Boy, I did not see this one coming!
On Monday, Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert sued Vice President Mike Pence in federal court in a, um, wacky attempt to transform the vice president’s purely ceremonial role in presiding over the announcement of the Electoral College results in Congress into a power broker position in which the VP could effectively hand the election to President Donald Trump.
“We continue to hold out hope that there is a federal judge who understands that the fraud that stole this election will mean the end of our republic, and this suit would insure that the Vice-President will only accept electors legitimately and legally elected,” Gohmert said in a statement on Monday. “There must be an opportunity for a day in court when fraud was this prevalent.”
It’s probably worth noting here that there has yet to be any proof of the widespread fraud that Gohmert, Trump and the President’s most ardent backers continue to allege. In fact, as The New York Times noted over the weekend, the Trump forces have lost all but one of the 60 (!) lawsuits they have brought attempting to prove voter fraud. There have been zero documented instances of widespread malfeasance – be it dead people voting or non-citizens casting votes.
There’s just no “there” there. Like, none.
Unbowed by that absence, Gohmert has plowed onward. And while the legal case is a joke – and that is putting it nicely – it’s worth examining what would happen if Gohmert’s fantasy actually came true, and how distinctly un-conservative it would all be.
So, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Gohmert is successful. And rather than just playing the ceremonial role of president of the Senate on January 6, Pence was empowered to choose which electors are “legal,” which, I suppose, would exclude the electors from states where President-elect Joe Biden won but Trump has falsely suggested there was fraud, like Arizona and Georgia and Pennsylvania.
By doing so, Pence would single-handedly install Trump as president for the next four years. And would set a precedent that the vice president would retain the power to choose the president going forward – no matter what the actual popular vote or Electoral College looked like.
Not only would that be hugely undemocratic – disenfranchising the 81-million plus people who voted for Biden in 2020 – but also deeply anti-conservative.
Republicans are the party of shrinking the power of the federal government and empowering state and local government, you’ll remember. Which means that suing the vice president in order to allow him to single-handedly overturn the results of a presidential election should be totally anathema to people who call themselves conservatives or Republicans. Because it would create a federal government that is all-powerful, able to ride over the whims (and votes) of the states.
This, of course, isn’t the first time so-called conservatives have abandoned principles in vain attempts to reverse the election results. Earlier this month, 18 Republican-controlled states – led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton – sued to invalidate the election results in Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Had the Supreme Court agreed – it, um, didn’t – it would have made it OK for one state to dictate how the vote should be conducted in another state, a blatant disregarding of conservatives’ long-hallowed belief in the rights of each state to govern itself.
This wholesale abandonment of fundamental pillars of conservatism in pursuit of making Trump president for four more years, then, isn’t new. But it is a remarkable testament to how far some (many?) Republicans have strayed away from the basic principles of their party in order to worship at the altar of Trump.