I’ve been in or around politics for over a half-century now, and I never imagined how low and loony the Republican Party would become. More than a dozen Republican senators said they would object to President-elect Joe Biden’s victory Wednesday when Congress met to formally certify it, and six of them went through with it, even after the Capitol was attacked by a rioting mob of Trump supporters.
They are part of a movement in the GOP to defy the unambiguous results of the 2020 presidential election and support Donald Trump’s bizarre attempt to remain in power with false claims of voting fraud.
Remember: Every state certified the election results after verifying their accuracy. Several underwent post-election audits or hand counts. At the same time, judges across America, including Supreme Court justices, have rejected nearly 60 attempts by Mr. Trump and his allies to challenge the results.
None of the Republican senators who attempted to invalidate the results of the election has made any specific allegations of fraud. At most, they offered vague statements that some wrongdoing may have occurred.
Their most specific grounds for contesting the certification was that many of their supporters believe Mr. Trump’s claims of fraud — which is circular reasoning, since Mr. Trump and many of these same senators have been trying to convince the public since the election that fraud occurred, without offering any evidence.
The sedition of these United States senators — and I use that term advisedly — did not alter the outcome of the election. It was purely for show, as have been so many actions of Mr. Trump and his enabler. But the show itself, particularly on the heels of a violent display in Washington on Wednesday, only served to validate in the minds of many of Trump’s supporters his baseless claims, dividing America even more.
The one consolation, if it can be called that, is that their cynical ploy forced other Republican members of Congress to openly choose between doing their constitutional duty and accepting the results of the election, or displaying brazen loyalty to a fading demagogue who has sought to turn the GOP into a personal cult. In short, it smoked them out: They openly chose democracy or fascism.
It is not clear whether those who chose fascism, including Maryland U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, are acting because of fear of Mr. Trump or political opportunism. Some are weighing a 2024 presidential campaign and know that being on the wrong side of Mr. Trump could mean certain defeat.
No matter. They must be held accountable for their sedition. Rarely in American history has a symbolic act carried such significance for the future of the country. Without accountability, our fragile system will become even more susceptible to these sorts of cynical games.
When they are next up for reelection, every one of them deserves to be defeated. It is up to the rest of us to make sure that happens.
Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of “The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It.”