Members of Congress will gather tomorrow to count electoral votes and establish Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential election. Usually, this is a pro forma process without much excitement. But a handful of Republicans in the House and Senate are planning to feed President Donald Trump’s delusions of voter fraud by formally contesting the election—an action that has no chance of succeeding and that will not change the ultimate certification of the vote and Biden’s inauguration on January 20. These members of Congress, led by Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, appear to be calculating that the political boost from catering to the president is worth the cost to American democracy. Or, rather, they don’t care about democracy at all.
“Millions of voters concerned about election integrity deserve to be heard,” Hawley wrote in announcing his challenge the week before the certification vote. Days later, Cruz, along with 10 other senators and senators-elect, backed Hawley’s suggestion and demanded an “emergency 10-day audit” of allegations of voter fraud, for which the Trump campaign has failed to provide any credible evidence. “Tragically,” Cruz wrote, “39% of Americans believe ‘the election was rigged’”—but this more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger tone ignores the fact that Americans believe election fraud occurred largely because Republican politicians keep yelling about it. If there were any doubts about how far some Republicans are willing to take this effort, on Sunday The Washington Post published an hour-long recording of the president attempting to threaten and wheedle an unmoved Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger into overturning Biden’s victory in the state. The response from Republicans seeking to contest the election was muted at best: Trump’s conversation with Raffensperger was “not a helpful call,” ventured Senator Marsha Blackburn.