Trump and many of the G.O.P.’s leaders seem to think so, with ominous consequences for the future.
Of the many stories to tell about American politics since the end of the Cold War, one of growing significance is how the Republican Party came to believe in its singular legitimacy as a political actor. Whether it’s a hangover from the heady days of the Reagan revolution (when conservatives could claim ideological hegemony) or something downstream of America’s reactionary traditions, it’s a belief that now dominates conservative politics and has placed much of the Republican Party in opposition to republican government itself.
It’s a story of escalation, from the relentless obstruction of the Gingrich era to the effort to impeach Bill Clinton to the attempt to nullify the presidency of Barack Obama and on to the struggle, however doomed, to keep Joe Biden from ever sitting in the White House as president. It also goes beyond national politics. In 2016, after a Democrat, Roy Cooper, defeated the Republican incumbent Pat McCrory for the governorship of North Carolina, the state’s Republican legislature promptly stripped the office of power and authority. Wisconsin Republicans did the same in 2018 after Tony Evers unseated Scott Walker in his bid for a third term. And Michigan Republicans took similar steps against another Democrat, Gretchen Whitmer, after her successful race for the governor’s mansion.
Considered in the context of a 30-year assault on the legitimacy of Democratic leaders and Democratic constituencies (of which Republican-led voter suppression is an important part), the present attempt to disrupt and derail the certification of electoral votes is but the next step, in which Republicans say, outright, that a Democrat has no right to hold power and try to make that reality. The next Democrat to win the White House — whether it’s Biden getting re-elected or someone else winning for the first time — will almost certainly face the same flood of accusations, challenges and lawsuits, on the same false grounds of “fraud.”
It’s worth emphasizing the bad faith and dishonesty on display here. At least 140 House Republicans say that they will vote against counting certain electoral votes on Wednesday. Among them are newly seated lawmakers in Georgia and Pennsylvania, two states whose votes are in contention. But the logic of their objection applies to them as well as Biden. If his state victories are potentially illegitimate, then so are theirs. Or take the charge, from Ted Cruz and 10 other Senate Republicans, that multiple key swing states changed (or even violated) their election laws in contravention of the Constitution. If it’s true for those cases, then it’s also true of Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, unilaterally expanded voting, however meagerly. And yet there’s no drive to cancel those results.
The issue for Republicans is not election integrity, it’s the fact that Democratic votes count at all.
That said, not every Republican has joined the president’s crusade against self-government. Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas shares the presidential ambitions of Cruz and Josh Hawley and others who want to disrupt the electoral vote count. But where they see opportunity, he sees blowback. Here he is in a statement released by his office:
If Congress purported to overturn the results of the Electoral College, it would not only exceed that power, but also establish unwise precedents. First, Congress would take away the power to choose the president from the people, which would essentially end presidential elections and place that power in the hands of whichever party controls Congress. Second, Congress would imperil the Electoral College, which gives small states like Arkansas a voice in presidential elections. Democrats could achieve their longstanding goal of eliminating the Electoral College in effect by refusing to count electoral votes in the future for a Republican president-elect.
So do seven of his Republican colleagues in the House, who similarly argue that this stunt will undermine the Republican Party’s ability to win presidential elections:
From a purely partisan perspective, Republican presidential candidates have won the national popular vote only once in the last 32 years. They have therefore depended on the Electoral College for nearly all presidential victories in the last generation. If we perpetuate the notion that Congress may disregard certified electoral votes — based solely on its own assessment that one or more states mishandled the presidential election — we will be delegitimizing the very system that led Donald Trump to victory in 2016, and that could provide the only path to victory in 2024.
But even as they stand against the effort to challenge the results, these Republicans affirm the baseless idea that there was fraud and abuse in the election. Cotton says he “shares the concerns of many Arkansans about irregularities in the presidential election,” while the House lawmakers say that they “are outraged at the significant abuses in our election system resulting from the reckless adoption of mail-in ballots and the lack of safeguards maintained to guarantee that only legitimate votes are cast and counted.” Even as they criticize an attempted power grab, they echo the idea that one side has legitimate voters and the other does not.
It’s hard to say how anyone can shatter this belief in the Republican Party’s singular right to govern. The most we can do, in this moment, is rebuke the attempt to overturn the election in as strong a manner as possible. If President Trump broke the law with his phone call to Brad Raffensperger, the secretary of state of Georgia — in which he pressured Raffensperger to “find” votes on his behalf — then Trump should be pursued like any other citizen who attempted to subvert an election. He should be impeached as well, even if there’s only two weeks left in his term, and the lawmakers who support him should be censured and condemned.
There’s no guarantee that all this will hurt the Republican Party at the ballot box. But I think we’re past that. The question now is whether the events of the past two months will stand as precedent, a guide for those who might emulate Trump.
The door to overturning a presidential election is open. The rules — or at least a tortured, politically motivated reading of the rules — make it possible. Moreover, it is a simple reality of political systems that what can happen eventually will happen. It may not be in four years, it may not be in eight, but if the Republican Party continues along this path, it will run this play again. And there’s nothing to say it can’t work.
“President Trump did us a favor by exposing these elected officials” who supported his assault on democracy, @jaketapper says.
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) December 13, 2020
BREAKING: Trump’s lawyer just had a DELUSIONAL reaction to the bombshell Supreme Court ruling against Trump.
The Real Owners of this Country don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. They want OBEDIENT WORKERS, OBEDIENT WORKERS.
Post-Jesus Christians are “Christians” who have decided to postpone following Jesus’s teaching until Jesus returns and ushers in 1000 years of peace.
Post-Jesus Christians hold that Jesus’s teachings do not need to be followed in our present era if they are a hindrance to obtaining the power they fear they need to help usher in the Kingdom of God.
Post-Jesus Christians (privately) hold that Jesus’s teachings are a nice thing to follow when dealing with the in-group of their fellow PJCs but may be disregarded when dealing with non-PJC neighbors.
Prophecy: What God Can Do For You
Post-Jesus Christians talk a lot about about prophecy, and unlike the Biblical Prophets, when they do, they punch down, rather than up:
You will know them by their fruit, because they only have one key message – God is going to “enlarge your tent” and “expand your influence“, he’s going to “give you great favor” and “bless you mightily”.
Later Craig Greenfield writes:
In Biblical times, there were two types of prophets.
- Firstly, there were those who feasted at the King’s table because they had been co-opted to speak well of evil leaders (1 Kings 18:19). They were always bringing these smarmy words of favor and influence and prosperity to the king. And the king lapped it up. Like a sucka.
- Secondly, there were those who were exiled to the caves, or beheaded (like John the Baptist) because they spoke out about the injustice or immorality of their leaders (1 Kings 18:4). The king didn’t like them very much. He tried to have them knee-capped.
An Inversion of Ben Franklin’s Morality
While many Post-Jesus Christians appeal to a historical “Christian Nation” , Post-Jesus Christians appear to be an inversion of founding father Ben Franklin, who in historian John Fea’s description, wanted to discard Jesus’s Divinity but retain and celebrate his ethical teachings.
So what does this look like in practice?
Below are public quotations from prominent Court Evangelicals. These quotations are less extreme that I would expect to hear in private. A friend of mine speaks to supporters in private. He reports that they would (privately) celebrate the stuffing of election ballots in favor of their preferred candidate as a righteous act.
1) Court Evangelical: Anti-Sermon on the Mount
John Fea wrote about a conversation he had with Rob Schenck for the “Schenck Talks Bonhoeffer” podcast @ 19:27. Here’s a quote from Schenck talking about a conversation he had with a prominent evangelical at the Trump Inaugural Prayer Service:I must tell you something of a confession here. I was present at the Trump Inaugural Prayer Service held at the National Cathedral — not the smaller one held at Saint John’s Episcopal church across from the white house, but the one following the inauguration at the National Cathedral and I saw one of the notable Evangelicals that you’ve named in in our conversation. One of them, I won’t say which and we had it short exchange and I, I suggested to him that we needed to recalibrate our moral compass and that one way to do that might be to return to The Sermon on the Mount as a reference point. And he very quickly barked back at me. “We don’t have time for that. We have serious work to do.”
2) Jerry Falwell Jr: Anti-Turn the other cheek
We have blogged about Liberty University’s Falkirk Center before. The more I learn about this center the more I am convinced that it does not represent the teachings of Christianity. Recently someone on Twitter pointed out this paragraph in the Falkirk Center mission statement:
Bemoaning the rise of leftism is no longer enough, and turning the other cheek in our personal relationships with our neighbors as Jesus taught while abdicating our responsibilities on the cultural battlefield is no longer sufficient. There is too much at stake in the battle for the soul of our nation. Bold, unapologetic action and initiative is needed, which is why we just launched the Falkirk Center, a think tank dedicated to restoring and defending American ideals and Judeo-Christian values in all aspects of life.
John Fea’s Update:
Several smart people have suggested that I may have misread Liberty University’s statement. They have said that the Falkirk Center was not denying that Jesus’s call to “turn the other cheek” is “insufficient” for individuals. Instead, the Falkirk Center is saying that we should not “abdicate” (the key word here) our responsibilities to engage on the “culture battlefield.”
I think this is a fair criticism, and I indeed may have misread the statement. For that I am sorry. But I don’t think I want to back away too strongly from what I wrote above. While several have correctly pointed out that Liberty University is not saying Jesus’s command to “turn the other cheek” is “insufficient” for individual Christians, the Falkirk Center does seem to be suggesting that it is “insufficient” for culture engagement.