Here is a translation of what they were telling a majority of the nation’s electorate and voters in states representing 62 of President-elect Joe Biden’s 306 electoral votes:
“We don’t like the president and vice president you chose so we simply won’t accept the result of a free election. We’ll deploy lies and phony statistics to justify imposing our will on the rest of the country. The heck with democracy. But we’ll continue to enjoy the Social Security checks, the farm subsidies and all the other money that states that voted for Biden send our way.”
Their lawsuit, flatly rejected by the court on Friday night, was originally brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (who happens to be under federal investigation for bribery and abuse of office and has been under indictment for felony securities fraud charges). It was joined by 17 of his Republican colleagues and backed by almost two-thirds of House Republicans. Its claims have been described as (you can look it up) clownish, comical, farcical, frivolous, ludicrous, insane and dumb. The court used none of those words, of course, but its terse dismissal said enough.
The lawsuit was all these things, but it was also profoundly dangerous, hypocritical and revealing. We should continue to take it very seriously as a sign that not only President Trump but also a majority of his party would rather tear our republic apart than accept electoral defeat. We went through this once before, and it led to a civil war.
Yes, that’s the moment we should be thinking about. Rush Limbaugh is certainly pondering it. The radio commentator — awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Trump — can always be counted on to reflect the dark fears and fervent hopes of large parts of the right. Limbaugh recently invoked the spirit of Fort Sumter, the attitude of those who saw the election of Lincoln and his opposition to the spread of slavery as reason to break up the union.
“I actually think that we’re trending toward secession,” Limbaugh told his listeners last Wednesday. “I see more and more people asking what in the world do we have in common with the people who live in, say, New York?”
He backpedaled the next day. “Now, I didn’t advocate for it. I never would advocate for secession. I’m simply repeating what I have heard.” But his initial statement illustrated the sentiment behind an insistence that the majority’s wishes should be ignored and that ballots cast in places such as Detroit, Philadelphia and Milwaukee be thrown away.
No matter how they dress things up, the Nullification wing of the Republican Party is obsessed with the fact that Trump lost key states in part because a lot of Black voters in big cities rejected him. Paxton’s initial court filing mentioned Wayne County, home of Detroit, 11 times,; Milwaukee seven; and Philadelphia six. “In Wayne County, Mr. Biden’s margin (322,925 votes) significantly exceeds his statewide lead,” the brief declared, almost as if this in itself were evidence of a crime.
The lawsuit was plain about its partisan purposes, complaining of how elections were run in “areas administered by local government under Democrat control and with populations with higher ratios of Democrat voters than other areas of Defendant States.” (Paxton lacked the grace to refer to the Democratic Party by its proper name.)
Notice something else: Those who claim to believe in “states’ rights” and “local decision-making” once again showed that their rhetoric is a bunch of hooey. This was true of the Confederates, too. Not only was slavery, not states’ rights, the cause of the Civil War, but slavery’s advocates embraced the Dred Scott decision, which, as Lincoln had argued, laid out the path to nationalizing slavery. Power and results were all that mattered.
So it is with the GOP’s Minority Rule Caucus. They believe Republican jurisdictions should be free to suppress votes. But areas under “Democrat control” must be blocked from making voting a little bit easier.
Those who promote this nonsense should put up or shut up. If those House Republicans think our nation’s democratic process is illegitimate, they can demonstrate their sincerity by resigning — especially the 19 from Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia who joined a lawsuit that would have annulled the votes of their states.
So, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, we should remain alarmed that so many Republican politicians blithely walked away from democracy and sought to undermine the very institutions they took an oath to defend.