Column: The president and his sycophants would burn this democracy down

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz
Do Sen. Ted Cruz and his allies really believe they are fighting for what’s right in contesting the election? Or are they just hoping to inherit President Trump’s base?
(Associated Press)

I listened in horror to every word of President Trump’s hour-long phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

“What are we gonna do here, folks?” said the president. “I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Gimme a break.”

For the record:

12:34 p.m. Jan. 5, 2021An earlier version of this story said that Ted Cruz spoke to Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business. The interview was on Fox News.

That was bad enough. Worse, though, was that the call took place on Saturday, two months after Americans voted to turn Trump out of office. He could have spent the past two months making sure that COVID-19 vaccines were rolled out as quickly as he demanded they be developed.


Instead, he ignored his job and has been obsessed with finding ways to steal the election, pardon a parade of his criminal cronies and murderers, tweet a daily flurry of lies to his base and bestow America’s highest civilian honor on a delusional congressman who sues fictional cows.

Dozens of lawsuits challenging the election results have been filed by sore Republican losers —and rapidly tossed out by the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court with three Trump appointees. Every state has certified its results. The electoral college has voted, awarding our outgoing president 232 votes and our incoming president, Joe Biden, 306 electoral votes — 36 votes more than the 270 required to win.

Many people speculated that Trump was only protecting his fragile ego by refusing to concede to Biden, that he’d be departing the White House without much fuss because, of course, he took an indisputable shellacking in November.

But the Georgia phone call tape makes one unsavory fact clear: No matter what the voters have said, Trump still believes he can cheat and bully his way into a second term.

“There’s nothing wrong with saying that, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated,” said Trump, trying to cajole the Georgia secretary of state into suddenly discovering thousands of nonexistent votes for him.

Having no integrity himself, Trump cannot fathom the idea that anyone else would have some.


So when Raffensberger quietly replied, “Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong,” Trump changed the subject.

And he continued to wheedle and lie.

“I won this election by hundreds of thousands of votes,” Trump said. “There’s no way I lost Georgia. There’s no way. We won by hundreds of thousands of votes. …” (In fact, he lost narrowly in Georgia, by 11,779 votes. The state counted the ballots three times.)

“I won because I said I won” is the stuff of autocratic nightmares.

Trump’s habit of running roughshod over the truth has always been pathetic, but now it is downright dangerous.

It was, for example, kind of entertaining when he tweeted in 2016, “Ted Cruz didn’t win Iowa, he stole it…. Ted Cruz should be disqualified from his fraudulent win in Iowa.”

And it was sad but relatively harmless when Trump insisted his inauguration crowd was the largest in history.

But demanding that his fellow Republican colleagues go along with his effort to overturn the will of the people is neither entertaining nor harmless. It is an attempt at a procedural coup, a way of spitting on one of our most cherished traditions, the peaceful transfer of power between presidents.


As vile as Trump’s machinations have been, they are almost understandable in the context of a dangerous narcissist whose ego cannot tolerate the idea that he has become the thing he despises most: a loser. Trump is incapable of putting his country above himself.

But neither, apparently, are the legions of his enablers, looking to take up the Trumpian mantle in 2024. Sycophants like Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri are planning to challenge Congress’ formal count of electoral college votes on Wednesday.

Cruz et al are turning what should be a formality into a circus. They say they will demand that a commission be appointed to investigate (entirely unfounded and discredited) allegations of election fraud in some of the “disputed” states.

“We went into this election with the country deeply divided, deeply polarized,” Cruz said Sunday, “and we’ve seen in the last two months unprecedented allegations of voter fraud, and that’s produced a deep, deep distrust of our democratic process across the country. I think we in Congress have an obligation to do something about that. We have an obligation to protect the integrity of the democratic system.”

This is the moral equivalent of killing your parents, then throwing yourself on the court’s mercy because you are an orphan.

Republicans like Cruz are the ones who have whipped up the mistrust, prodded by their undemocratic overlord, the president. Republicans have accused vote counters of cheating. They’ve made up stories about evildoing voting machines. They’ve conjured suitcases of ballots that disappear and reappear. They’ve accused thousands of dead people of casting votes.


“I think everyone needs to calm down,” Cruz told Maria Bartiromo of Fox News on Sunday. “I think we need to tone down the rhetoric. This is already a volatile situation. It’s like a tinderbox and throwing lit matches into it.”

Was he referring to rhetoric from Republicans like U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, who last week suggested that violence in the streets might be the only way to stop Biden from becoming president?

Of course not.

He was referring to his Democratic critics who have assailed the pointless stunt he and Hawley have planned for Wednesday.

Republicans like Trump, Cruz, Hawley and Gohmert are not just the tinderbox. They are also the ones holding the lit matches. They are willing to burn down the house to save their sorry souls.

Republicans have — and this is their neatest trick — accepted their House and Senate victories on the very same ballots they claim were illegally counted for Biden.

The most obvious explanation is that most American voters can’t stand Trump, but a lot of them liked and voted for down-ballot Republicans.


One of the few principled Republicans, Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, has acknowledged this obvious contradiction.

In defending his decision to undermine what our country’s experts have called the most secure election of our lifetime, Cruz has claimed that 39% of Americans believe the election was flawed, if not stolen, and their views must be respected.

I do not believe for one second that Cruz et al are truly concerned about the 39% of Americans who believe the lies Trump has been spewing about the election. They are concerned for their political futures, hoping to inherit his base by emulating his most despicable behavior.

At last count, 61% of Americans believe abortion should be legal, and 60% of Americans believe in stricter gun laws. Where is Cruz’s respect or concern for those Americans? Or do they not count?