This week 126 House Republicans asked the Supreme Court to prevent four swing states from casting electoral votes for Joe Biden to seal his victory in the November election. I encourage you to read that first sentence again, because in a year overburdened with scandal and outrage, that (seemingly) quiet sentence is perhaps the most scandalous and outrageous. It may signal the inflection point when America definitively passed from a country of two democratic (small “d”) parties to a country divided between supporters of democracy and elements of insurrection and autocracy.
In a year when it could have been said a thousand times that “Republicans have finally gone too far” they finally and truly have. To put it another way, 126 members of the United States Congress supported a move to overturn the presidential election based on hoped-for evidence they haven’t actually seen but only wished was there. It is one thing to be disappointed in the outcome of an election, it’s another thing entirely to try to subvert that outcome by asserting evidence that you only hope exists but haven’t actually seen.
Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution is explicit on this. I provide it here in its entirety:
“Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”
Yet 126 members of the House of Representatives “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against a lawfully constituted election, asserting that the election was null and void, not because they have actual evidence of fraud but because the people of Texas “feel” they were denied the outcome they wanted.
Of the 126 members who betrayed America in this way, such was the weakness of their position that CNN’s Chris Cuomo, after extending invitations to all 126, could only get one of that number to come on the air and explain himself.
That member was Congressman Doug Lamalfa of California. Cuomo asked him point blank, “Do you now accept that Biden is President-elect?” To which Lamalfa replied, “Well, we still don’t know what the intelligence folks have in there.” But that’s the point. They don’t have anything. The Supreme Court said as much, including the three justices appointed by Trump. Game over.
To be clear, most of us didn’t like the outcome of the 2016 election. But we also had good evidence that there was foreign and domestic interference with that election. But we, and — most importantly — our elected officials, did not subvert the law by trying to overturn the election without evidence. We did what we could to find the evidence. We were, in the end, finally betrayed by Robert Mueller’s flaccid and craven presentation of ten instances of obstruction of justice by the Trump team during the election. But that’s another story.
As it almost always does, when it comes down to any conspiracy theories, evidence is the key word, the overriding concept. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” as Carl Sagan put it. Conspiracy theories share in common a deficiency of evidence, extraordinary or otherwise. What they contain instead is innuendo, coincidence and testimony from shockingly unreliable witnesses (e.g. Melissa Carone).
It’s time for Nancy Pelosi to refuse to seat those 126 members of the House who signed off on the amicus brief issued to subvert the will of the American people. To be sure, the fly in the ointment of Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment is its last sentence: “But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.” It’s obviously doubtful that two-thirds of each House will agree to such a thing. In a just and healthy nation those 126 would be ejected from office. We are still a long way from that ideal.
But in the meantime I think it is incumbent upon Speaker Pelosi to refuse to seat them. The 126 members of Congress who supported the overthrow of the government have prostituted their sacred honor in the name of Donald Trump. It’s time to send them a message, and never forget what they did when they’re up for re-election in 2022. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.