President Donald Trump has attempted a coup-d’état and the vast majority of congressional Republicans are either actively supporting him or watching silently from the sidelines. Many may fear a nasty tweet from the president, however, I believe that a significant number of them would have cheered if he had succeeded in a post-election power grab. That is profoundly sad.
How in the world did the longest lasting and most powerful democracy in the world get to this miserable state? Well, I think it started with Trump using lies and deception to cultivate a huge, loyal cadre of supporters from an already radicalized Republican Party.
In a February 2018 blog, I wrote that Trump’s objective in keeping his hardcore base fired up was to make sure that congressional Republicans wouldn’t dare cross him. Clearly, any GOP politician who might go against the president would risk being defeated by a Trump-backed primary candidate. I also thought that Trump’s base was his insurance policy if he were impeached or if he decided to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller to kill the Russia investigation.
Later that year Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, a persistent Trump critic, was one of the first victims of the president’s strategy. Flake criticized Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign and challenged the president early in 2017, so Trump turned against him. Knowing that a well-financed candidate would oppose him in the primaries and seeing his low polling numbers, Flake dropped his reelection bid. This lesson was not lost on other Republican politicians. They began to cower in fear of a critical Trump tweet and the wrath of his base.
This intimidation has continued over the past four years as the president took complete control of the GOP and his followers became bolder and more aggressive. Is it any wonder that his base immediately went on the attack after Trump was soundly defeated in November?
Yet, out of over 50 legal challenges to the election results filed by Trump’s campaign and his supporters, only one achieved a minor win. Both Democratic and Republican appointed judges ruled against these suits, including some appointed by Trump. Why? They weren’t supported by credible evidence of voter fraud or significant election irregularities.
One federal court suit sought to invalidate former VP Joe Biden’s Pennsylvania’s votes. U.S. Circuit Court Judge Stephanos Bibas, a 2017 Trump appointee, rejected this attempt stating, “Voters, not lawyers, choose the President.” Regardless, around 70% of Republicans believe the Democrats somehow stole the election from their president. Apparently, they don’t care what the courts decide.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed “the big one” – according to Trump – a suit asking the Supreme Court to invalidate the votes in four other states. Most legal scholars believed it was totally frivolous and antithetical to the GOP’s adherence to Federalism and states’ rights. Still, 18 Republican state attorneys general quickly joined in the litigation. Incredibly, so did over 120 Republican members of the U.S. House, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.). They obviously don’t care about their party’s principles. No matter, the Court wisely refused to hear their case.
Other attempts to keep Trump in office were more radical. During a Newsmax Media interview, Trump’s former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, suggested that Trump could use the military to conduct election reruns in the swing states that Biden won. Reportedly, he also made that suggestion to the president in the Oval Office. That’s outrageous.
Chairman of the critically important Senate committee on Homeland Security, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), has been wasting precious committee time holding ridiculous hearings for months. He used his powerful position in an attempt to smear Biden and his son Hunter and cast doubt on the integrity of the 2020 election. Yet, while he was playing politics and ignoring the cybersecurity of the federal government, Russian hackers were roaming around at will in the computer systems of numerous federal agencies, threatening our national security.
As what should be the final political ploy, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) intends to challenge the count of electors when a joint session of Congress meets next January 6 to officially declare Joe Biden the president-elect. Several GOP senators may join him, including Sen. Johnson, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Sen.-elect Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.). This tactic will likely fail.
So, with all their undemocratic efforts since November 3, Republicans won’t succeed in keeping Trump in the White House and preventing Joe Biden from taking the oath of office on January 20.
What they’ve spawned, however, is ominous:
Members of Trump’s base are becoming more violent, threatening to harm numerous public officials – Democratic and Republican alike – for simply doing their job to conduct a free and fair election. Trump and his administration have been obstructing Biden’s transition team, attempting to hamstring the new president going forward. And a majority of Republican-controlled states, along 60% of Republicans in the U.S. House, have made it clear that they don’t care what the voters want or what the courts have decided.
After the 2020 election, the Republican National Committee and most congressional Republicans turned their backs on the rule of law and the Constitution and aggressively tried to subvert our democracy in order to keep an incompetent autocrat in power.
Make no mistake, failure this year won’t deter them – and next time they just might prevail.