The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Republicans faced a simple choice: For or against democracy.

President Trump in Valdosta, Ga., on Dec. 5. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

HOUSE REPUBLICANS have faced what amounts to a choice between standing for or against democracy: whether to sign on to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s delusional lawsuit to overturn the presidential election. A large majority of them failed the test. More House Republicans, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), on Friday signed an amicus brief supporting Mr. Paxton, just hours before the Supreme Court unceremoniously rejected the suit. This is a disheartening signal about what these members of Congress might do on Jan. 6, when at least some Republicans probably will object to the counting of President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral votes.

Mr. McCarthy and the other extremists and toadies who have signed their names to President Trump’s antidemocratic plot may think their complicity is costless, because the Supreme Court was bound to reject the Paxton lawsuit, as it did on Friday, and there are enough Democrats on Capitol Hill to foil any GOP mischief during the electoral vote counting. They are wrong. Their recklessness raises the once-unthinkable possibility that a Congress controlled by one party might one day flip a presidential election to its candidate in defiance of the voters’ will, citing claims of mass fraud just as bogus as the ones Republicans have hyped up this year.

Some Republicans described the Paxton lawsuit honestly, including two senior Texas lawmakers. “I frankly struggle to understand the legal theory of it,” said Sen. John Cornyn. “I’m not convinced.” “I’m not supporting it,” said Rep. Kay Granger. “It’s a distraction.”

A pair of outgoing Republican legislators were more frank. “This stuff is preposterous,” Rep. Denver Riggleman (Va.) told Forbes. Rep. Paul Mitchell (Mich.) tweeted, “I will not be signing on to this amicus brief. Apparently I have failed the Trump won ‘loyalty tests’ thoroughly.”

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Meanwhile, Gov. Gary R. Herbert (R-Utah) and incoming governor Spencer Cox, also a Republican, criticized Utah’s attorney general for bringing their state into the Paxton lawsuit. And Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) called it “madness” to propose that lawmakers should select the next president, which is the goal of the Paxton lawsuit and of the Republicans who intend to disrupt the Jan. 6 electoral vote counting. “The idea of supplanting the vote of the people with partisan legislators, is, is so completely out of our national character that it’s simply mad,” Mr. Romney said. “Of course the president has the right to challenge results in court, to have recounts. But this effort to subvert the vote of the people is dangerous and destructive of the cause of democracy.”

Republicans who have sat by silently or encouraged Mr. Trump’s false allegations of massive voter fraud have another chance on Monday to put themselves on the right side of history. That is when the electoral college will cast its votes, making President-elect Biden’s victory official. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.), and even staunch Trump sycophants such as Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) have all pointed to Monday as the crucial day. Will they, at long last, acknowledge the will of the people? Or is the Republican Party destined to pledge itself to Mr. Trump, rather than democracy?

Read more:

Joe Scarborough: Republicans were once the anti-radicals. They’re now battering American democracy.

George T. Conway III: Trump’s last-ditch effort to steal the election is the biggest farce of all

John R. Bolton: Four ways Republicans can move on from the election results

Paul Waldman: The president and his party have gone to war against America

Jennifer Rubin: Too many Americans believe utter rubbish