January 5, 2021

The GOP’s Specious Plan to Challenge Electoral College Vote

Hawley, Cruz, and others plan to file objections in what amounts to little other than political posturing.

A group of Republican senators led by Josh Hawley (MO) and Ted Cruz (TX) announced last week their intention to formally object to Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory when Congress jointly meets on Wednesday to official tally the electors’ votes and certify the 2020 presidential election result. More than 100 GOP House representatives reportedly will also join their Senate colleagues in the objection. While Democrats have loudly decried the action as “sedition,” in reality such objections have increasingly become commonplace thanks to Democrats.

That said, this move by Republicans, following all the failed attempts by President Donald Trump and his legal team in challenging the election results in several battleground states over allegations of widespread fraud, smacks primarily of political pandering and posturing rather than any legitimate effort to overturn the election results.

What will happen is that Congress will meet, the faction of GOP senators and representatives will file objections, debate will ensue resulting in no change to the current tally of Electoral College votes, and Joe Biden will be inaugurated on January 20.

The question that appears to be dividing many Republicans and conservatives is whether the actions taken by Senators Hawley, Cruz, et al. in continuing to contest the election are damaging to the party, or whether those refusing to take this stand are actually doing the damage. While the argument that Democrats have similarly acted to file objections in the past over “concerns” about electoral fraud holds historical merit, that does not mean it sets a precedent Republicans should use to justify their own clearly politically calculated actions.

It should come as an embarrassment for conservatives and Republicans to defend their electoral objections based upon the 2004 antics of then-Democrat Senator Barbara Boxer (CA), who objected to Ohio’s electors. Now Hawley and Cruz are essentially arguing in defense of what was indefensible at the time. Boxer was wrong then and, as much as we hate to say it, Hawley and Cruz are wrong now. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

The fact of the matter is that Trump has failed to prove the election fraud he has so loudly and repeatedly lamented. While we certainly believe that Democrats deviously stacked the deck in their favor via an unprecedented mail-in voting campaign and widespread media censorship, and while there is evidence of voter fraud, it was not enough to move the courts — not even Trump-appointed judges — to overturn any election results. The problem for Republicans is that Trump has steadfastly refused to concede, and has thus left congressional Republicans with the difficult task of navigating electoral reality while also seeking to support the president and not alienate his supporters.

Finally, leave it to two conservative stalwarts, Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Mike Lee (R-UT), to inject some needed constitutional sobriety into the issue. They released a statement on Sunday flatly noting, “The Founders entrusted our elections chiefly to the states — not Congress. They entrusted the election of our president to the people, acting through the Electoral College — not Congress. And they entrusted the adjudication of election disputes to the courts — not Congress. Under the Constitution and federal law, Congress’s power is limited to counting electoral votes submitted by the states.”

The statement continues, “If Congress purported to overturn the results of the Electoral College, it would not only exceed that power, but also establish unwise precedents. First, Congress would take away the power to choose the president from the people, which would essentially end presidential elections and place that power in the hands of whichever party controls Congress. Second, Congress would imperil the Electoral College, which gives small states like Arkansas a voice in presidential elections. Democrats could achieve their longstanding goal of eliminating the Electoral College in effect by refusing to count electoral votes in the future for a Republican president-elect. Third, Congress would take another big step toward federalizing election law, another longstanding Democratic priority that Republicans have consistently opposed.”

Trump and his supporters have plenty of legitimate grievances. Some are not so legitimate. But Republicans are venturing into territory they’re going to regret, sooner or later.

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