Republicans officials and officeholders were, for the most part, not pleased about the rise of Donald Trump as their party’s candidate, but they found themselves powerless to stop his winning the nomination and then the presidency.
Since Trump became president, however, Republicans have become some of his most effective antagonists, stymieing a range of efforts. House members defeated a first attempt at repealing Obamacare; a Senate bill to do the same is looking precarious. (Democrats, although unified in opposition, have played no real role.) Congress has pursued an investigation into Russian interference Trump dislikes, and may strengthen sanctions he wants to lift. And now Republicans are posing a serious challenge to Trump’s ballyhooed election-fraud commission.
But first, let’s back up a step. The board has always looked like a cynical ploy. Stung by his failure to win the popular vote, even as the electoral college gave him the presidency, Trump has insisted that there were 3 to 5 million votes cast by ineligible voters during the presidential election. This number seems to be based on wildly speculative figures produced by an activist named Gregg Phillips.
A clique of conservatives has been warning for years that elections are irreparably tainted by vote fraud, but repeated investigations have failed to turn up meaningful numbers of fraudulent votes. Meanwhile, the laws that many states have passed, requiring photo ID to vote, making it harder to register and vote, and other changes, have disproportionately made it harder for minorities as well as students and the elderly—all Democratic constituencies—to vote. Some federal courts have even ruled that disenfranchising minorities is the goal of such laws.