Under normal circumstances, today would be just a ceremonial conclusion to the 2020 presidential election. But as with all things Donald Trump, there are no normal circumstances.
Instead, Congress will go through an exercise that is at once futile and destructive.
More than 100 representatives and a dozen senators will challenge the certified results from states that Joe Biden won. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), the anti-LGBTQ Republican who started the move in the Senate, is citing “millions of Americans concerned about election integrity.” And what better way to address those concerns than to fan conspiracy theories and disenfranchise millions of other Americans.
The process will just drag out the inevitable declaration of Joe Biden’s victory. Every time a state’s votes are challenged by at least one member of the House and one senator, Congress will debate the challenge for up to two hours. Republicans have targeted at least three states, so the process could spill over into tomorrow.
Democrats control the House and enough Republican senators have said they will certify the results. So when all is said and done, Biden will still be the winner. But there will be four big losers as well.
1. Mike Pence
Pence has spent the past four years doing everything he can to stay in Trump’s good favor. He is now about to incur Trump’s wrath as a final thank-you by presiding over today’s vote certification. Trump has been pressuring Pence privately and publicly to single-handedly throw out the votes that favor Biden.
Pence may make some gesture to mark his disagreement with the results, but he has no power to disenfranchise voters. Not only will Trump be furious at Pence, so will the MAGA crowd.
Pence’s hopes of positioning himself as Trump’s rightful heir will go up in smoke.
2. Mitch McConnell
The last thing the soon-to-be-former Senate majority leader wanted was the senate going through this exercise.
Hawley upended that wish in an act of open rebellion joined by 11 other senators. McConnell had held the GOP senators together as a tight, single unit, which allowed him to block then President Barack Obama’s will and carry Trump’s water. Now McConnell has a caucus that is openly fighting among itself, threatening his iron grip.
McConnell has no one to blame but himself for indulging Trump’s lies about the election by remaining silent.
All the election fraud allegations are based not on evidence but on an authoritarian impulse to maintain the hold on power. The hallmark of American democracy has been the acknowledgment of the election results and the peaceful transfer of power.
Hawley, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and other Republican leaders know that Trump lost. They are cynically using the fraud conspiracies to rile up the base and suck money out of the base’s pockets. In the process, they are damaging the nation’s faith in election integrity to further their own ambitions.
4. Donald Trump
There’s nothing Trump hates more than losing. Thanks to his own delusional complaints, the nation’s focus will be on a vote that would otherwise merit about 15 seconds of air time.
Trump has amplified his own humiliation. That makes him the biggest loser of all.