President Donald Trump Visits Lancaster

President Donald Trump makes a campaign stop at Lancaster Airport on Monday Oct. 26, 2020.

THE ISSUE

Joe Biden won November’s election with 306 electoral votes to 232 for President Donald Trump (Biden’s national popular vote margin over Trump exceeded 7 million). Congress will meet in a joint session today to formally count and accept the Electoral College votes certified by the states and the District of Columbia. At least a dozen U.S. senators and scores of House members — including Lancaster County Congressman Lloyd Smucker — have signaled that they will object to Congress’ acceptance of the certified results from certain battleground states. According to The Washington Post, the National Guard has been mobilized in the District of Columbia “and every city police officer will be on duty” to handle protests today. Busloads of Lancaster County residents are expected to attend a D.C. rally today in support of President Trump.

We will be subjected to a blizzard of falsehoods and baseless claims today, as some GOP legislators shred the U.S. Constitution to win the favor of the Trump base. So we’re going to focus on some facts.

Fact No. 1: Today’s D.C. rally aims to “save America” from “the steal.” But there is no “steal.”

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris legitimately — and comfortably — won the November election. They will be inaugurated Jan. 20.

There is zero evidence to support Republican claims of widespread fraud in the presidential election. Those claims have been rejected repeatedly by the courts, former U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Trump’s own former election cybersecurity chief.

As conservative U.S. Rep. Chip Roy of Texas pointed out Sunday, members of Congress “were elected through the very same systems — with the same ballot procedures, with the same signature validations, with the same broadly applied decisions of executive and judicial branch officials — as were the electors chosen for the President of the United States under the laws of those states.”

Nevertheless, President Trump encouraged his angry supporters to rally in Washington, D.C., today. “Be there, will be wild!” he tweeted irresponsibly. He announced Tuesday on Twitter that he planned to speak at the rally.

Fact No. 2: All 10 living former defense secretaries — including two who served in that role under President Trump — co-authored a column published Sunday by The Washington Post warning against the military getting involved in any attempt by President Trump to remain in power. The 10 are: Ashton Carter, Dick Cheney, William Cohen, Mark Esper, Robert Gates, Chuck Hagel, James Mattis, Leon Panetta, William Perry and Donald Rumsfeld.

“American elections and the peaceful transfers of power that result are hallmarks of our democracy,” they wrote. “With one singular and tragic exception that cost the lives of more Americans than all of our other wars combined, the United States has had an unbroken record of such transitions since 1789. ... This year should be no exception.

“Our elections have occurred. Recounts and audits have been conducted. Appropriate challenges have been addressed by the courts. Governors have certified the results. And the electoral college has voted. The time for questioning the results has passed.”

And they warned: “Efforts to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory. Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic.”

Remarkably, former Vice President Cheney was a primary force behind the op-ed, according to The Washington Post.

Cheney is obviously no liberal. But he clearly recognizes the threat to our democracy that the norm-shattering events of today pose.

Fact No. 3: Trump was simply wrong when he tweeted Tuesday that Vice President Mike Pence “has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors.”

As former Wall Street Journal editor Ronald G. Shafer wrote in The Washington Post, the law and procedures barring Pence from doing so were created after Congress’ presidential count ceremony in 1857, which affirmed the election of Lancaster’s own President James Buchanan.

A “dispute erupted over Wisconsin’s five electoral votes, which had been delivered a day after the deadline because of a blizzard,” Shafer wrote.

To “keep future elections from being hijacked,” he noted, Congress established the procedures “that are in place for (today’s) congressional certification of the election.”

The vice president’s role is mostly ceremonial; the process generally is, too. The Electoral Count Act of 1887 “bars the vice president from arbitrarily deciding to reject state votes,” Shafer pointed out.

Fact No. 4: If Rep. Smucker and others officially object to Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes today, they essentially will seek to disenfranchise the 3,458,229 Pennsylvanians who voted for President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris. This includes the 115,847 Lancaster County residents who voted for the Democratic ticket.

As the representative of the 11th Congressional District, Smucker is supposed to represent all of its residents, regardless of party. Seeking to erase someone’s sacred vote is the very antithesis of representation and democracy.

Fact No. 5: Much of the controversy over the election results in Pennsylvania owes to expanded mail-in voting. Which Republicans were for, “before they were against it.”

So wrote journalists with The Caucus, an LNP Media Group watchdog publication, in Sunday’s edition of LNP | LancasterOnline.

As Mike Wereschagin, Brad Bumsted and Sam Janesch explained, “The landmark election law (Act 77) that expanded mail-in voting in Pennsylvania was a Republican bill shepherded by Republican legislative leaders, passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly in October 2019 with the votes of nearly every Republican legislator.”

But since Trump lost in November, “many of those same Republicans joined a series of unprecedented attacks on the validity of the electoral system they helped create.”

Republican lawmakers, The Caucus journalists noted, “contend the problem isn’t with the election law they passed, but in how it was administered. They accuse Secretary of State Kathryn Boockvar of creating an uneven playing field by allowing counties and voters to fix technical problems on their mail-in ballots, and say the state Supreme Court illegally extended the deadline by which mail ballots must be received.”

The rub: “Though Republican lawmakers have signed onto resolutions calling the election ‘unlawful’ and used press conferences and committee hearings to cast doubt on the results, none has suggested their own victories are in question.”

All the while, they litigated their specious claims in state and federal courts, and sought remedies all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court — and were rebuffed. If they really believe in the rule of law, they would respect the decisions of the courts.

The bottom line: “LNP | LancasterOnline asked several GOP legislators whether they would accept their $90,000 annual salaries next session if they believe they obtained the money through an unlawful process. None responded.”

So, like Smucker, they believe that their elections were completely legitimate. But that Biden’s victory — by more than 80,000 votes in Pennsylvania — was not.

Our view: All of this has led us to a very dangerous place for our democracy. The efforts by Trump and his misguided, sycophantic allies to gin up anger and chaos in Washington, D.C. — both in the streets and in the Capitol — must be renounced and rejected. They are counting on us to be fearful and exhausted; we must insist that elected officials adhere to the spirit and letter of the U.S. Constitution.

Columnist Jonah Goldberg writes that his fellow conservatives used to define “conservatism as fidelity to the Constitution,” but “now think constitutionalism is whatever allows a losing president to steal an election.”

It is indeed Trump who is trying to steal the election. And Republicans are conspiring to help him.

This is beyond disappointing — it’s an appalling attack on democracy, perpetrated by those who have abandoned patriotism for partisan political ploys at a time when they ought to be focusing on the devastating COVID-19 pandemic.

We deserve better than this. Our Constitution and our republic require that we be better than this.

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