Republican lawmakers are betting that President Donald Trump, once his legal recourse against the election has been exhausted, will eventually accept his defeat to Joe Biden.
But actually the opposite is true.
As courts dismiss one lawsuit after another, Trump multiplies efforts to upset the process. Rather than accept the reality of the outcome, the president wants to use the power of his office to overturn it. On Friday, he summoned Michigan lawmakers to the White House and contacted Republican Party leaders before next week’s deadline to certify the election results. You might as well invite those from Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, Republicans are watching the process in silence. What was initially a strategy to give the president the time and space he needed to accept his defeat has become a challenge to the election result unprecedented since the Civil War.
“The Republican Party has allowed Trump to pout for too long,” said presidential historian Douglas Brinkley of Rice University in Texas.
With their silence, Republican lawmakers increasingly bow to the president they have tried to appease for four years. A few have raised their voices. But most Republicans enable Trump’s unfounded attack on the election, which threatens to erode civilian confidence and impede Biden’s transition. It could define many careers over the next few years.
“With this the future stars of the Republican Party look small and mean,” said Brinkley. “All of these senators are going to bear a dark stain on their legacy for coddling Trump after his defeat.”
The Republicans’ starting point was a simple premise: If Trump believed that there was fraud in the election, as he said, he should raise it in court.
It was a way of buying time, giving Trump the opportunity to present evidence and perhaps convince his ardent followers of what the result had been. Biden has so far garnered 80 million votes to Trump’s 74 million.
But in state after state, from Arizona to Georgia, Trump’s demands fail. The president forced recounts in two counties in Wisconsin. New lawsuits are expected in that state and there are pending cases in others. In none has evidence of widespread fraud been presented on a scale that could alter the outcome.
Given the imminence of deadlines, Republican lawmakers will be forced to face the moment of truth.
States must certify election results by December 6 and Republican lawmakers envision December 14, when the Electoral College must proclaim the winner, as their exit door from the Trump presidency.
Then, they believe, they will be able to say publicly what many already say privately: that Biden won the election.
But they are not guaranteed to win that bet. Instead of moving toward the denouement, Trump digs in, goes beyond the Republican argument that it is about counting legal votes and discarding illegal ones to reverse the results.
Trump has openly talked about putting his supporters into the Electoral College, whose members routinely respond to the results of their statements.
“The truth is that I won,” Trump said Friday at the White House. “We’ll see”.
Almost none of the top Republican lawmakers in both houses responded to a direct question from The Associated Press on Friday whether they think states have reason not to certify the results.