Today, members of the House of Representatives and the Senate will meet in a special joint session for the final official stage of the 2020 presidential election: the counting of the electoral votes. In any remotely normal election, this moment would pass with little notice, a mere formality. But not so this year, because Donald Trump and his allies in Congress refuse to accept that he lost the election.
Led by Louie Gohmert of Texas in the House and Josh Hawley of Missouri in the Senate, a Trumpist faction has announced that they will challenge the electors from key swing states. They do not have the votes to prevail in either chamber of Congress, but no matter, for they say the sole constitutional authority to resolve these controversies rests with the vice president. If Trump, Gohmert, and Hawley have their way, Vice President Mike Pence will unilaterally throw out the Biden electors from these states, recognize the Trump electors instead, and declare that Trump has won the election.
Even if Pence cooperates, which he is unlikely to do, Trump’s scheme cannot ultimately succeed, legally speaking at least. But in refusing to accept the result of the election, Trump and his supporters have sent the country hurtling toward a scenario where the law has run out. In seeking to derail the orderly legal process for identifying the next president, they are announcing that they reject the legitimacy of any system that could allow Joe Biden to defeat Trump. In doing so, they are rejecting our Constitution and the system of democratic self-rule it creates. Little could be more dangerous.