And so this is how it ends. American democracy will presumably survive the Trump years, but it will have been a near thing, far too close to ignore or forget.
There are still a few twists and turns left to this story — watch for desperate takes on how Congress still has to certify the Electoral College votes — and there’s plenty more time for shameful, anti-democratic behavior from Trump, Rudy and the rest of the Trump cronies. You can pick them out. They’re the ones who get the special COVID treatment denied to the 3,000 Americans who have been dying each day.
But the fact that Trump’s last-ditch case before the Supreme Court — which the justices predictably swatted away, ruling Texas had no standing; they could have also mentioned that they had no case and apparently no idea what they were doing — had been joined by so many other Republicans is maybe the most discouraging aspect of this whole matter.
In fact, you could call this rejection of democracy shocking if we were still capable of being shocked, which, face it, we are not. Trump had said the justices needed “courage” to rule in his favor, but what they would have needed was a set of blinders. Justices Alito and Thomas dissented on a technical matter, but, on the facts, this was basically another 9-0 shutout.
Historians will be writing about Trump for a hundred years, trying to solve the puzzle of how he was elected in the first place and how, once elected, he persuaded millions of Americans to cheer on his effort to subvert democracy in the now-certain case of his defeat.
But let’s not simply pin this on Trump, whose takeover of the Republican Party is disturbing on so many levels. I don’t know if Trump is a symptom or a cause of Trumpism. More likely, he’s both. As I said, historians will be working on this long after we’re all dead, and their conclusions will depend on whether another Trump — worryingly, a smarter and even more dangerous version — could be elected.
In the meantime, we must not ignore or forget the Trumpian enablers.
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We’ll begin by naming names. They’re not hard to find. There were 126 U.S. House Republicans who signed on in support of Trump’s attempt to bring what must be his last non-case to the Supreme Court. That’s a majority of GOP representatives who signed on. And among the signees, unsurprisingly, were Colorado’s Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn. In other words, they are on record now as being in favor of overthrowing an election. It’s that simple. Joe Biden won. Buck and Lamborn, sworn to defend the Constitution, joined the subvert-the-election team even though they must have known they had no chance.
The only Colorado Republican member of Congress who didn’t sign on was Scott Tipton, who, of course, was defeated in a primary and will soon be leaving Washington, to be replaced by Lauren Boebert. You know she’d be signing with guns blazing. And speaking of being defeated, there is still-for-now Sen. Cory Gardner, whose silence is predictably damning after his years of Trumpian enabling.
The infamous lawsuit, which, the legal experts warned us, would be laughable except for what it might portend, had the state of Texas suing four swing states, all supporting Biden — Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia — over how they conducted their elections. The solution would be to invalidate millions of votes. Seriously, and there isn’t even a charge of fraud here. As election expert Rick Hasen tweeted, this lawsuit is “dangerous garbage, but garbage.”
Sure, it’s a joke. It’s lunacy. In fact, it’s unprecedented lunacy. It’s an anti-federalism joke. It’s a lack-of-standing joke. It’s an assault-on-democracy joke. It’s a Trumpian this-is-the-big-one joke. It’s an evidence-free joke. It’s a case that Trump asked Ted Cruz to argue if it got to the Supreme Court, and reportedly Cruz said he would, making it a Ted Cruz joke. Of course, it was lunacy. In fact I wrote it off in a previous column as simply another chapter in the farcical Trump history.
But that was before the unfunny part took hold. It’s not just the GOP congressmen. The lawsuit was brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — who is being investigated on several charges and who, as GOP Sen. Ben Sasse notes, may be looking for a Trump pardon — and was then remarkably joined by 17 Republican state attorneys general.
Yes, 17, many of whom certainly understand what this lawsuit meant — an attempt to overthrow a fair and free election. It’s a would-be coup. Trump himself admitted as much when he tweeted, as only he can, one word: #Overturn.
From one of the defending states, the Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro filed a 43-page brief, which said, in part, that “The Court should not abide this seditious abuse of the judicial process, and should send a clear and unmistakable signal that such abuse must never be replicated.”
Yeah, it is something like sedition we’ve been talking about. If the court had actually ruled to overturn the election, it would have been the greatest constitutional crisis since secession. And Buck and Lamborn, to their shame, were still all in. I don’t know if it’s fear of Trump voters, who overwhelmingly believe the election was rigged, or if it’s fear of Trump himself, who might, you know, tweet something unkind about them.
There were some notable Republican holdouts, but not many. And a recent Quinnipiac poll says 70% of Republicans think the election was rigged. I doubt seriously that it’s really that high, but something that Republicans, under Trump, feel the need to say. But maybe the poll does have it right.
In Georgia, where the Republican attorney general slammed the lawsuit, where there have been three recounts — all of them confirmed that Biden won — GOP Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler endorsed it anyway, even as both face runoff elections on Jan. 5 that will decide which party controls the U.S. Senate.
How will Georgians respond to this all-out assault on their November election? The truth is, I’m afraid to hear the answer.
Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
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