by George F. Will, Washington Post
On a conference call last Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told his caucus that, in his 36 Senate years, he has twice cast votes to take the nation to war and once to remove a president, but that the vote he will cast this Wednesday to certify Joe Biden’s electoral college victory will be the most important of his career. McConnell (R-Ky.) understands the recklessness of congressional Republicans who are fueling the doubts of a large majority of Republicans about the legitimacy of the 2020 election.
The day before McConnell’s somber statement, Missouri’s freshman Republican senator, Josh Hawley, announced that on Wednesday, 14 days before Biden will be inaugurated, he will challenge the validity of Biden’s election. Hawley’s conscience regarding electoral proprieties compels him to stroke this erogenous zone of the GOP’s 2024 presidential nominating electorate.
Hawley’s stance quickly elicited panicky emulation from Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, another 2024 aspirant. Cruz led 10 other senators and senators-elect in a statement that presents their pandering to what terrifies them (their Trumpkin voters) as a judicious determination to assess the “unprecedented allegations” of voting improprieties, “allegations” exceeding “any in our lifetimes.”
So, allegations in sufficient quantity, although of uniformly risible quality, validate senatorial grandstanding that is designed to deepen today’s widespread delusions and resentments. While Hawley et al. were presenting their last-ditch devotion to President Trump as devotion to electoral integrity, Trump was heard on tape browbeating noncompliant Georgia election officials to “find” thousands of votes for him. Awkward.
Never mind. Hawley — has there ever been such a high ratio of ambition to accomplishment? — and Cruz have already nimbly begun to monetize their high-mindedness through fundraising appeals.
For many years, some people insisted that a vast conspiracy, not a lone gunman, masterminded the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy near the grassy knoll in Dallas’s Dealey Plaza. To these people, the complete absence of evidence proved the conspiracy’s sophistication. They were demented. Today’s senatorial Grassy Knollers — Hawley, with Cruz and others panting to catch up — are worse. They are cynical.
They know that every one of the almost 60 Trump challenges to the election has been rebuffed in state and federal courts, including the Supreme Court, involving more than 90 judges, nominated by presidents of both parties. But for scores of millions of mesmerized Trump Republicans, who think the absence of evidence is the most sinister evidence, this proves that the courts, too, are tentacles of the “deep state.” Hawley and Cruz, both of whom clerked for chief justices of the Supreme Court, hope to be wafted into the White House by gusts of such paranoia.
As does Vice President Pence, who says about Hawley et al.: Me, too. To fathom Pence’s canine devotion to Trump, watch a video from June 7, 2018. Seated next to Trump in a meeting, Pence saw Trump take his water bottle off the table and place it on the floor. So, Pence did likewise. Google the 22-second video. It is a sufficient Pence biography.
Republican Sen. Ben Sasse (Neb.) obliquely but scaldingly said of Hawley: “Adults don’t point a loaded gun at the heart of legitimate self-government.” America’s three-party system — Democrats, Hawley-Cruz Republicans, and McConnell-Sasse Republicans — will continue to take shape on Wednesday. Watch how many of these Republican senators who might be seeking reelection in 2022 have the spine to side with the adults against Hawley-Cruz et al. and the Grassy Knollers among their constituents: John Boozman, Richard Burr, Mike Crapo, Charles E. Grassley, John Hoeven, Mike Lee, Jerry Moran, Lisa Murkowski, Rand Paul, Rob Portman, Marco Rubio, Tim Scott, Richard C. Shelby, John Thune, Todd C. Young. By aligning with Cruz, four — Ron Johnson, John Neely Kennedy, James Lankford and Kelly Loeffler — have reserved their seats at the children’s table.
Hawley, Cruz and company have perhaps rescued Biden from becoming the first president in 32 years to begin his presidency without his party controlling both houses of Congress. On Tuesday, Georgians will decide control of the Senate. While they have been watching Republican attempts to delegitimize Biden’s election (two recounts have confirmed that Georgians favor Biden), Republicans were telling them: a) elections in the world’s oldest constitutional democracy, and especially in Georgia, are rigged, but b) the nation’s fate depends on their turning out for Tuesday’s (presumptively) sham run-off Senate elections, lest c) Democrats take control of the Senate and behave badly.
Be that as it may, on Wednesday, the members of the Hawley-Cruz cohort will violate the oath of office in which they swore to defend the Constitution from enemies “foreign and domestic.” They are its most dangerous domestic enemies.
George F. Will writes a twice-weekly column on politics and domestic and foreign affairs for the Washington Post.