A moment of historic resonance will activate safeguards stemming from the founders’ fears nearly 250 years ago of a monarchical leader wielding unaccountable power to counter President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly spurned the fundamental principles of American democracy.
Veteran Republican election lawyer Ben Ginsberg told CNN’s Ana Cabrera on Sunday that the blunt Supreme Court dismissals of Trump’s cases were “the briefest and most summary of dismissals possible. That is a signal in lawyer talk about ‘don’t waste our time with these theories that you are spouting out.’ “
Biden to speak
After slates of electors formally selected by voters in the indirect presidential election system in November fulfill their duties on Monday, Biden plans to deliver a speech on the resilience of US democracy. It will be his latest effort to unite a fractured nation even as the outgoing President seeks to doom his legitimacy with baseless claims of vote fraud.
The process will confirm, yet again, that Biden will take office on January 20 at noon, ending Trump’s one-term presidency — a fact that some, but still clearly not all leading Republicans, agree is now inevitable.
“I will just say that, obviously, he is the President-elect. He has 270 Electoral College votes,” Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, crossing Trump in a way many colleagues still refuse to do.
Indeed, 126 of Cassidy’s GOP colleagues in the House — including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy — signed onto the desperate complaint that the Supreme Court rejected last week and that an ally, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, blasted on ABC News “This Week” as an “absurdity.”
Ignoring the pandemic
The President’s obsessive behavior since the election has coincided with the most extreme and tragic phase of a pandemic that he ignored and denied, and has exacerbated the conditions in which many Americans are dying each day.
But it will be late spring or early summer 2021 until most people get the necessary two doses, meaning that deprivations and restrictions will continue for many more months.
Trump tweeted late Sunday night that he is adjusting the timing for when White House officials should receive the vaccine, saying they “should receive the vaccine somewhat later in the program, unless specifically necessary.”
“I am not scheduled to take the vaccine, but look forward to doing so at the appropriate time,” he said.
A waning fantasy
Monday’s events will test how long the fantasy of a second Trump term can endure.
The President’s crusade to disenfranchise millions of voters who cast legal ballots against him is an appropriate coda for a presidency in which he has consistently destroyed democratic guardrails in order to pursue his own political goals.
His actions have also sharpened the dilemma of many of his fellow Republicans. A few, like Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, have spoken out strongly in favor of democratic principles. But others have contributed to Trump’s fraying of trust in US democracy by equivocating and refusing to refer to Biden as President-elect. Others like Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the second-ranking House Republican, are perpetuating Trump’s fiction that he won the election.
“If you want to restore trust by millions of people who are still very frustrated and angry about what happened, that’s why you’ve got to have the whole system play out,” Scalise said on “Fox News Sunday.” “There will be a president sworn in on January 20, but let’s let this legal process play itself out,” the congressman said, despite the fact that the Supreme Court has twice shut down Republican legal gambits intended to overthrow the election.
Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, who is retiring and doesn’t have to face voters again, said Sunday that the votes of the Electoral College should mark a watershed moment in Trump’s effort to contest the election.
“I hope that he puts the country first,” Alexander said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“It looks very much like the electors will vote for Joe Biden,” he said, and argued there should be no question about election results after Monday.
“We need to not lose one day in the transition in getting the vaccine out,” Alexander said.
An agonizing moment for Pence
Electors are picked by state parties and exclude federal lawmakers but usually include local officials and party alumni. In New York, for example, former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will ceremonially cast electoral voters for Biden.
The Electoral College voting on Monday — on the legally mandated first Monday after the second Wednesday in December — will set up an even more intriguing constitutional ballet on January 6. That is the moment when electoral ballots cast on Monday will be counted during a joint session of Congress — another occasion that is normally perfunctory but that will take on extra constitutional significance this year. Some Republican House members have already urged Trump not to concede when he loses the Electoral College on Monday. They also want to hold a debate on January 6 on the results of key states over allegations of fraud. If one member of the House and one member of the Senate file an objection, that process can take place in each chamber. But it remains unclear whether any Republican senator is willing to take that step, which would be academic anyway since Democrats control the House.
The January 6 ceremony will set up a particularly excruciating moment for Vice President Mike Pence, who has walked an undignified tight rope between his own reputation and ostentatious loyalty for Trump for the past four years.
Since it’s his job as president of the Senate to count the electoral votes, it will fall to Pence to officially declare Biden and Harris victors of an election Trump falsely claims was stolen.