Today, during a joint session of Congress inside the supposedly solemn halls of the U.S. Capitol, at least several dozen – and probably more than 100 – Republican lawmakers in both chambers are expected, for a variety of contrived reasons, to exercise their constitutional right to beclown themselves in one final act of fealty to defeated President Donald Trump and to the factions of Trump voters who cling to the delusion that Joe Biden is an illegitimate president-elect.
The ridiculous objections to Electoral College certification will be an embarrassment for our nation and for the GOP lawmakers who lend their voices to this pointless charade. The only positive aspect of their endeavor is that it is certain to fail – which, frankly, is the only reason they feel emboldened do it. With perhaps a small handful of loony exceptions, each one of the objectors fully understands Biden is the rightful winner of the 2020 presidential election. Yet they will stand before America and perform a bit of political slapstick anyway, because they are protected by the knowledge that their wild gyrations have absolutely no chance of actually resulting in the constitutional and democratic crisis of an overturned election.
These men and women will base their objections on nothing. There is no coherent or consistent theme to their arguments, except that they are too cowardly to face their constituents and assert that Trump really did lose the election. Today, we will hear about “allegations” of widespread voter fraud, of which not a stitch of tangible evidence has been unearthed. We will hear technical legal complaints about how voting was conducted in certain states, an issue that Congress has no control over and did not seem to care about until Trump lost those states. We will hear about restoring the public’s faith in our electoral process, which was not a problem until Trump and his most ardent allies began scraping baseless conspiracy theories from the sludgiest corners of the internet and amplifying them in the fantasy world of ultra-right-wing media.
Fox Business Channel host Lou Dobbs, one of mainstream media’s biggest Trump boosters, unintentionally articulated on his show Monday the cognitive dissonance of the Trump team’s increasingly desperate – and resoundingly rejected – attempts to remain in power.
“Eight weeks from the election and we still don’t have verifiable, tangible support for the crimes that everyone knows were committed – that is, defrauding other citizens who voted with fraudulent votes,” Dobbs said. “We know that’s the case in Nevada, we know it’s the case in Pennsylvania and a number of other states, but we have had a devil of a time finding actual proof. Why?”
Well, Lou Dobbs, the answer is because it is all utter hogwash, as proven by the numerous audits and recounts that confirmed the vote totals in several states, and by the courtroom bloodbath that greeted Trump’s post-election firehose of dead-on-arrival lawsuits and legal maneuvers.
Look, this newspaper’s editorial board is not exactly thrilled that Biden will be president in less than two weeks. We endorsed Trump twice and certainly wish he had won a second term in the White House. Had legitimate evidence been produced that cast doubt on the accuracy of the November vote, we would support any investigations that arose from it. But there is none, and we accept the reality of the American people’s will. We are flummoxed by the refusal of so many Republican leaders to publicly do the same.
We also understand that Democrats previously raised token objections to Electoral College certification following the last three Republican presidential victories: 2000, 2004 and 2016. The 2000 and 2016 objections were confined to the House and amounted to nothing. Following then-President George W. Bush’s reelection in 2004, two Democratic lawmakers – Sen. Barbara Boxer of California and Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio – objected to certification of Ohio’s electoral votes, forcing the House and Senate to vote separately on the objection. Both chambers declined to reject Ohio’s votes.
Hypocritically, many Democratic lawmakers who, at the time, supported those previous objections are now crying foul at the GOP legislators who will try something similar today. For us, however, this is not a party-line issue: It was bad when Democrats did it, and it will be bad when Republicans do it.
Just because there is precedent for such behavior does not mean it is appropriate to engage in it, especially not at the large scale that the GOP appears primed for today. This newspaper’s opinion page has a long history of expressing disdain for Democrats’ reckless and theatrical antics, and it is disappointing to see so many Republicans choosing to participate in the same sort of activity at such a historic moment for our nation.
Fortunately, there are enough votes in Congress to tamp down the disruptions caused by the GOP’s fringe elements. The show in the Capitol today will probably be ugly and frustrating, but it will ultimately end in the correct outcome for our nation and our democracy. Once that happens, our hope is that congressional Republicans reunite and refocus on their collective role as a check against the worst impulses of the incoming Biden administration.