November 10, 2020 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
Call out McConnell’s treason
Lawful democratic outcomes are not debatable.
Despite being polarized, Americans really do agree on the fundamentals. Is the president above the law? No. Does every citizen have a right to vote? Yes. Should powers be separated? Yes. Are checks and balances good? Yes. Should people be free to worship as they wish? Yes. Are the people the ultimate sovereign? Yes. And so on.
Theory isn’t the same as practice, obviously, but even so, there’s only one correct answer to fundamental political questions. If there were other correct answers—if these questions hinged on differences of opinion—we would not be members of a political community whose outlines were established long ago. We would be part of another kind of political community, one none of us would recognize as familiar, legitimate or good. Our nation would be something else. It would not be America.
The most extreme view among pundits is the GOP won’t recognize Biden’s legitimacy. That’s not extreme enough.
These fundamentals and the outlines of our political community that were derived from them constitute a contract among and between citizens and noncitizens. We agree to them, consciously or subliminally, because if we did not, we wouldn’t participate in the union we all actually participate in. We’d be in something else that does not exist.
In the run-up to Election Day, CNN’s Jake Tapper urged counting every vote. He was not violating the norms of journalism. He was not taking a position. With respect to voting, there’s no position to take. Counting every vote is what we do. If we do not count every vote, we are not America. Very few things in this country are either-or, right or wrong, but fundamental questions are. They are, because they must be. They must be, because we want them to be. We want them to be, because we are America.
The president and the Republican leaders are failing the test of fundamentals. Should they recognize as legitimate the outcome of a lawful democratic process? The only answer is yes. That’s the only correct answer, because either the American people are sovereign or they are not. If they are not, we do not live in a representative democracy. Anything less than yes indicates unwillingness to participate in the union as it stands. Anything less than an immediate yes indicates a certain softness of dedication to the US Constitution and the republic. Yet Donald Trump, and now Mitch McConnell and the rest of the Republican Party, are refusing to recognize Joe Biden’s victory.
Here’s the tip jar! Put something nice in it!
I’m told this is theater. I’m told this is about fundraising. Campaign debts must be paid, after all. I trust some of this is true. I also trust history, though. No president has ever denied the reality of his defeat. (Biden has now eclipsed Ronald Reagan’s share of the popular vote, 50.8 percent to 50.7. It is the highest for a challenger since Franklin Roosevelt beat Herbert Hoover in 1932. And the counting continues.) No president has ever refused to concede in the face of a mathematical certainty. To my knowledge, no political party has ever gotten behind an incumbent’s effort to steal an election.
That effort will fail. (I say “will” but honestly I’m as full of dread as you are.) The president’s legal scheme has so far floundered. Every one of his suits has been thrown out, because there’s no evidence of voter fraud on the scale he’s alleging. On the off-chance of one of these lawsuits getting to the US Supreme Court, I’m guessing the conservative justices there will buy themselves legitimacy by dismissing the case outright. Accusations can work in politics, less in court. As GOP Sen. John Cornyn said: “In the end, they’re going to have to come up with some facts and evidence.”
But even in failure, the president and the Republicans will have accomplished something. (It will benefit the GOP, of course, not the president; Trump will face legal scrutiny the minute he’s out of office.) They will have succeeded in three things. One, establishing doubt in Biden’s legitimacy. Two, establishing the groundwork for obstructing his agenda. More important, though, is three. They will have deepened an assumption already at work in the background of Republican discourse. Democrats don’t count. Anything they do, whether criticizing Republicans or beating them by a landslide in national elections, deserves any reaction up to and including murder.
In a very real sense, the Republicans are constituting a nation inside this nation, a confederacy of the mind and spirit to be made real so “real Americans” chosen by God can dominate the whole in God’s name. They are constituting a separate and unequal system inside the one everyone else recognizes as legitimate, in which a small minority is privileged over a majority bound by law but not protected by it. They are, ultimately, on the path toward suicide. When parasites kill their hosts, they kill themselves, too.
The most extreme view among pundits is that the Republicans won’t recognize Joe Biden’s legitimacy. That’s not extreme enough. They are creating a beachhead inside the United States from which to continue covert civil warfare against the United States. The Republicans are committing treason literally, yet they’re being afforded respect, as if accepting the outcome of a lawful democratic process were a matter of opinion. Wrong. There’s only one correct answer to that fundamental question. Anything less than fully accepting the people’s will is desiring an America that will never exist.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition open and available to all. Find him @johnastoehr.