Editor’s note: Cowardly Republicans kowtow to an attempted coup
I had no illusions that Donald Trump—a wannabe dictator—would do everything possible to stay in power, no matter how outrageous or destructive to democracy. That was clear for months before the Nov. 3 election.
But I am also dismayed by how many craven and cowardly Republicans in Congress are kowtowing to Trump—all the way to the last-ditch, failed effort on Jan. 6 to stop the formal certification of Joe Biden’s 306-232 victory in the Electoral College.
The new senators and representatives took their oath of office on Jan. 3 to defend the Constitution against enemies both foreign and domestic. But just three days later, a majority of Republicans in the House and several in the Senate violated that oath by trying to help Trump overturn the election—even after Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol and forced lawmakers to evacuate.
After the Trump-incited insurrection, Democrats are moving to impeach him again to disqualify him from ever seeking elected office, or to try to remove him through the 25th Amendment before Biden is inaugurated Jan. 20.
The calls to invoke the 25th Amendment came Jan. 7 from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York. Several other California Democrats joined those calls, including Rep. Doris Matsui of Sacramento.
“President Trump continues to put himself above the American people, and his reckless actions to undermine our democracy must be met with equal consequence,” she said in a statement.
Rep. Ami Bera of Elk Grove also signed on to the 25th Amendment push.
In more normal times, a delegation of Republican leaders would go to the White House to tell Trump he has to resign for the good of the country.
Those Republicans siding with the president also did so after he was caught on tape Jan. 2 threatening Georgia’s secretary of state to “find” enough votes to hand him victory—an hour-long call that was likely illegal and another abuse of power.
Instead, those feeding Trump’s fantasies tried to pretend that their efforts are to protect the integrity of the election. It’s noteworthy, however, that a statement from GOP senators objecting to the Electoral College affirmation cites “unprecedented allegations” of voting improprieties, not actual proof since multiple Republican judges and election officials found no evidence of widespread fraud. The claims are only “unprecedented” because of the depths of the lies and conspiracy theories.
Trump called on thousands of MAGA and Proud Boys supporters to descend on Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. And after Trump incited the crowd, they breached the Capitol and forced lawmakers to shelter in place and delay the Electoral College process.
It could not be more clear now: This is an attempted coup.
And Trump’s weak calls against violence were pathetic.
Then, before his Twitter account was temporarily suspended, Trump posted a video urging the rioters to leave the Capitol, but called them “special.”
“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” he tweeted before his account was blocked. “Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”
But after the violence, Rep. Tom McClintock of Elk Grove, who had indicated he would object, was the only California Republican to vote “no.”
Those voting to overturn the election included Reps. Ken Calvert, Doug LaMalfa and Devin Nunes, a Trump stooge who received the nation’s highest civilian honor from the president on Monday.
They were led by Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader from Bakersfield, who also signed on to the seditious Texas lawsuit that sought to overturn the results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and that the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear last month. Reps. McClintock, Calvert and LaMalfa were also among the 126 Republicans who signed the brief.
McCarthy gave his caucus the green light to object to the Electoral College votes on Wednesday—unlike top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell, who accepted Biden’s victory and urged his caucus not to take part in this unprecedented ploy.
After Trump allies objected to the 11 electoral votes from Arizona, McConnell said that there’s no proof of “massive” voter fraud and that it would be unprecedented for Congress to overturn the election.
“We cannot declare ourselves the national board of elections on steroids,” he said. “It would be damage our republic forever.”
If the election results were overturned on the basis of allegations alone, democracy would enter a “death spiral,” McConnell added.
The challenges to the electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania were rejected by both the House and the Senate, and Biden’s victory was affirmed.
In his speech to the MAGA crowd, the president falsely claimed that Vice President Mike Pence could decertify the Electoral College vote (Pence issued a statement that he does not have that authority) and threatened to back primary opponents against Republicans who don’t support his effort to overturn the election.
It’s shameful that no California Republicans in Congress were among those who stood up to Trump before Wednesday’s chaos and tried to prevent another assault on democracy. They may suffer the ire of Trump backers, but they’re on the right side of history.
“A fundamental, defining feature of a democratic republic is the right of the people to elect their own leaders,” Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania said in a Twitter post on Jan. 2. The effort to overturn the election results “in swing states like Pennsylvania directly undermines this right.”
“The voters have spoken, and Congress must now fulfill its responsibility to certify the election results,” Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Mitt Romney of Utah said in a statement also signed by several Democrats. Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois also publicly called on their party to accept Biden’s victory.
In the end, Trump’s desperate but dangerous efforts were futile. Still, the chaos inside and outside the U.S. Capitol tested our republic again.
We should pay close attention to what our representatives did. Say their names. And never forget.