenges. Pence’s career is finished, but he could have stood for the Constitution he claims to love and which he swore to defend. However, cowardice is contagious, and no mask was thick enough to protect Pence from the pathogen of fear.
Perhaps the sedition caucus didn’t mean to go this far. Its members began by arguing that we all just needed to humor President Trump, to give him time to process the loss, and to treat the president of the United States as a toddler who was going home empty-handed. He wouldn’t be a dead-ender, they assured us, because that would be too humiliating. The Republican Party would never immolate itself for a proven loser.
But for Trump, there is no such thing as too much humiliation. The only shame in Trump world lies in admitting defeat. And so Trump doubled down, as anyone who had watched him for more than 10 minutes knew he would. And then he tripled, quadrupled, quintupled down. And just as they have done for the past four years, elected Republicans tried to convince themselves that if they supported this outrage, it would be the last time they would be required to surrender their dignity; that this betrayal of the Constitution would be the last treachery demanded of them. That if they complied one more time, they would be allowed to go back to their privileged lives far from the districts they claim to represent-- places few of them really want to live after tasting life in the Emerald City.
It is possible that the sedition caucus knew that all these challenges would fail. It is possible that they know their last insult to American democracy, on Wednesday, will go nowhere, as well. This is irrelevant: Engaging in sedition for insincere reasons does not make it less hideous. Arguing that you betrayed the Constitution only as theater is no defense.
Indeed, shredding the Constitution purely for personal gain is perhaps the worst of the sins of the sedition caucus. It would almost be a relief to know that these Republicans really believe what they’re trying to sell, that they are genuine fanatics and ideologues who have at least paid us the respect of pitting their sincere beliefs against our own.
But we are, in the main, dealing with people who are far worse than true believers. The Republican Party is infested with craven opportunists, the kind of people who will try to tell us later that they were “just asking questions,” that they were “defending the process,” and of course, that they were merely representing “the will of the people.” Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz are not idiots. These are men who understand perfectly well what they are doing. Senator Mitt Romney sees it clearly, noting that his GOP colleagues are engaged in “an egregious ploy” to “enhance political ambition.”
People of goodwill across the United States want some sort of road map to oppose this cold-blooded attack on the Constitution, but none exists. As James Madison warned us, without a virtuous people, no system of checks and balances will work. The Republicans have gone from being a party that touted virtue to being the most squalid and grubby expression of institutionalized self-interest in the modern history of the American republic.
The real solution will come after all of these schemes fail. Voters must not take the bait and try to tinker with hasty legal and constitutional fixes. These, too, will fail to contain a party that is determined to destroy legal and moral norms in the pursuit of raw power. The better course is to turn our attention to the business of governing, while vowing to drive every member of the sedition caucus out of our public life, both through the ballot box and by shunning their enablers.
The members of the public and the institutions of American life should shroud these seditionists in silence and opprobrium in perpetuity: no television interviews, no sinecures at universities or think tanks, no rehabilitating book tours, no jokey late-night appearances, no self-serving op-eds.
The sedition caucus is worse than a treasonous conspiracy. At least real traitors believe in something. These people instead believe only in their own fortunes and thus will change flags and loyalties as circumstances require. They will always become what they pretend to be, and so they cannot-- and must not-- be trusted ever again with political power.
Fair enough. But Texas Republican Chip Roy went one step further yesterday. He challenged the seating of members from Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin-- and that includes 34 Republicans who were just reelected or elected for the first time, like Andrew Clyde and Q-Anon Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene from Georgia; Peter Meijer and Lisa McClain of Michigan; Fred Keller and John Joyce of Pennsylvania; and Scott Fitzgerald of Wisconsin. These are all states that Trump lost but where Republicans are challenging the results claiming election fraud. Roy claims that if there was so much voting fraud to change the outcome of the presidential election, House members' elections had to have been just as tainted. David Schweikert (R-AZ) only beat his opponent by 4 points. Peter Meijer (R-MI) only won by 6 points; Scott Perry (R-PA) claims 53.3% of the vote... very questionable.
Roy wrote that "Such allegations-- if true-- raise significant doubts about the elections of at least some of the members of the United States House of Representatives that, if not formally addressed, could cast a dark cloud of suspicion over the validity of this body for the duration of the 117th Congress. After all, those representatives were elected through the very same systems-- with the same ballot procedures, with the same signature validations, with the same broadly applied decisions of executive and judicial branch officials-- as were the electors chosen for the President of the United States under the laws of those states, which have become the subject of national controversy. And while the legislatures of those states have sent us no formal indication that the results of these elections should not be honored by this body, it would confound basic human reason if the presidential results were to face objection while the congressional results of the same process escaped without public scrutiny."
Two Republicans-- Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and Andy Harris (R-MD), and no Democrats, voted against allowing Pelosi to swear in the congress members-elect from the questionable states. (Roy didn't even vote for his own proposal.)