The high court rejected the challenge late Friday, stating that Texas did not have standing to challenge how other states conduct their elections. The terse denial only underscored the folly of the support that came from members of Trump’s party.
The decision came after the Trump campaign and its allies had filed dozens of other lawsuits. Those too were routinely dismissed, often in scathing language. In those prior lawsuits, no evidence of widespread fraud — certainly not enough to change the result in any of the affected states — was presented. In many cases, the lawyers did not even explicitly claim there was fraud.
The Texas lawsuit presented no evidence either. It merely said there were “significant and unconstitutional irregularities” in the four affected states, whose combined electoral votes, if they were subtracted from President-elect Joe Biden’s current number of 306, would have left him short of a 270-vote majority. Instead, the filing argued that systematic violations of the law by state election officials made fraud “undetectable.”
Many Republicans have been silent as Trump has pursued his baseless claims. When a team of Washington Post reporters contacted all Republicans in Congress, just 27 said Biden had won. Two others actually said Trump was the winner, while 219 either gave no answer or were not definitive.
Such acquiescence has been ruinous for elected officials who have sworn an oath to the Constitution. These lawmakers have been complicit in perpetuating falsehoods about the election by failing to refute or rebuke the president.
The theory, seemingly, is that eventually this would all work out. As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, “The future will take care of itself.” That’s a rosy view that assumes all this toothpaste can be put back in the tube, that Trump will suddenly go silent, that his followers will accept Biden as president and that no one will remember this fraught period between the election and the inauguration.
Republicans have said that it was Trump’s right to pursue any and all legal challenges. That is accurate, assuming the legal challenges are serious and fact-based, which most were not. Trump’s lawyers, led by Rudolph W. Giuliani, have engaged in wild claims and baseless arguments. State officials, including some Republicans, have stood in opposition.
Long before the Supreme Court acted, though, it was apparent that this claim that Trump should be allowed to seek legal relief was a hollow rationale. It simply emboldened the president to maintain the fiction of a vast conspiracy to corrupt the 2020 results while providing cover to Republicans lacking the courage to say otherwise.
Never in the history of the country have so many lawsuits been filed to contest a presidential election — and with nothing concrete to show for the effort. This puts the onus on the Republicans who clambered aboard the Texas train to explain themselves.
One explanation is that these Republicans genuinely believe — in the absence of real evidence — exactly what Trump claims, which is that in some way or another, the results of the election were due to fraud or malfeasance or illegality in the four states targeted by the Texas attorney general.
The other possibility is that these Republicans don’t believe any of this at all, that they know that Biden won the election but also recognize that a substantial percentage of Republicans loyal to Trump accept what the president and his allies and surrogates are saying. They do not want to cross them because they know that could lead to a rebuke from the president or even a primary challenge in the future.
Which is worse? A belief in groundless claims of fraud and a worse-than-longshot strategy asking the Supreme Court to overturn an election, or a cynical turn-your-back approach designed to appease a president who is in denial on the assumption that it will all wash away when the future takes care of itself?
None of the support Republicans have shown for Trump’s efforts to change the election results has anything to do with the conservative principles upon which the party has long stood, including the doctrine of federalism and states’ rights. Nor have the members of Congress exercised their responsibilities as members of a separate branch of government from the executive. This was more about cynical politics and blind loyalty.
Most legal experts predicted that the Texas suit would not prevail at the Supreme Court, that it would be dismissed with minimal comment. What then explains what the House members, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), did in siding with the Texas attorney general and what do they say now?
Will they and the others suddenly say “never mind” and that Biden won fairly? Or will they continue to argue that the election was flawed and question whether Biden really won?
Some will attempt to scramble back to safer ground, hoping they can have it both ways. But each step by the president and his followers entrapped Republican elected officials — and degraded them and their party.
With the Supreme Court’s decision, the president’s legal maneuverings have hit a dead end. As Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) offered: The high court “closed the book on the nonsense.”
The court, with a 6-to-3 conservative majority that included three Trump nominees, refused to buckle.
Trump, for his part, remains defiant, tweeting on Saturday morning, “WE HAVE JUST BEGUN TO FIGHT!!!” But the calendar is moving against him.
On Monday, the presidential electors will gather in all 50 states and the District to cast their votes. They will then count the votes and prepare certificates that will be sent to the president of the Senate and others in Congress.
On Jan. 6, members of Congress will meet in joint session, with Vice President Pence presiding, to open the certificates, count the votes and declare the results. If there are challenges to any state’s results, the process of counting will be halted for the House and Senate to debate and vote on the challenge. Both houses must accept the challenge for a state’s votes to be disqualified.
Republicans may hope that the electors on Monday will finally quiet the president, but there is nothing in Trump’s behavior to suggest that he will ever accept the results. He will continue to try to make his false claims for his own aggrandizement and to undermine Biden’s presidency. By joining him, Republican elected officials contribute to the damage Trump is doing to democracy and to the credibility of themselves and the party they represent.