Virginia Republicans had an opportunity. They could acknowledge President-elect Joe Biden’s victory nationally and in the commonwealth or they could follow the president right over the electoral edge.

They chose the latter course, backing the president’s efforts to disenfranchise millions of voters through dubious court challenges and even more constitutionally suspect electoral college objections.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone who has followed the once mighty Virginia GOP’s long descent into irrelevance. But the past few days have helped clarify a few things about the rump GOP.

There appear to be three distinct groups of Virginia GOP elected officials. Let’s call the larger one the “Blazing Saddles Caucus.” This august group takes its name from Mel Brooks’s over-the-top portrayal of a gasbag political hack in “Blazing Saddles.”

Yes, these pols, whose first, last and only worry is ensuring they don’t do anything that encourages a primary challenge in 2022, will rouse themselves to action and do whatever is necessary to protect their phony-baloney jobs.

Need them to sign on to your bizarre, federalism-crushing legal briefs about the electoral college? Virginia Reps. Ben Cline, H. Morgan Griffith and Rob Wittman are standing by for your call.

And when the court bins that effort at overturning more than 200 years of federal governance? Never fear, because Cline, Wittman and their new colleague Bob Good will boldly challenge the duly elected and certified slates of presidential electors from key states.

How can they possibly justify such an extraordinary action? The Blazing Saddles Caucus has that base covered, too. Members offer an array of word salads that make it seem as though they are defending the deepest of constitutional ideals when, really, they just want the bigger offices with better views in the Rayburn Building that only seniority can bestow.

The second caucus lacks the broad humor overtones of the first. This one is a lot darker. Let’s call it the Mortimer Duke Memorial Caucus.

This niche caucus is new to the scene, even if its inspiration, the timeless Don Ameche’s amoral, greedy and ultimately defeated character in “Trading Places,” isn’t. Its membership is small — so far, just three Republican members of the House of Delegates: David A. LaRock (Loudoun), Mark L. Cole (Spotsylvania) and Ronnie R. Campbell (Rockbridge).

But the trio’s ambitions are grander than those of time servers in the Blazing Saddles Caucus. These three GOP legislators have sent a letter to Vice President Pence (whom Republicans weirdly and wrongly believe is the most powerful man in government) asking him to “nullify” Virginia’s slate of electors and refuse to acknowledge any other Virginia electors until there has been a “comprehensive forensic audit of the November 3, 2020 election … to determine the actual winner.”

The trio’s letter, which makes the Facebook rationalizations of Cline and Wittman for objecting to other state’s electors look Hemingwayesque, alleges a law expanding absentee voting is unconstitutional, there were “greatly increased opportunities for massive voter and election fraud” and so on.

But above all, the Mortimer Duke Caucus is worried that if Pence refuses to exercise the long-secret powers given his office, it will “create a rent in the fabric of the nation.” The three state House members write this will cause millions to lose faith in the system and they “fear for the consequences for the union.”

Using the word “union” rather than “nation” or “country?” Interesting.

Then again, the hard-charging members of the Mortimer Duke Caucus do seem to have the end goal clearly in mind: overturn the election and turn the clock back to a time when only the right kind of people’s votes got counted.

And that third caucus of Virginia Republicans? They are the ones who hope it all goes away, preferably before the November election.

Let’s call them the “Ruby Red Dress Caucus” They just want to be left alone. Virginia voters may honor that request and leave the GOP alone for a very, very long time.

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