We knew it would get bad. We just did not know how bad it would get or what ‘bad’ looked like. Now we do.
At least the courts, including the Supreme Court, have stood tall, even in the face of withering criticism from the president. We have them to applaud and thank.
The election and its aftermath continue to take a huge toll on the country. What was intended to be an opportunity to select a president has become a war on democracy itself, one that has threatened our most cherished, most democratic, most American right. Sadly, it has taken the courts to preserve the integrity of our voice, our vote and, critically, our way of life. It took the courts to repel the president’s concerted, ill-conceived efforts to invalidate the election, as well as the many Republican elected officials who openly and brazenly supported him.
Let’s review some key events from the last six weeks. Two weeks ago, two dozen armed supporters of the president surrounded the home of Michigan’s secretary of state Jocelyn Benson and threatened her and her family.¹ Why? The protesters were convinced — as are millions of Republicans — that the president’s baseless claims of widespread election fraud were true and that the election was ‘stolen.’ For the record: the president lost Michigan by 150,000 votes, a result that has been validated by Benson’s audit of the election.
Sadly, Jocelyn Benson’s experience is not unique. Protests and open threats against election officials in states the president lost have been commonplace.² This includes Georgia’s Republican secretary of state. Some have received death threats. Apparently, their crime has been to run a sound, fraud-free election, one that the president did not win.
Contributing mightily to our national strife is the president’s unwillingness to accept defeat. Worse — and this is quite worse — he and his supporters have gone to ever-more extreme lengths to overturn the results of the election in four battleground states that the president believes he won (or, more likely, cannot believe he lost). Those states — Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — stand in the way of him remaining in the White House. So far, his legal efforts and those of his supporters are a dismal 1 for 40-something and counting. (The lone win was in Pennsylvania, where a judge granted a motion to shorten the voter ID deadline.) If this were a batting average, it would spell doom for a baseball player. It should spell doom for the president’s attempts to upend the election.
But no. Why accept defeat when all 50 states have certified their election results — some after two or three recounts — and the president remains the loser? And why accept the inability to persuade the courts in four battleground states that the election was rigged? Might evidence of widespread voter fraud be needed to substantiate that claim? One would think so.
Give the president some credit. He is unfazed by facts. In the process, though, we suffer. Only 18% of those who voted for the president believe that Biden is the legitimate winner.³
The latest ploy — and it was a good one — involved Ken Paxton, the Republican attorney general of Texas, filing a lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate the presidential election results in, wait for it, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. His suit asserted that ‘unlawful election results’ in those states — all of which Biden won — should be declared unconstitutional, thus nullifying millions of votes. The lawsuit contends that the illegal results in those states will prevent the president from remaining in office and thereby harm the citizens of Texas.⁴ Not surprisingly, Paxton is a long-time staunch supporter of the president.
If that was not enough — and it was plenty — the actions following Paxton’s suit were mind blowing, and not in a good way. Two days afterward, 17 states — all with Republican attorneys general — filed a motion supporting the lawsuit. The next day, six of those states asked to join the case themselves. The president’s tweet said it all, “The Supreme Court has a chance to save our Country from the greatest Election abuse in the history of the United States.” And he was not likely referring to hisactions. Not surprisingly, 126 Republican members of Congress signed onto the case.⁵ Let us remember that what Texas, the 17 supporting states and the 126 Republicans in Congress were attempting to do was to invalidate a democratic election without any evidence of wrong doing. They were working hard to undo the will of the people, to reject millions of legitimate votes. Because their guy lost. These are our tax dollars at work.
Not to be outdone, and he never is, the president also filed a suit last week in the Supreme Court in support of Texas’s lawsuit. The president’s argument was frightening. In essence, he claimed that since he won Ohio and Florida, and other Republicans won office, he should have won, too, because most presidential candidates who won Ohio and Florida win the national vote. The actual document is worth reading.⁶ (If you do, please see the Table of Contents on page 7. There is an absolutely precious typo, given that the brief was filed on behalf of the president. The fourth line reads ‘Additional Facts Facts.’ Like typing ‘facts’ twice will make them true. Perfect.)
On Friday night of last week, the Supreme Court denied the Texas suit and all others associated with it.⁷ One crisis averted.
Yet, another looms large.
While the Supreme Court and all other courts petitioned by the president’s campaign since the election have been consistent in their rejection of suit after suit, it is important to note that 17 states, all with Republican attorneys general, joined in support of Texas’s spurious attempt to invalidate the election. They were publicly supported by 126 Republicans in Congress, among them 75% of the Republican congressional leadership, who signed their names to the suit. This included House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Ted Cruz, who the president had asked to argue his case should it come before the Supreme Court. (Cruz accepted.) Those states and individuals who endorsed the Texas suit are cause for concern, if not heartache.
No acceptable evidence had been presented to any court to suggest that voter fraud existed. No dead people had been proven to have voted. No proof exists that thousands voted more than once. Paper ballots matched electronic tabulations in every state. Recounts and re-recounts matched initial results. No suitcases filled with ballots for the president had been produced, caught on security cameras or otherwise validated.
Even so — and in full awareness of this — 18 states, 126 Republicans in Congress and Ted Cruz came forward voluntarily and essentially said, “Who needs evidence, who cares about democracy, when we have a chance to keep the president in office by other means?” Despite the clear, documented and certified outcome that he lost the election. Which, for sure, is the fact fact.
We know that the president is doing it for the money.⁸ Big money. The same cannot be said for those 18 states and 126 congressional Republicans. Their intentions may be more nefarious.
We are a divided country, one heading ever-more rapidly in opposing directions. Our differences mount by the day. We cannot agree on truth. We do not agree on vote counts. We seek to vilify those who disagree with us. Some see conspiracies of the most vile, evil nature lurking in every dark shadow. Some believe that the process is less important than the outcome and that the desired outcome must be achieved at all costs. Many of these people are elected officials, all who swore an oath to uphold and protect the Constitution, and all who we pay.
How might it get even worse? The banding together of the 18 states against the new administration, one that the president is already labelling ‘illegitimate’? The further separation of the 126 Republicans in Congress from their colleagues in both parties and from the Constitution? The creation of a new party, with QAnon as its platform and OAN and Newsmax as its loudspeakers (given that Fox News is suddenly seen as not sufficiently pro-Trump)? Not to be overly dramatic, but might secession be in our future? Rush Limbaugh floated the idea last week (even though he quickly backtracked).⁹ If he thinks it a possibility — a remedy? — so must the tens of millions who follow him.
As long as the current president’s Twitter account remains active, and there’s a buck in it for him, I doubt he will be far behind. Regardless of the damage it will inflict.