By Lloyd Green* – The Guardian
As a procedural certification has become a coup attempt, Trump and his allies have done lasting harm
Democracy in the US teeters on the edge of a figurative sword. On Wednesday, the US Congress will convene to formally receive the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Unfortunately, Donald Trump and his allies have converted a legal formality into a blatant coup attempt.
The ex-reality television host is like none who have come before him. Presidents Hoover, Carter and Bush Sr all suffered rejection at the ballot box after just one term. However painful, they accepted the electorate’s verdict. In the end, personal pride took a backseat to the orderly transition of power. The nation had spoken.
Likewise, in 2000, Al Gore ultimately acquiesced to a split US supreme court decision, which the late Justice Antonin Scalia later confessed was “as we say in Brooklyn, a piece of shit”, and conceded to George W Bush. Adding insult to injury, Gore, who was then vice-president, presided over the joint session of Congress where the results were announced and certified. Fealty to the American experiment came first.
As for the legal or factual merit of their gambit, there is none
Not any more. The US confronts a president determined to hold on to power past the constitutionally mandated expiration of his term, and congressional Republicans hellbent on aiding and abetting this desperate bid to overturn the election’s outcome.
Last Thursday, Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, told his caucus that the upcoming votes were the “most consequential” of his career. It was not hyperbole. More than two centuries of supremacy of consent of the governed and We the People are riding on it.
Beyond that, McConnell could be a witnessing a civil war among his own ranks. What was supposed to be his own post-election victory lap has evaporated in the face of a president who demands the self-sacrifice of others like a modern-day Moloch. Nancy Pelosi is not the only person on Capitol Hill with a headache.
By the numbers, at least a quarter of Republicans in the Senate and possibly as many as two-thirds of their counterparts in the House are poised to try to steal the vote. Meanwhile, Trump and co have lost more than 60 times in election litigation, including two post-3 November defeats at the hands of the supreme court.
As for the legal or factual merit of their gambit, there is none. Just ask Jay Sekulow or Lou Dobbs, they can tell you. Sekulow served as one of the president’s lawyers during the Mueller investigation and US Senate impeachment trial. Dobbs beats the drums nightly for Trump on the Fox Business.
According to Sekulow, his client’s latest machinations are devoid of legal basis. Pence toadying at the White House is one thing, but doubling as Trump’s arsonist is a whole other story.
“Some have speculated that the vice-president could simply say, ‘I’m not going to accept these electors,’ that he has the authority to do that under the constitution. I actually don’t think that’s what the constitution has in mind,” said Sekulow. And if you’ve lost Sekulow, who are you left with?
And then there is Fox’s Dobbs. On Monday night, he wondered aloud why the president and his minions “have had a devil of a time finding actual proof” of fraud. “Eight weeks from the election and we still don’t have verifiable, tangible support for the crimes that everyone knows were committed,” Dobbs conceded.
Perhaps because no proof exists and the only crimes committed were those perpetrated by the president? Sometimes, reality really does bite.
In the House, Trump can count on the support of the top two Republicans, Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, and Steve Scalise, his whip. The Senate Republican party is a different story. There, his backers are an island of misfit toys.
Ted Cruz? He’s what Looney Toons’ Wile E Coyote would be acting like if he weren’t a children’s cartoon. In case anyone forgot, back in 2013 Cruz mistakenly believed that if he helped shut down the government, Barack Obama would capitulate and agree to scrap the Affordable Care Act. Uh, it didn’t work out that way.
Then there is Senator Josh Hawley, who has difficulty separating fact from fiction. Missouri’s junior senator is the same person who was caught on Tuesday fabricating a story that antifa had vandalized his Virginia home.
Although the odds of their efforts succeeding remain exceedingly low, the US political system has already sustained damage. Concessions by losing candidates stand to be a thing of the past, even after legal remedies have been exhausted.
Indeed, the losing candidate’s supporters can now feel free to reject reality. According to early exit polls from the Georgia runoff contests, 76% of Republicans do not believe that November’s election was fair; facts be damned.
Beyond that, the threat of violence looms as part of our new normal. On the eve of the joint session, Trump tweeted: “I hope the Democrats, and even more importantly, the weak and ineffective RINO” – which stands for Republicans in Name Only – “section of the Republican party, are looking at the thousands of people pouring into DC. They won’t stand for a landslide election victory to be stolen.”
Never one to mince words, the president singled out McConnell, Texas’s John Cornyn, and South Dakota’s John Thune, the Senate Republican leadership team. Like the rest of us, they have reason to be scared of what lies ahead.
*Lloyd Green. An attorney in New York, Lloyd Green was opposition research counsel to George HW Bush’s 1988 campaign and served in the Department of Justice from 1990 to 1992.