November 10, 2020 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

Call out McConnell’s treason

Lawful democratic outcomes are not debatable.

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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.

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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

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.


  1. Burgs on July 30, 2021 at 11:23 pm

    They’re just not going to let us have a functional democracy. Their policy priorities are unpopular and non-negotiable, so they’re finished with democracy. They will need to be forced into submission or removed from office.

  2. hw on July 30, 2021 at 11:23 pm

    Democratic leadership (Pelosi, Schumer, etc.) are continuing their catastrophic ‘leadership-by-ignoring-the-problem-and-pretending-it-will-disappear-while-failing-to-hold-anyone-accountable’ strategy that failed so spectacularly (McConnell packed the courts, Barr destroyed the DOJ, Pompeo trashed the State Department). $10B in weaponry will be sent to the UAE and no one knows why. Is Trump even now selling off any remaining state secrets as the GOP provides cover for a purported authoritarian coup? How is this not a constitutional crisis? The media as usual has no idea what to do, so they are forcing coverage into their safe place. Democracy may not be dead but it’s clearly on life support, and only because the people rose up, brilliant activists such as Stacey Abrams and Ben Winkler took the reigns, and Marc Elias’s team countered every insane lawsuit. Without new leadership in the House or any coherent messaging, we are on track to see the House majority flip in 2022.

    • Burgs on July 30, 2021 at 11:23 pm

      They impeached Trump and only one Senator from the GOP voted to convict. What else do you want? Try to be remotely realistic.

      • hw on July 30, 2021 at 11:23 pm

        I wanted Pelosi to hold non-stop hearings on Barr, DeJoy, Pompeo, etc. The point was to create speed bumps to fascism….with the GOP fully on board, the House could not have stopped Trump’s lawlessness, but they could have slowed it down. I wanted Richard Neal to formally interview the IRS whistleblower who had information about the Trump audit. I wanted Pelosi to fight for election security and a stimulus bill that would last for a year. I wanted Democratic leadership to clearly message what was at stake…Pete Buttigieg was one of the few who bothered to appear on Fox News. The GOP used the word ‘socialism’ 1,000 times/day for 4 years, and many voted for Trump and GOP Senators because they feared a ‘socialist’ US. Where was the coordinated counter-messaging from Democratic leadership debunking this conspiracy theory and explaining the very real autocracy occurring in plain sight? If the parties were reversed, we would have seen 4 years of non-stop hearings in the House, and the word ‘fascism’ would have been spread far and wide. If you think Pelosi and Schumer did absolutely everything possible, then you will be satisfied with their leadership for 4 more years. I believe that absent new leadership, we will lose the House in 2022. We will have to agree to disagree.

        • RUArmyNavyMominTX on July 30, 2021 at 11:23 pm

          Wholly agree…Dems have perpetually brought knives to a gunfight and then whined when they’re outgunned. Who can really support the premise that Schumer is an effective party leader? Stacey Abrams, LaTosha Brown, Ben Wikler, and Pete Buttigieg are the future Dem leaders who capitalize on each media appearance and force the public to confront reality. If Dems hope to compete in today’s gladiatorial politics, they need to push Schumer and Pelosi aside and not apologize.

        • Thornton Prayer on July 30, 2021 at 11:23 pm

          I’m inclined to agree with you about Pelosi and the House Democratic caucus doing more to expose GOP malfeasance with committee hearings and investigations. However, I don’t believe that Pelosi and Schumer should be the primary sources for developing the meta narratives to attack the GOP as a treasonous, fascistic cabal. They have their hands tied down with trying to manage their respective caucuses and craft legislation while engaging in legislative knife and executive branch fights you and I never see.

          I think much more of the blame for developing effective political attack strategies lies with the DNC. DCCC, and DSCC. I keep wondering “Where is Tom Perez? Where are the heads of the DCCC and DSCC? What are they doing to blast the GOP as an authoritarian cult and promote fundamentals of America and our democracy?”. I keep seeing Rona Romney McDowell’s face all over the place spewing lies and garbage, but Perez has been completely MIA. I literally never saw him speak publicly during the 2020 campaign. Have you? If he and those around him aren’t willing or capable of going to war to save our democracy, they are the ones who need to be replaced.

          • hw on July 30, 2021 at 11:23 pm

            You make excellent, nuanced points, thank you. I completely agree with your arguments. I know that Cheri Bustos is stepping aside as DCCC chief after the House debacle. She was, for all intents and purposes, completely invisible for the past 4 years. It’s painful to remember that Tom Perez (who perpetually behaves as though he is an extra on a movie set) won the DNC chair position over Pete Buttigieg, who would have been an infinitely better choice as a leader and communicator. I don’t even know who heads the DSCC, which itself is an issue. I truly believe that there was a perception throughout the Democratic leadership (despite the evidence, despite the words of Trump supporters) that all that was necessary was to show the public how terrible Trump was, the pandemic speaks for itself, voters can ‘figure it out’. Propaganda is a potent drug…it requires early and continual intervention to change the trajectory. How is it possible that such a basic truth was not acted upon?

          • RUArmyNavyMominTX on July 30, 2021 at 11:23 pm

            Heard chatter about appointing Jaime Harrison to be either DNC or DSCC chairman and he’d be a vast improvement over either of them. Suspect Stacey Abrams will continue to call her own shots and that’s for the best. Dems need to stop rewarding loyal mediocrity and embolden the more progressive, media-savvy voices that abound.

  3. Jim Prevatt on July 30, 2021 at 11:23 pm

    The current majority of the senate mitch McConnell should be replaced by somebody like Mitt Romney if the Gop still has a majority. mitch has done quite enough damage to democracy for a lifetime. Lincoln is probably spinning in his grave.

  4. Thornton Prayer on July 30, 2021 at 11:23 pm

    The only thing to say is “GOP Delenda Est”

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