President Donald Trump Visits Lancaster

Congressman Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster County, takes to a microphone to speak to the crowd before President Donald Trump speaks at Lancaster Airport on Monday, Oct. 26, 2020.

THE ISSUE

Republican U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker of Lancaster County was reelected to his third term in November, in the same election in which President-elect Joe Biden defeated incumbent President Donald Trump by more than 80,000 votes in Pennsylvania. Smucker was one of eight Pennsylvania Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives who sought to block Congress from accepting the commonwealth’s 20 electoral votes for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris early last Thursday morning. That was just hours after pro-Trump insurrectionists invaded the U.S. Capitol, seeking to stop the counting of the electoral votes and do bodily harm to Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

In 2016, the LNP | LancasterOnline Editorial Board endorsed Smucker and encouraged citizens to place their trust in him to “champion the concerns of Lancaster County residents in Congress.”

We know now that Smucker championed only the concerns of some of his Republican constituents.

He certainly hasn’t embodied the values of Lancaster County residents — of patriotism, of character, of independent thinking, of fidelity to truth and the U.S. Constitution.

He would be unrecognizable to his younger self who, as a state senator, courageously introduced legislation aimed at helping immigrant students living illegally in the U.S. to afford a college education.

He has become an opportunistic lackey to a president who has shattered norms, lied shamelessly about matters great and small and, worst of all, incited violence against his own country.

Smucker has repeatedly echoed Trump’s attacks on the constitutionally protected press, employing the president’s dangerous and false rhetoric as a campaign fundraising tool.

And he has embraced Trump’s lies, including the most egregious one of all — that voters had reason to doubt the legitimacy of the November election.

Instead of telling the truth, instead of exhibiting the traits of a leader, instead of representing all citizens of the 11th Congressional District, Smucker fulfilled the wishes of a violent mob that had been fed lie after lie by the president and his allies.

Last week, Smucker stood on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he swore to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” and argued without basis in law or fact that the legally cast votes of 115,847 Lancaster County residents should be nullified — which would have disenfranchised more than 4 in 10 of all November voters here. He argued that the votes of nearly 3.5 million Pennsylvanians shouldn’t count.

The aim? To overturn an election that was repeatedly challenged in state and federal courts of law — challenges that were overwhelmingly rejected in decisions that established the election as being free and fair.

All of this was in service to an incumbent president and the violent insurrectionists he incited.

Smucker no longer deserves the title of “representative.” He can no longer do his job effectively. He rightfully will be marginalized in Congress as one of the objectors, and that will be his legacy. That is justice for him but not for the residents of the 11th Congressional District, who deserve someone in Washington, D.C., who can secure funding for district infrastructure projects and support for district concerns.

Smucker must resign.

Doing Trump’s bidding

In the hours after mobs of pro-Trump extremists laid siege to the U.S. Capitol, invading and ransacking lawmakers’ offices, and killing one Capitol Police officer and savagely attacking others, we briefly entertained the hope that Smucker would join other Republican lawmakers in dropping their electoral vote objections.

But ever intent on doing Trump’s bidding, Smucker took to the floor of the U.S. House to attack the very process by which he had been reelected in November.

He claimed, with no foundation, that his objection to accepting Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes was grounded in “unconstitutional measures taken by bureaucrats and partisan justices in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania that have unlawfully changed how this election was carried out,” and “potentially changed the outcome.”

The truth is that state as well as federal judges — including those on the U.S. Supreme Court — rejected dozens of Republican lawsuits about Pennsylvania’s handling of the election.

Judges take an oath to uphold the Constitution, just as Smucker did. While our processes for electing state judges and selecting federal judges may be partisan, judges are expected to rise above politics — a lesson Smucker has not learned.

Those judges heeded the rule of law. Smucker and his fellow GOP objectors undermined it.

Smucker claimed that objecting to Pennsylvania’s electoral votes was “the one time I have a voice in this process, and I cannot simply look away when tens of thousands of my constituents have real and legitimate concerns about how this election was conducted in Pennsylvania.”

Tens of thousands of his other constituents also wanted to be heard, but he sought to erase their voices.

And the concerns to which he referred were based on lies — which conflated procedural concerns with false claims of fraud — propagated by Trump and other Republicans.

A principled leader would have made it clear that this election was legitimate. Smucker asserted that it was “unlawfully” certified, giving fodder to the insurrectionists.

He claimed that simple “measures like audits should be routine and random and supported by both parties.”

As LNP | LancasterOnline pointed out in a news article fact-checking Smucker, “Election audits are already required by state law. At least 64 counties began auditing the November election last month.”

So he was ill-informed as well as irresponsible.

Empty words

In an interview with CBS 21, Smucker said he was “very disappointed” with the president after the events of last Wednesday, but he made it clear that he doesn’t believe there should be any consequences for Trump. He said Trump should highlight his successes in the remaining days of his term.

And Smucker said we should “find ways to come together as a country” — as if that’s possible without a full reckoning with the truth.

As for the notion that he bore some responsibility for the insurrection, Smucker called that notion “preposterous.”

But platitudes cannot erase reality.

As the violence was unfolding, Smucker tweeted, “I am horrified by the violence and destruction at the Capitol. This is not who we are as a country. Please go home now.”

Smucker couldn’t be more wrong. This is exactly who we’ve become, in part because of Smucker’s intellectual dishonesty and lack of courage.

“Regardless of party, all Americans must accept the results of the election once they are certified, including President Trump and former Vice President Biden,” Smucker said in a statement Nov. 7.

Pennsylvania certified its election results Nov. 24. But by then, Smucker had caved to the president and other Republicans who refused to accept the election results, and he’s been pandering ever since.

On Saturday, National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, Smucker tweeted that “we must always remember, honor & thank all law enforcement officials across our great nation. ... I want to especially thank the U.S. Capitol Police & honor Officer Sicknick.”

Brian Sicknick died because a violent, pro-Trump criminal hit him with a fire extinguisher and he developed a fatal blood clot in his brain. According to The New York Times, more than “50 members of the U.S. Capitol Police were injured, including 15 who required hospitalization, most of them with head wounds.”

None of that might have occurred had Trump not urged his supporters to go to the Capitol to “show strength,” because “you’ll never take back our country with weakness.”

That goes far beyond “very disappointing.”

In a news release issued Monday, Smucker said he “fully” rejected “the violence that occurred last Wednesday” and supported “the prosecution of the insurrectionists to the fullest extent of the law. We as Americans must recognize that this violence and destruction is simply unacceptable.”

Because he lacks the courage to hold the president responsible for that violence and destruction, Smucker’s words are meaningless.

Moreover, while he acknowledges in that news release that President-elect Biden will be sworn into office Jan. 20, Smucker still refuses to state the plain truth: that Biden was the legitimate winner of a free and fair election.

Lack of decency

Smucker was complicit in undermining the election. He and his fellow GOP objectors laid some of the kindling for last Wednesday’s conflagration.

Even after the carnage was evident, they lacked the decency to back off from their objections. They need to own their culpability and its consequences. And perhaps they will, now that some of their corporate donors have halted contributions to their campaigns.

But Smucker forever has lost his chance to take a principled stand for democracy.

Consider, by contrast, what Republican Sen. Pat Toomey said last week as Congress considered Pennsylvania’s electoral votes.

“Certainly there were irregularities in this election — there always are — but there’s no evidence of significant fraud, conspiracies or even significant anomalies that cast any serious doubt on who actually won the election,” Toomey said.

He said, “Joe Biden won the election” in an “honest victory,” and rejecting Pennsylvania’s electoral votes would be “very damaging to our republic.”

Toomey also said this: “We witnessed today the damage that can result when men in power and responsibility refuse to acknowledge the truth. We saw bloodshed because the demagogue chose to spread falsehoods and sow distrust of his own fellow Americans. Let’s not abet such deception.”

We’ve disagreed with Toomey on policy matters, but we admire his stalwart defense of democracy.

We wish we could say the same of Smucker. Instead, we’re appalled by his inability to show any backbone in this perilous time for our nation.

He is not the man we thought Lancaster County was sending to Washington, D.C., four years ago.

Faced with an opportunity to side with truth over the dangerous fiction that motivated the seditionists who stormed the Capitol last week, Smucker chose to embrace the big lie.

Resign, Rep. Smucker.

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