A Dangerous Complacency

The New York Times reported over the weekend that a group of 12 Republican Senators and Senators-elect – U.S. MO Sen. Josh Hawley, and a group reportedly led by U.S. TX Sen. Ted Cruz, including Ron Johnson (WI), James Lankford (OK), Steve Daines (MT), John Kennedy (LA), Marsha Blackburn (TN), Mike Braun (IN), Cynthia Lummis (WY), Roger Marshall (KS), Bill Hagerty (TN), and Tommy Tuberville (AL) – are planning to vote to reject the Electoral College results through which President-elect Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump.  The paper further reported that Vice President Mike Pence might lend support to the effort.  Such maneuvers will reportedly be supplemented by a cohort of Republican blackguards in the House of Representatives. 

As has been covered ad nauseam over the last eight weeks, there is not a shred of credible evidence that Mr. Biden’s victory was a result of fraud, a claim rejected by dozens of judges of every political philosophy, denied by state election officials of both parties in multiple states, and debunked by the Trump Administration Attorney General, William Barr.  Yet, these traitors persist in an undertaking with the clear potential to further undermine many Americans’ faith in our democratic processes.

These efforts seem destined to substantively fail; Democrats control the House of Representatives, and it seems highly likely that a significant number of Senate Republicans will vote with Senate Democrats to accept the Electoral College results.  What is so execrable about the scheme is that it is so patently political theater.  These recalcitrant Republicans are presumably well aware that all objective findings indicate that Mr. Biden won the presidency, and do not expect their antics to block Mr. Biden’s assumption of the presidency; indeed, they might perhaps be more reluctant to engage in this pretense if they actually thought that it might be successful.  They have resorted to a stunt akin to House Republicans’ repeatedly voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act between 2010 and 2017, political pandering that they recognized had no chance of success, only to be exposed as having no suitable healthcare replacement when the GOP actually took full control of the federal government.  That said, the Congressional Republicans engaging in this plot are either oblivious to, or so blinded by partisanship that they are disregarding, the poisonous impact that their machinations might have on the long term vitality of our democracy. 

Irony has piled upon irony as this travesty has metastasized.  While the President is undoubtedly thrilled by these lickspittles’ support – any number of observers have noted how simplistically susceptible he is to transparent flattery — I would venture that the three most prominent plotters – Messrs. Pence, Hawley and Cruz – know full well that Mr. Trump’s presidency is over, and in the guise of defending him are actually engaging in a battle for possession of his political carcass. Mr. Cruz’ foray followed and was arguably in response to Mr. Hawley’s announcement that he would vote to contest the Electoral College results; Lyin’ Ted didn’t want Schoolboy Josh to get a leg up on him in the race to secure Trump Cult support for a 2024 presidential run.  Vice President Pantywaist was afraid to be left behind.

Below is a link to Federalist No. 68, written by Alexander Hamilton in 1788 as one of 85 essays that he, James Madison, and John Jay composed under the pseudonym, “Publius,” to persuade Americans to adopt the Constitution propounded by the Constitutional Convention of 1787.  No. 68 isn’t that long, and worth reading in its entirety.  In a mild irony given many commentators’ current criticism of the Constitution’s Electoral College structure, Mr. Hamilton begins the missive by noting, “The mode of appointment [i.e., the Electoral College] of the Chief Magistrate [i.e., the President] of the United States is almost the only part of the system of any consequence, which has escaped without severe censure or which has received the slightest mark of approbation from [the Constitution’s] opponents.”

Messrs. Hawley and Cruz are members of the Federalist Society, a prominent association of the conservative bar and its acolytes.  Considering their relationships with the Federalist Society, one would think that these two knaves would have at least read the Federalist.  Given the intrigue they are propagating, a bitter irony emerges from later passages of No. 68, in which Mr. Hamilton extolls the virtues of the Electoral College:

“It was also peculiarly desirable to afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder.  This evil was not least to be dreaded in the election of a magistrate who was to have so important an agency in the administration of the government as the President of the United States. …

Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. … [The Constitutional Convention delegates] have not made the appointment of the President to depend on any preexisting bodies of men who might be tampered with beforehand to prostitute their votes; but they have referred it in the first instance to an immediate act of the people of America ….”

The Avalon Project : Federalist No 68 (yale.edu)

As noted above, this evil – a word that I have but rarely used in these pages – charade seems destined to fail.  Nonetheless, these events have reminded me of The Lessons of Tragedy, by Hal Brands and Charles Edel.  Messrs. Brands and Edel focus on foreign policy, and the main premise of their book is that 75 years after World War II and 30 years after the Cold War, Americans are risking becoming insensible to the dangers that will arise if America fails to diligently tend to the liberal global order:  “… Americans are serial amnesiacs …. The U.S.-led international order has been so successful, for so long, that Americans have come to take it for granted.”

I see a domestic parallel.  I would submit that the Republicans purportedly seeking to overturn the election – motivated by ambition, hateful partisanship, ignorance, or hysteria – are presuming an invulnerability about American democratic safeguards that the Founding Fathers, who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor when declaring our nation’s independence from a tyrant, or Presidents of both parties such as Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush, who defended us against the existential threats presented by the Nazis and/or the Soviets, never would.  This is why we have never before seen anywhere near this level of such frankly un-American behavior, no matter how bitterly-contested or closely-decided our elections have been.  I fear that we have enjoyed our freedoms for so long that some of those to whom we have entrusted the protection of our republic have, to borrow Messrs. Brands’ and Edel’s phrase, come to take them for granted; we invite tragedy if enough of us cannot abide the lesson that in our system of government, neither winning nor self-interest is paramount.

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