By Danny R. Johnson
WASHINGTON–Nearly a dozen Republican senators and senators-elect led by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said Saturday they will reject electors from certain states won by President-elect Joe Biden, citing unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud and calling for an emergency 10-day audit of the results, an unprecedented attempt to thwart the democratic process.
The “Dirty Dozen” senators contend they are not trying to reverse the election results but rather give voice to those who do not believe it was conducted fairly, despite no investigation nor court finding any evidence of wrongdoing.
Still, Trump and many of his Republican allies see the January 6th joint session of Congress to certify Biden’s victory as their last stand to contest the election results, even if doing so is mostly political theater to undermine and delay Biden’s inevitable win.
“To wit, Congress should immediately appoint an Electoral Commission, with full investigatory and fact-finding authority, to conduct an emergency 10-day audit of the election returns in the disputed states,” the senators wrote in a joint statement. “Once completed, individual states would evaluate the Commission’s findings and could convene a special legislative session to certify a change in their vote, if needed.”
The “Dirty Dozen” consisting of Sens. Ron Johnson (Wis.), James Lankford (Okla.), Steve Daines (Mont.), John Neely Kennedy (La.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) and Mike Braun (Ind.) — along with Sens.-elect Cynthia M. Lummis (Wyo.), Roger Marshall (Kan.), Bill Hagerty (Tenn.), and Tommy Tuberville (Ala.) — joined Cruz. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has already said he will contest the electoral college vote certification.
Hawley and the other Trump minions know this effort will fail, just as every other effort to undo the lawful presidential election results will fail. (A brief reminder for those with faulty short-term memories: Joe Biden defeated Trump by more than 7 million popular votes and 74 Electoral College votes.) Every single attempt to prove that the election was marked by fraud or that President-elect Biden’s win is illegitimate—an effort that now includes about 60 lawsuits—has flopped. What we’ve discovered since the November 3 election is that it was “the most secure in American history,” as election experts in Trump’s administration have declared. But this immutable, eminently provable fact does not deter Trump and many of his allies from trying to overturn the election; perversely, it seems to encourage them.
Think about this statement for a moment: The incentives Josh Hawley and many of his fellow Republicans officeholders confront lead them to conclude that they should pretend the lie is true.
Those who have hoped that Republicans like Senator Hawley would begin to break free from Trump once he lost the election have not understood the nature of the change that has come over the party’s base.
Trump was the product of deep, disturbing currents on the American right; he was not their creator. Those currents have existed for many decades; we saw them manifested in the popularity of figures such as Sarah Palin, Patrick J. Buchanan, Newt Gingrich, Oliver North, and many others. But their power grew in force and speed over the past decade. In 2016, Trump tapped into these currents. As president and leader of the Republican Party, he channeled those populist passions destructively, rather than in the constructive ways that other Republicans before him, such as Ronald Reagan, had done. (Even if you are a progressive who loathed Reagan, the notion that he was a destructive and malicious force in American politics in the style of Trump is not credible.)
What is happening in the GOP is that figures such as Hawley, along with many of his Senate and House colleagues, and essential Republican players, including the former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, are all trying to position themselves as the heirs of Trump. None of them possesses the same sociopathic qualities as Trump, and their efforts will be less impulsive and presumably less clownish, more calculated, and probably less conspiracy-minded. It may be that not all of them support Hawley’s stunt; perhaps some are even embarrassed by it. But these figures are seismographers; they are determined to act in ways that win the Republican Party’s base’s approval. And this goes to the heart of the danger.
The problem with the Republican “establishment” and with elected officials such as Josh Hawley is that they are crazy or do not know any better; they are cowards and weak. They are far more ambitious than they are principled, and they are willing to damage American politics and society rather than be criticized by their tribe. I am guessing that many of them have not read Nietzsche. Still, they have embraced his philosophy of perspectivism, which in its crudest form posits that there is no objective truth, no authoritative or independent criteria for determining what is true or false. In this view, we all get to make up our facts and create our narratives. Everything is conditioned on what your perspective is. This is precisely the sort of slippery epistemic nihilism for which conservatives have criticized the academic left for more than a generation—except the left comes by it more honestly.
The single most problematic political fact in America right now is that a significant portion of the Republican Party lives in a fantasy world, a place where facts and truth do not hold sway, where “owning the libs” is an end, and where seceding from reality is a symbol of tribal loyalty, rather than a sign of mental illness. This leads the party, and America itself, to places we have never been before, including the spectacle of a defeated president and his supporters engaging in a sustained effort to steal an election.
Hawley and his many partisan confreres’ tactics, if they are not checked and challenged, will put at risk what the scholar Stephen L. Carter calls “the entire project of Enlightenment democracy.” This does not seem to bother Hawley and many in his party. But what he should know—and, one hopes does know, somewhere in the recesses of his heart—is that he has moved exceptionally far away from conservatism.
Whether the Republican Party can be salvaged is very much an open question. I do not know the answer. But here is what I do know: The so-called patriotic Republicans and conservatives have for the past 50 years done nothing to address the inequality and economic disparity of millions of Americans. And it is up to the Progressives and all of those with an open mind to join forces and defeat American Nazism, which the Republican Party has obsessively embraced.
The time to fight with every political weapon at our disposal is truly a fight for America’s soul, which is more racially diverse than any time in its history. America does not need two healthy and sane political parties in Democrats and Republicans. America needs many of its citizens from all stripes, racial backgrounds, and social-economic backgrounds to come together and fight and defeat the power that is determined to keep us fighting against each other. Trump’s departure on January 20 should open space for the masses of Americans who are brave and responsible figures to arise, help ground the Republican and Democratic Parties in truth rather than falsehoods, reality instead of fantasy, and use the instruments of power for the pursuit of justice.