The only good thing we can see in next Wednesday's planned stage set of Trump vs. Democracy is that the challenge finally will put the names of Republicans who believe in a coup on the record.
In any normal world, that should mean that they have signed a political death warrant. Who wants to stand election in a world where elections are declared null and void?
But in these divided United States, these Republican plotters may well emerge as some kind of patriotic if zany Donald Trump loyalists worthy of a return to office. After all, it has been reported widely that most of the 74 million who voted for Trump believe without evidence the election for president was fraud-filled, and stolen by Joe Biden's radical leftists. Almost five dozen court challenges later, there still is no evidence.
The only three election fraud cases to be prosecuted this year have involved individual Republicans seeking to vote for Trump.
We can expect that more than a few will not accept any resolution here, and turn to the streets, even to violence, to keep Trump in office.
First, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri offered himself as the single required senator to step up to the formal election challenge and joining with the 140 or so Republicans in the House. We are facing a formal operetta to delay declaring Biden the next president. Set aside that Hawley likely is motivated by early recognition of his own presidential hopes for the next election. And even set aside that it is numerically impossible to see a successful vote to overturn the election results. It will still be a slap to the country's most central traditions.
But then, on Saturday, nearly a dozen Republican senators and senators-elect led by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said they, too, will reject electors from some states won by Biden, citing without evidence allegations of voter fraud and calling for an emergency 10-day audit of results. It is an attempt, they said, to give voice to those who don't believe the election was conducted fairly, despite no investigation nor court finding any evidence of wrongdoing.
What We Face
What we will get is another airing of baseless accounts—some made up, some just legally incomplete—that selected results from contested states like Pennsylvania were swayed by so-called suitcases of votes suddenly appearing late at night, by reliance on mail balloting that Democrats used for recruiting in a time of the pandemic, by machinery that magically changed votes only in districts with higher Black and minority populations.
From Hawley's statements, his challenge to automatic acceptance of receiving the Electoral College results—the ritual that is scheduled before the incoming Congressional session—is only a call to get focus on the actual Trump complaints about the election, despite procedural and substantive rejection by scores of state and federal courts all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The only three election fraud cases to be prosecuted this year have involved individual Republicans seeking to vote for Trump. Hmm.
For once, we may find ourselves in agreement with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that Republicans should just drop this nonsense and move on, this act of public Trump loyalty is more than a ceremonial call. McConnell believes that it will hurt Republican political fates to have to split his party members on whether to publicly appear to back Trump even through election fantasy or stand for realism.
As a vote-counter who holds his own idea of a Senate caucus as the controlling arm of government, McConnell clearly hates anything that seems to weaken his position.
Trump, of course, cares only about Trump, and McConnell is a temporary obstacle, and Hawley is this week's hero, preempting incoming Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville, who previously had offered to launch the formal challenge.
Meanwhile, we keep hearing about another loony lawsuit by Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert, among the pure-bred Trumpists, filed seeking a legally strange and strained argument that Vice President Mike Pence, the titular presiding officer of Wednesday's session, act in a way to hold up acknowledging election results, or insisting that votes of alternate slates of electors be the ones accepted. And this prompted Pence's lawyers to go to court to argue – successfully -- that the lawsuit that ostensibly asks to give him more power be thrown out.
It's political weirdness that seems so last year now.
Throughout, we keep hearing the alarmed tone of academics, legal experts, election officials, journalists and pundits as they intone that a judgment on democracy itself is being served up here. They are not wrong, but they keep missing the point that this is all for show toward creating an aggrieved Donald Trump – and for guaranteed future fund-raising.
Here's Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post columnist: "There is no irregularity or evidence of fraud that justifies this move. It is pandering to a party's base which has lost touch with reality and fidelity to our Constitution. . . Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro called the lawsuit 'seditious abuse.' That's an apt description for Hawley's latest move."
When looked at that way, these unfolding events need a different filter – like looking at political showmanship and advertising.
Trump himself finally seems engaged enough by the developments to come off the golf course long enough to oversee the staging of a pretend coup – or to be present for coronation should an actual coup somehow emerge from all the chaos being sown.
We can even add in the dramatic almost-certainty that the two Senate races in Georgia on Tuesday won't be resolved in time to seat any of the four candidates on Wednesday.
My advice: Keep track of those voting to dump the votes of 82 million Americans who voted for Biden to insist that the only votes that count come from Republican districts.
You can start with these: Senators Cruz and Hawley, Ron Johnson (Wis.), James Lankford (Okla.), Steve Daines (Mont.), John Neely Kennedy (La.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) and Mike Braun (Ind.) with incoming Cynthia M. Lummis (Wyo.), Roger Marshall Kan.), Bill Hagerty (Tenn.), Tommy Tuberville (Ala.). Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama will be the first among House Republicans.
Actually, if they believe what they say, these Republicans should simply quit, and refuse to serve. After all, they, too, came to office via elections equally flawed—whatever the evidence.
Or better, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) should refuse to seat them, because they are choosing not to follow their oaths.
And, when they don't, we should simply get rid of them all: They don't believe in American democracy.