Not every Republican is as contemptuous of democracy as the “Dirty Dozen” — the 12 Senate Republicans who will join about 140 House Republicans to try to overthrow our democracy and install the losing candidate, President Trump. They had a choice.

Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Cynthia M. Lummis of Wyoming, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, Steve Daines of Montana, John Neely Kennedy of Louisiana, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, Mike Braun of Indiana and Roger Marshall of Kansas have each ensured their place in history: “Senator X, one of 12 Republicans who sought to overthrow the results of the 2020 election…” I am confident nothing that they will do from here on out will be as noteworthy.

While these Republicans were attacking the foundation of our democracy, Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Mitt Romney of Utah joined five Democrats and an independent in a statement declaring:

The 2020 election is over. All challenges through recounts and appeals have been exhausted. At this point, further attempts to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 Presidential election are contrary to the clearly expressed will of the American people and only serve to undermine Americans’ confidence in the already determined election results. The voters have spoken, and Congress must now fulfill its responsibility to certify the election results. In two weeks, we will begin working with our colleagues and the new Administration on bipartisan, common sense solutions to the enormous challenges facing our country. It is time to move forward.”

Likewise, rock-ribbed conservative and frequent Trump defender Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) refused to go along with the coup. He reminded his colleagues in a written statement that “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.” He continued, “Under the Constitution and federal law, Congress’s power is limited to counting electoral votes submitted by the states. If Congress purported to overturn the results of the Electoral College, it would not only exceed that power, but also establish unwise precedents.”

Meanwhile, democracy got a boost when Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.), Cruz’s former chief of staff, revealed his colleagues’ hypocrisy by objecting to certain members being seated. CNN reported:

Roy perfectly demonstrated his Republican members’ hypocrisy and deceit — and showed that his former boss has betrayed the principles (e.g., the rule of law) they once advocated together.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) in a 21-page memo to her colleagues also denounced objections to the results, telling them: “Such objections set an exceptionally dangerous precedent, threatening to steal states’ explicit constitutional responsibility for choosing the President and bestowing it … on Congress. This is directly at odds with the Constitution’s clear text.”

Then, lo and behold, the former Republican speaker of the House, who has been largely mute about Trump, popped up:

Ryan has been criticized for enabling Trump (e.g., never objecting to his unconstitutional receipt of emoluments), but he deserves praise for this. Shouldn’t he now resign from a party that so brazenly attacks our Constitution?

Even more noteworthy was an extraordinary op-ed signed by all living former secretaries of defense. This included those who served under Republican presidents — Mark T. Esper (whom Trump recently fired), Dick Cheney, Robert Gates, Jim Mattis and Donald Rumsfeld — as well as those who served under Democrats — Chuck Hagel, William Cohen, Leon Panetta, William Perry and Ashton Carter. (Gates served under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama.)

Their message was twofold: First, stop trying to undo an election. “Our elections have occurred. Recounts and audits have been conducted. Appropriate challenges have been addressed by the courts. Governors have certified the results. And the electoral college has voted,” they wrote. “The time for questioning the results has passed; the time for the formal counting of the electoral college votes, as prescribed in the Constitution and statute, has arrived.” Put differently, the Dirty Dozen and their House partners are defying our constitutional system.

Second, the military should stay out of the election. That means not mobilizing forces, but also doing their duty to transition to the new administration. That has not been happening — quite apart from the delay due to the head of the General Services Administration’s refusal to “ascertain” the start of the transition.

President-elect Joe Biden and national security adviser-designee Jake Sullivan have accused the Trump administration of refusing — at risk of harming national security — to cooperate in making a smooth transfer of power. Last week at a news conference, Biden warned that "most notably the Department of Defense, we encountered obstruction from the political leadership.” Citing “roadblocks” thrown up, he warned, "Right now, we just aren’t getting all the information that we need from the outgoing administration in key national security areas. It’s nothing short of irresponsible.”

Every living defense secretary agrees. They declared that “particularly at a time when U.S. forces are engaged in active operations around the world, it is all the more imperative that the transition at the Defense Department be carried out fully, cooperatively and transparently.” They continued, “Acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller and his subordinates — political appointees, officers and civil servants — are each bound by oath, law and precedent to facilitate the entry into office of the incoming administration, and to do so wholeheartedly.” They ominously added that these officials “must also refrain from any political actions that undermine the results of the election or hinder the success of the new team.” The former Pentagon chiefs concluded: “We call upon them, in the strongest terms, to do as so many generations of Americans have done before them. This final action is in keeping with the highest traditions and professionalism of the U.S. armed forces, and the history of democratic transition in our great country.”

An individual directly involved in putting together the op-ed told me that my colleague David Ignatius’s column warning of the potential for violence and Trump’s deployment of the military “made everyone nervous and led them all to want to put a shot across the bow since Trump is unpredictable.” The individual added that “they all fear, I think, that he or his minions might take some action to try to overturn the election or stay in office beyond his term.” Thankfully, there is no indication they knew of something specific afoot.

There are plenty of Republicans who understand their constitutional obligations. Sadly, there are far too many who are willing to incinerate democracy to serve their own political ambition. If this is the rupture of the GOP, patriotic Republicans should count themselves on the side of Cheney, Cotton, Ryan, Romney, Collins, Murkowski, Cassidy and Roy.

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