We cannot give a free pass to any of Trump’s enablers, even once the new administration takes office. I have already written that the insurrectionary mob that stormed the Capitol should be prosecuted. Here is a rough taxonomy of Republicans in Congress, with some thoughts on each. First, the Senate:
- Senators who changed their minds. Several senators (e.g., Lankford, Loeffler) decided to oppose the objections despite having previously supporting them. I am glad they took the right decision, but they still deserve our condemnation, and in some ways, their decision was cowardly. If you didn’t think the votes in certain states were fraudulent, you had no business supporting the objections in the first place. If you really thought that the votes in certain states were fraudulent, then it makes no sense to connect your vote with the riot. What these senators showed is that they follow the winds of political advantage whichever way they blow, and that they didn’t sincerely believe what they were saying in the first place—perhaps they were planning to take an easy vote to please their base, secure in the knowledge that it would not pass. Hardly profiles in courage.
- Senators who didn’t change their minds. Some senators (e.g., Cruz, Hawley) doubled down on their challenges to the certification of the electoral result. They should resign in disgrace. The elite legal and academic credentials of the two senators I’ve named are a particular source of shame and should prompt some introspection within our profession. They know better. They are driven by purely mercenary political concerns.
- Senators who didn’t support the objection. These senators (e.g., McConnell, Graham) weren’t yesterday’s villains, and indeed, Senator McConnell gave a fine speech once the Senate came back into session. But they are responsible for the Trump era, in some ways just as much as is Trump himself. Not only did they fail to stand up to him, they supported him and his worst impulses. Those who were once Senate institutionalists and are now the congressional wing of the Trump party have a lot of soul-searching to do. My prescription is that they should stop cowering in fear of the mob they call their base and start leading.
- Mitt Romney. I have always had a soft spot for Mitt Romney, Senator from Utah and former Governor of Massachusetts. He was a terrible presidential candidate, and he has shown some weakness in the face of Trump’s onslaught, but he is a person of character, and that came out in his speech last night, which I reprint here:
We gather today due to a selfish man’s injured pride and the outrage of his supporters whom he has deliberately misinformed for the past two months and stirred to action this very morning. What happened here today was an insurrection, incited by the President of the United States. Those who choose to continue to support his dangerous gambit by objecting to the results of a legitimate, democratic election will forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy. They will be remembered for their role in this shameful episode in American history. That will be their legacy.
The objectors have claimed they are doing so on behalf of the voters. Have an audit, they say, to satisfy the many people who believe that the election was stolen. Please! No Congressional led audit will ever convince those voters, particularly when the President will continue to claim that the election was stolen. The best way we can show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth. That is the burden, and the duty, of leadership. The truth is that President-elect Biden won this election. President Trump lost. Scores of courts, the President’s own Attorney General, and state election officials both Republican and Democrat have reached this unequivocal decision.
We must not be intimidated or prevented from fulfilling our constitutional duty. We must continue with the count of electoral college votes. In light of today’s sad circumstances, I ask my colleagues: Do we weigh our own political fortunes more heavily than we weigh the strength of our Republic, the strength of our democracy, and the cause of freedom? What is the weight of personal acclaim compared to the weight of conscience?
Leader McConnell said that the vote today is the most important in his 40 plus years of public service. That is not because this vote reveals something about the election; it is because this vote reveals something about ourselves. I urge my colleagues to move forward with completing the electoral count, to refrain from further objections, and to unanimously affirm the legitimacy of the presidential election.
Now, what about the House of Representatives? More than half of the Republicans in that house, including their leader, Rep. McCarthy, voted to support the objection. More than half! And today—the day after the insurrection—Representative Gaetz of Florida gave a speech on the floor blaming the riot on far-left agitators. Seriously? We all saw what happened on live television. The Republican caucus in the House of Representatives is a cesspool.