As I sat down to write this, members of the Electoral College were meeting in the 50 states and the District of Columbia and casting what should be the final and deciding votes in the 2020 presidential election. Should be, but may not be.
Based on past performance and utterances, President Donald J. Trump is unlikely to go quietly into the night. His assault on our representative democracy, the likes of which have not been seen in America since the 1860s, is likely to continue. Among Trump’s supporters are groups such as the Proud Boys, who have already incited and participated in violence and promise more to come.
Slightly more respectable — although not by much — are over 100 Republican members of the House of Representatives who sought to bolster the attorney general of Texas by filing an amicus brief in his suit seeking to reverse the results of the Nov. 3 election. That suit, which was summarily dismissed by a conservative U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 11, should also be the end of it, but probably won’t be.
There is one more step, one more opportunity for mischief-making on the part of Trump and his cadre of sore losers within some pretense of official channels (trouble in the streets is a whole different kind of threat).
On Jan. 6, members of the 117th Congress will meet to certify the Electoral College vote. Normally a routine matter, this time it may not be. However, one protection against pointless but still dangerous troublemaking does exist, and it should be given serious consideration by the House leadership.
Before getting to that, it is first necessary to refer to two documents -- the U.S. Constitution and the aforementioned Texas lawsuit.
Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution states that, “Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members …”
And turning to the Texas attorney general’s lawsuit, which enjoyed support from 126 House Republicans in the form of an amicus brief, we read a statement by the Texas AG:
“Trust in the integrity of our election processes is sacrosanct and binds our citizenry and the States in this Union together. Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin destroyed that trust and compromised the security and integrity of the 2020 election … Their failure to abide by the rule of law casts a dark shadow of doubt over the outcome of the entire election. (emphasis added) …”
On Jan. 3, members of the new Congress will be sworn in and will take their seats. Among those in the House scheduled to be sworn in are:
- From Georgia: Rick Allen, Earl Carter, Drew Ferguson; Austin Scott
- From Michigan: Jack Bergman, Bill Huizenga, Tim Walberg, John Moolenaar
- From Pennsylvania: John Joyce, Fred Keller, Mike Kelly, Dan Meuser, Scott Perry, Guy Reschenthaler, Glenn Thompson;
- From Wisconsin: Tom Tiffany
All the aforementioned members of Congress have signed a legal petition declaring that the election in their respective states, all of which went for Joe Biden for president and which reelected them to Congress, was conducted in a way that was compromised, that lacked integrity, and “casts a dark shadow of doubt over the entire election.” Please note: “the entire election.” Not just part of it, but the whole thing. Given this confession, the “Sorry Sixteen” should not be seated on Jan. 3.
Instead, the House should direct the Committee on House Administration, which has jurisdiction in such matters, to require each of the 16 to make his case as to why and how the tarnished election about which he professed such concern did not contribute to his own election victory. The committee should then report its findings, conclusions and recommendations to the full House for its consideration.
Some will argue that continuing the fight over the 2020 election results is not something Democrats should do. In the past, I might well have made the same argument (in fact, I did, in 2000). No more. Extremist elements have taken over the Republican Party. They are impervious to reason and comity. It’s time for those of us in opposition to such extremism to play political hardball. (Or at least hoist them by their own, shameless petards).