Editorial: What Happens on January 6 Will Be a Litmus Test for All Republicans

On Wednesday, January 6, a joint session of Congress will meet to formally certify Joe Biden as president-elect. During the joint session, Americans may also see an unprecedented threat to American democracy by many of their elected officials as Trump loyalist lawmakers seek to block Biden’s certification, subverting the vote that has already been certified by all 50 states. 

Led by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), at least 12 Republican senators and senators-elect have vowed that they will join Missouri GOP Senator Josh Hawley as he objects to certifying the election and moves to challenge the votes from states that voted for Biden/Harris. The coalition has called for a 10-day “emergency audit” to investigate Trump’s unfounded claims of voter fraud. As many as 140 House Republicans are also expected to challenge the election results. 

Donald Trump began his efforts to delegitimize the results of the 2020 presidential election before it even took place. Now, two months later, despite multiple audits and hand recounts, dozens of failed lawsuits by Trump’s lawyers, as well as confirmations by election officials (including Republican election officials), the Justice Department, and even the Department of Homeland Security that the election was secure, Trump and his supporters have doubled down on their insistence that the election was “stolen” from Donald Trump. 

Trump’s false claims and unsubstantiated tweets have grown in frequency and intensity, and amount more and more to the rantings of a madman desperate to retain a presidency that will no longer be his. Alarming as Trump’s rantings are, the mass hysteria of the GOP lawmakers as they echo and support Trump’s false claims should be even more horrifying. 

If they truly believe that Trump won the 2020 election, the mountains of evidence show that they are gravely deluded. If they are going along with Trump’s false claims because they think it would serve them or their careers, they are showing a lack of integrity that should evoke disgust in their constituents. Either way, these GOP lawmakers are demonstrating their unfitness for office, and pose a clear threat to the democratic process.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) has told Republican senators not to challenge the legitimacy of the 2020 election results so as to avoid public debate. He knows it’s unlikely that the election results will be overturned. He also knows that it virtually guarantees that GOP lawmakers will then be forced to vote to show  whether they will stand with Donald Trump, or whether they will honor the will of American voters; Republicans, both the Trump base and others, will be watching.

On Sunday, the Washington Post obtained an hour-long recording of Donald Trump pressuring Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, to “find” the votes needed to overturn Georgia’s election results in order to make Trump the winner. On the recording, Trump begs, demands, and tries to bully Raffensperger in attempts to make him tilt the election in Trump’s favor. During the call, Raffensperger repeatedly and calmly rejects Trump’s false claims, citing the data that supports Biden’s win. 

“The people of Georgia are angry, the people in the country are angry,” said Trump. “And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated.”

“You have a big election coming up and because of what you’ve done to the president — you know, the people of Georgia know that this was a scam,” Trump said. “Because of what you’ve done to the president, a lot of people aren’t going out to vote, and a lot of Republicans are going to vote negative, because they hate what you did to the president. Okay? They hate it. And they’re going to vote. And you would be respected, really respected, if this can be straightened out before the election.”

“Well, Mr. President,” responded Raffensperger, “The challenge that you have is, the data you have is wrong.”

During their conversation, Trump issued a vague threat to both Raffensperger and Ryan Germany, the secretary of state’s general counsel. Trump suggested that if they don’t “find that thousands of ballots in Fulton County have been illegally destroyed to block investigators” (a baseless allegation),  Raffensperger and Germany could be held criminally liable.

“You know what they did, and you’re not reporting it,” Trump said. “That’s a criminal offense,” he said. “And you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer.”

Americans have now heard, in Trump’s own voice and words, his gangster-like attempted shakedown as he desperately sought to subvert the election’s outcome. The call is reminiscent of Trump’s “perfect call” to Ukraine’s president Volodomyr Zelenskiy, in which he pressured Zelenskiy to announce a fake investigation of Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, in hopes of portraying his political opponent, Joe Biden, in a bad light. (“I want you to do me a favor, though,” said Trump to Zelenskiy on that call.) 

Unlike the famous “perfect call” to Ukraine, however, GOP lawmakers can’t lie about its contents, can’t deny what the president said, or what he was asking for, because every American can hear it for themselves. Wednesday’s joint session of Congress will put lawmakers on trial as they demonstrate just how far they’ll go to side with the president. The country, itself, will be put on trial, as we show the world whether our Congress stands with corruption, or with a democratic election—an institution America has long helped other countries defend.

Beyond those Republican lawmakers who have vowed to object to the certified results of a lawful election, how will the Republican Party as a whole respond to this? How will it impact the party going forward? If they do nothing, if they don’t stand up to what amounts to a coup, what’s to stop the next attempt at overturning a free and fair presidential election from succeeding? 

Audio: Trump berates Ga. secretary of state, urges him to ‘find’ votes |
Washington Post [2021-01-03]

At Least 140 House Republicans Expected To Challenge Electoral College |
Business News [2020-12-31]

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