Editorial: Republicans can support democracy or Trump. There’s no middle ground

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said he won't join a challenge to electoral votes cast for President-elect Joe Biden.
(Danny Johnston / Associated Press)

As Congress prepares for what should be a routine confirmation of the results of the 2020 presidential election, its Republican members are divided between those who will do their constitutional duty and ratify Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ victory and those who will abet President Trump’s unhinged and self-serving attack on the democratic process.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and other Republicans who have said they will challenge Biden electors at Wednesday’s joint session of Congress may pontificate about the need to address “irregularities” in the election. But don’t be fooled: Threats to contest Biden’s election aren’t rooted in legitimate qualms about an election whose integrity has been repeatedly reaffirmed by recounts, audits and courts.

Any senator or representative who lodges objections Wednesday will be supporting a shameful assault on the Constitution and the will of the people, as illustrated with startling clarity by Trump’s thuggish effort over the weekend to pressure a Georgia election official to “find” enough votes to overturn Biden’s victory in the state. Fortunately, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger didn’t indulge Trump’s fantasies.


Other Republicans are standing up to the president as well.

After Cruz and 10 other Republican senators announced that they would challenge Biden electors in hopes of having a commission “audit” the election results, Sen. Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania responded: “A fundamental, defining feature of a democratic republic is the right of the people to elect their own leaders. The effort by Sens. [Josh] Hawley [R-Mo.], Cruz, and others to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in swing states like Pennsylvania directly undermines this right.”

Four Republican senators — Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Mitt Romney of Utah — joined a bipartisan statement declaring: “The voters have spoken, and Congress must now fulfill its responsibility to certify the election results.”

Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, generally a supporter of the president, announced that he too “will not oppose the counting of certified electoral votes on Jan. 6” — though Cotton added the gratuitous suggestion that a commission be formed “to study the last election and propose reforms to protect the integrity of our elections.”

Finally, former Vice President Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were among all 10 living former secretaries of Defense — in Republican and Democratic administrations alike — who issued a statement declaring: “The time for questioning the results has passed; the time for the formal counting of the electoral college votes, as prescribed in the Constitution and statute, has arrived.”

Republican members of Congress face a stark choice Wednesday: Stand with these patriots, or join forces with Trump and his entourage of cultists, crackpots and conspiracy theorists. Those who make the wrong choice will tarnish their reputations indelibly.