However, if you follow the unsubstantiated claims made by President Donald Trump and his most determined allies, you might believe that we are facing an event of extreme controversy or major legal issues. Spoiler alert: we are not. Voters selected Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and will take office as President and Vice President on January 20th. Still, a handful of Trump zealots in Congress are wreaking havoc in the process to undermine confidence in our democracy itself.
So we must ask ourselves: who among us, especially in the current iteration of the Republican Party, on the side of the electorate and the rule of law will stand up to Trump’s attack on the very foundations of our system of government?
We should note that while it is positive that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a growing number of top Republicans have recognized the legitimacy of the election and Biden as elected President, it is unacceptable for the outgoing President and his loyalists to be ours Continue to undermine democracy.
In many ways, we are facing a different turning point – the kind of moment when our individual and collective actions determine which direction we travel, what kind of society we inhabit, what kind of country we will be. In such cases the character of a leader can be revealed and the fate of a people sealed. In these decisions, we discover who was on the right side of progress and who failed to protect our best interests and values.
These moments are scattered throughout our history books. Who struggled with the gene of that time. George Washington for independence and revolution over despotism and autocracy. Who stood with President Abraham Lincoln for union and freedom over secession and slavery. Who joined the allies to uphold democracy and human rights against Nazi horrors and fascist violence? Who marched for civil rights with Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis and opposed the forces raised against human dignity.
The examples go on. And we now face another such point: Congress will meet on January 6th to approve the results of the electoral college. This is the final stop on Biden’s inauguration. No matter what Trump and others try to say, nothing will change the outcome.
What makes this time different, however, is the threat by several Republicans to formally protest the record, rejecting the will of voters in a contest that shattered turnout records. Perhaps this is a last-ditch effort to appease Trump’s ego, but it’s enough as it is.The election was fair, safe, and free – and any attempt to reverse the vote will not work. Like the more than 50 lawsuits filed since November 3rd, this has no value.
But the perceived political costs of crossing Trump force us to reconsider: Who will this week stand for what is right, what is useful? Who will vote country over party and law over partisanship?
The recent past offers us a prime answer. A few weeks ago, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed an absurd lawsuit to get around 20 million legal votes cast in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. A number of his fellow Republican attorney general and 126 Republican members of Congress joined him, only to see their ridiculous plea swiftly rejected by the US Supreme Court. This move made headlines. But something much more remarkable also happened beneath the hysteria. There were Republicans who said no. Leaders from Idaho, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Ohio, and even Texas refused to support this case. Texas-based John Cornyn, himself a former Texas attorney general, said he was “frankly having difficulty understanding the legal theory of the lawsuit.” Utah Governor Gary Herbert and Governor-elect Spencer Cox called this case “an ill-advised use of taxpayers’ money.” Utah Senator Mitt Romney described it as an “attempt to undermine popular vote that is dangerous and destructive to the cause of democracy”. In a brief report to the Supreme Court, a group of prominent Conservative lawyers and former elected officials described the Texas case as “mocking federalism and the separation of powers.”
These leaders held fast to the oath they had sworn as lawyers and officials: to uphold the Constitution and to defend the heart of our republic.
That shouldn’t be anything special. But nowadays their actions are. And these leaders show us what it means to be true to the character of our nation – and to your own. If we want our values and way of life to survive this unstable interlude, we need more voices to follow in those footsteps. We need to see this level of dignity and honesty on the floor of Congress. Anything else is a betrayal of our democracy.
This is a time to step on the record. It’s not the first and it won’t be the last. But it speaks for who we as a people are – and can be.
Just think back to the origins of our modern system. As the founders concluded the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention, a group of citizens standing outside saw Benjamin Franklin, the elder statesman of early America, emerge from the deliberations and asked: What kind of government would we see? What would our future hold?
Franklin said simply, “A republic if you can keep it.”
Our democracy is not a self-fulfilling prophecy. It requires constant attention and care. And now is another moment to keep our republic intact – to keep our great experiment going, led by elected officials ready to keep the promise of our constitution.