Republican Election Subversion Coming to Bitter End

They're actually going to go through with it.

This work is in the Public Domain, CC0

Sarah Ferris and Heather Caygle at POLITICO describe what’s expected today as a new Congress is sworn in. The headline “New Congress begins under shadow of coronavirus” misidentifies the predominant shadow.

The House and Senate will convene Sunday at noon to formally usher in the 117th Congress in perhaps the most unconventional opening day in history.

Lawmakers will gather in the Capitol in the closing days of Donald Trump’s presidency for the swearing in of hundreds of members and the election of Nancy Pelosi to speaker, all amid a Republican effort to challenge President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Instead, most lawmakers will be sworn in without the company of a single guest in order to reduce coronavirus exposure, and have been told to remain in their offices except during votes. The Capitol physician has strongly warned against “gatherings of any kind.”

Certainly, doing things remotely because of a global pandemic that’s killed 350,000 Americans is surreal. But the “Republican effort to challenge President-elect Joe Biden’s victory” is the more pertinent threat to the Republic.

Sunday’s proceedings will kick off a packed week in Congress that will include a chaotic but doomed effort by Republicans to dethrone Joe Biden as president-elect.

Multiple GOP members, led by Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks in the House and Sen. Ted Cruz in the Senate, have vowed to challenge those results in Trump’s last gasp at overturning Biden’s victory. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) was the first senator to join the House GOP’s effort to contest the election. Trump and his supporters have claimed — without evidence — that Biden only won because of “voter fraud,” but the legal challenges from Trump and his allies have largely failed.

That gambit will take place Wednesday, Jan. 6, when the House and Senate meet for a joint session to formally count the votes of the Electoral College. Vice President Mike Pence will be put in the awkward position of leading the joint session. That process, which might take as little as a half hour, is now expected to drag on late into the night Wednesday or possibly the wee hours of Thursday, especially after almost a dozen GOP senators signed on to the effort on Saturday.

While it almost certainly won’t change the fact that Joe Biden will be sworn in as President 17 days from now, this is a bell than can’t be unrung. There will be many Republicans, including their leader in the Senate, who will oppose the effort. But the fact that so many are signing on for such a despicable, anti-democratic stunt would have been unthinkable even a few weeks ago.

Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey for WaPo (“Growing number of Trump loyalists in the Senate vow to challenge Biden’s victory“):

A last-ditch effort by President Trump and his allies to overturn the election thrust Washington into chaos Saturday as a growing coalition of Republican senators announced plans to rebel against Senate leaders by seeking to block formal certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

The push to subvert the vote is all but certain to fail when Congress gathers in joint session Wednesday to count electoral college votes already certified by each state. Still, Trump is continuing to press Republican lawmakers to support his baseless claims of election fraud while calling on thousands of supporters to fill the streets of the nation’s capital on Wednesday in mass protest of his defeat.


The move amounts to an open rebellion against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who last month pleaded with GOP senators to avoid a public debate over the legitimacy of November’s election results. McConnell has personally congratulated Biden on his victory.


“What’s happening [Wednesday] foreshadows what’s going to be happening for the following 24 months,” said Peter Hart, a veteran Democratic pollster. “It’s a question of do we start to move to the future or get locked into the past. . . . This [could] continue to rip apart the fabric of this country that has already been torn through.”

Congress is all but certain to drive a final stake through the heart of Trump’s dream of four more years on Wednesday. But the gulf between the reality of the certification process and Trump’s fantasy of subverting the vote to stay in office is politically perilous for Republicans — none more than Trump’s unfailingly deferential No. 2, Vice President Pence.

As president of the Senate, Pence will wield the gavel when the electoral votes are counted and Biden is declared the winner by a wide margin, 306 to 232.

Though Pence’s role is strictly ceremonial, lawyer Sidney Powell and other conspiracy-minded Trump allies are trying to convince the president that Pence has the power to overturn the election by rejecting some of Biden’s electors, according to two senior administration officials with knowledge of the conversations. After Pence labored for four years to stay in the mercurial president’s good graces, his performance on Wednesday could risk a rupture on their 14th-to-last day in office.

While the growing GOP chorus to challenge Biden’s victory may ease the burden on Pence to lead the charge for Trump, it increases the likelihood of a volatile, discomfiting debate. And it virtually guarantees that Republicans will face a vote that forces them to decide whether they will honor the collective will of the voters or stand with Trump — a vote that could long serve as a litmus test for the GOP base.

NYT‘s Luke Broadwater (“Pence Welcomes Futile Bid by G.O.P. Lawmakers to Overturn Election“) adds:

Vice President Mike Pence signaled support on Saturday for a futile Republican bid to overturn the election in Congress next week, after 11 Republican senators and senators-elect said that they would vote to reject President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory when the House and Senate meet to formally certify it.

The announcement by the senators — and Mr. Pence’s move to endorse it — reflected a groundswell among Republicans to defy the unambiguous results of the election and indulge President Trump’s attempts to remain in power with false claims of voting fraud.

Every state in the country has certified the election results after verifying their accuracy, many following postelection audits or hand counts. Judges across the country, and a Supreme Court with a conservative majority, have rejected nearly 60 attempts by Mr. Trump and his allies to challenge the results.

And neither Mr. Pence nor any of the senators who said they would vote to invalidate the election has made a specific allegation of fraud, instead offering vague suggestions that some wrongdoing might have occurred and asserting that many of their supporters believe that it has.

The senators’ opposition to certifying Mr. Biden’s election will not change the outcome. But it guarantees that what would normally be a perfunctory session on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to ratify the results of the presidential election will instead become a partisan brawl, in which Republicans amplify specious claims of widespread election rigging that have been debunked and dismissed for weeks even as Mr. Trump has stoked them.

Truly shameful and, again, I don’t know how this gets walked back. It becomes a loyalty test that divides the party, making working with Biden on COVID and so many other issues next to impossible. It’s dangerous for the Republic and likely escalates an already volatile political atmosphere.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Matt says:

    This behaviour has been escalating for some time on the GOP’s side. I can’t even fathom what they are going to try to pull in the future. I never thought they’d get to this point….

  2. CSK says:

    Nothing will persuade the Trump fan club that the election wasn’t stolen by Biden. The more specious the alleged evidence of fraud is demonstrated to be, the more entrenched they grow.

  3. drj says:

    Well, if there is one thing that McConnell has taught the GOP during the Merick Garland saga is that if you have the votes, you can bust any and every norm. It’s still all completely Constitutional, you see.

    Democrats better never, ever lose the House.

    There will be many Republicans, including their leader in the Senate, who will oppose at this time not go along with the effort.


    “Opposing” would include things as forcefully speaking out, stripping participating senators of committee chairmanships, or kicking them out of your caucus.

    This is what principled defenders of democracy would do, because democracy itself is under attack.

    McConnell c.s. aren’t doing any of these things. It’s still party over country with these traitors.

  4. Joe says:

    And, so we don’t forget, Trump’s supporters didn’t just fail to adduce evidence of fraud in their court cases; they didn’t even allege it. That is how baseless all of this is.

  5. gVOR08 says:


    Democrats better never, ever lose the House.

    The bastards are out there right now plotting how to improve their gerrymandering.

  6. Moosebreath says:

    “again, I don’t know how this gets walked back”

    What makes you think that the people doing this have any desire to walk this back? This is an entirely serious question.

    Have Republicans have tried to walk back Merrick Garland’s treatment? Ted Cruz shutting down the government in an attempt to repeal Obamacare? Birtherism? Their primary focus on making Obama a one-term President instead of cooperating on restarting the economy during the Great Recession? Ken Starr as Special Counsel keeping his investigation going after finding nothing on his actual mandate of Whitewater? Newt Gingrich shutting down the government because he did not like where he was seated on Air Force One?

    Republicans have spent the last 3 decades taking the position that Democrats in power are illegitimate and cannot be permitted to govern. What is this other than the next step in this regard?

  7. Gustopher says:

    Truly shameful and, again, I don’t know how this gets walked back. It becomes a loyalty test that divides the party, making working with Biden on COVID and so many other issues next to impossible. It’s dangerous for the Republic and likely escalates an already volatile political atmosphere.

    I really hope that it divides the party, as that’s the only way I see the Republic surviving long term with this disease. You can’t have one of two major parties in a democracy rejecting the notion of democracy.

    Republican Election Subversion Coming to Bitter End

    Your headline is quite hopeful. I see no reason to assume that this will not continue to escalate. Why would this not lead to violence? How do you lie to your base and get them to believe that the election was stolen with massive fraud, and then return to any semblance of normalcy?

    History books may well someday read “the insurrection of 2021 was sparked when citizens rose up to oppose a global conspiracy of child sex trafficking throughout the government, and vaccinations against a deadly pandemic.”

    If we’re very lucky, the next sentence will be “it was quickly crushed,” and school children will be asking questions like “how could anyone be so stupid?”

  8. Michael Reynolds says:

    Here’s how I think this will end. I strongly suspect that 2021 will bring an end to Covid, a re-opening of life, and a booming recovery economy. 20 years after FDR’s New Deal had conservatives raving mad, those same people were still raving, but no one was listening because we’d won WW2, the Depression was long over and the economy was roaring.

    The Right has lost the culture wars. In the last 4 years they have not moved the ball an inch on cultural issues. The anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ, racist Republicans will go on being all those things, but they’ve lost that fight decisively. Most usefully evangelical Christianity is a fading force. Which leaves economic issues. If the economy is strong, the goobers in West Virginia mining towns will still be screwed, but no one will be listening.

    The 45% will become 35% and we’ll have new battles to fight, but I don’t think Trumpism marches on. I suspect and hope that Cult45 will be an isolated phenomenon. Cults – and yes, that is what we have here, a cult of personality – do not tend to have legs. Hitler did not spawn Hitler 2. Stalin did not give birth to Stalin the Sequel. Idi Amin. Mao Tse Tung. Franco. Peron. There were consequences and echoes, but cults of personality are inherently limited. Cults of personality are outliers and reversion to the mean is the more likely future.

  9. Pete S says:


    While this particular step may have been hard to foresee the general direction has been obvious for some time. As GOP “ideas” have become less popular and more extreme there had to come a point that even voter suppression and gerrymandering were not enough to swing elections. That’s how we get here.

  10. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    The culture war will become an intra party R fight that will result in more crazies in public office, but few Rs. On culture issues, Dems will need to contend with some extremists, but for the most part they will be ignored by the broader party when they’re not attacked as nuisances.

    But for Rs it is going to be a huge issue.

  11. gVOR08 says:

    Republican Election Subversion Coming to Bitter End

    What @Gustopher: said. This episode may end soon. But they won’t suffer any consequences for this open sedition, so they’ll do it again at the next opportunity. This episode is just practice.

  12. Teve says:

    “There are but two parties now, traitors and patriots.”

    Ulysses S. Grant

    (H/t jake tapper)

  13. Teve says:

    “Some of the same people who voted no on impeachment, saying that the remedy for malfeasance is an election, are now saying the remedy for the election is malfeasance.”

    – Senator Brian Schatz

  14. mattbernius says:

    Truly shameful and, again, I don’t know how this gets walked back. It becomes a loyalty test that divides the party, making working with Biden on COVID and so many other issues next to impossible. It’s dangerous for the Republic and likely escalates an already volatile political atmosphere.

    Two things: First I’m honestly curious about how much of Biden’s “I can work across the aisle” is something he honestly believes versus something he’s saying out of hope. Because all these signs point to that not happening.

    Longer term, the sad truths it that due to a host of factors, there will be no real form of censure for these actions–either institutionally or electorally. At best, there’s a long shot that the Republicans will lose the two GA Senate seats this cycle. However, I honestly don’t who aren’t addicted to “both siderism” to thread that needle on a special election.

    Even in that case, due to the typical ebb and flow of politics, not to mention the party’s structural advantages at the state level, in 2022, chances are that the Republicans take back both the House and the Senate (if they lose it). Which means that the 2024 election could get really scary if the minority/majority power essentially controls 2 out of 3 branches of government and there’s another “contested” election.

    (Scare quotes only because how utterly bullshit this current “contesting” is)

  15. mattbernius says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    The culture war will become an intra party R fight that will result in more crazies in public office, but few Rs.

    I am really curious about why people continue to believe that this will result in fewer “R’s” in office so long as the “R’s” currently in office control State Legislatures and most of the election redistricting (not to mention electoral procedures)?

    We have so many demonstrable counter-factuals that clearly show that the US can easily sustain a minority-majority party for decades to come.

  16. Erik says:

    @Moosebreath: This. I have noticed a trend in my errors when thinking about what Republicans might do, and a large number of other people make it too. We stop at the worst case scenario and then hedge back to the center a little. But if you compare these predictions to the actual outcomes they are always wrong, usually by a lot. The outcome is almost always worse than the worst imagined case. As someone that wants to be a better predictor I clearly need to recalibrate, and a lot of other people do too. So when someone suggests “well, this could happen but I can’t believe they would go there” the correct answer is: expect it.

  17. mattbernius says:


    However, I honestly don’t who aren’t addicted to “both siderism” to thread that needle on a special election.

    Oops, should have read: I honestly don’t think there are enough reliable Republican votes who aren’t addicted to “both siderism” (or “never Democrats” or “divided government is a good thing when the President’s a Democrat”) to thread the needle on a close special election.

  18. drj says:


    I have noticed a trend in my errors when thinking about what Republicans might do, and a large number of other people make it too. We stop at the worst case scenario and then hedge back to the center a little.

    For Republicans, the “center” is where they are now. Not where they once where.

    They can (temporarily) stay at that so-called center or escalate further. But they don’t ever take a step back. I guess because there is simply no appeasing their GOP primary voters. Give them a finger and they’ll take the whole arm.

    In short, for elected Republicans there is no hedging back. Ever. There is only one possible direction of travel. No wonder, then, that the outcome of their actions is always worse than expected.

  19. Lounsbury says:
  20. gVOR08 says:

    Paul Campos at LGM has a post on the sedition caucus and their party that’s well worth reading in full.

    Political systems in particular and societies in general both depend on the maintenance of informal norms as much or more than they do on adherence to formal rules. The most basic norm is that these systems/societies assume that sociopaths are and will remain extreme outliers, and that therefore they can be constructed on the basis of that assumption.

    Sociopathy can even be transformed into a political ideology: It’s called “libertarianism,” and its votaries labor mightily to escape the natural implications of their views, by inventing elaborate and subtle arguments about how self-interested defection from social norms will not actually be self-interested in the long run, for Reasons. (Love that capital R.)

    Cruz and the rest are not an aberration in the Republican Party. They are where this has been headed since at least Goldwater. Then it was Nelson Bunker Hunt and Fred Koch. Now it’s Fred’s kid Charles and the Mercers and the DeVoses etc., etc.. They desperately want to implement a libertarian wet dream (which would look a lot like Putin’s oligarchy) in which they would not pay taxes or have to clean up after their oil spills or face any effort to reduce AGW. They know no one without a pile of money would vote for this, but they do think that piles of money and propaganda can get people to vote for candidates who lie about supporting this. Beyond being a religious looney toon, Pence, for one, is a wholly owned asset of Chuckles Koch.

    Dr. T has educated us as to how little control parties have over candidates. But that’s not to say the Republican Establishment has no control. Republicans fear they will be primaried from the right if they deviate from the party line. Why do they fear this? Because the Club for Growth (sic) and Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform (sic) and gawd knows who else will, in fact, generously fund a challenger if they deviate from the party line.

    Let’s not pretend this is some passing aberration. The libertarian Billionaire Boys Club are actively subverting democracy because democracy thwarts their path to power. Ted Cruz and the rest of the sedition caucus fear no kickback because they are supporting the party line.

  21. Michael Reynolds says:

    I think it’s incorrect to say that Republicans/conservatives have not evolved. Most now accept gay marriage. Many if not most support legalizing pot. Fewer now believe in the lock ’em up approach. Many are now more isolationist and less interventionist. Virtually all accept women in the workplace, including in the military. They will try to limit Social Security and Medicare, but they aren’t serious about it.

    The heat behind everything is social change, IMO, the loss of unique status for men and whites, and the slow decline of Christianity. Based on nothing but instinct, I think maybe this was the high water mark of the white/male/Christian attempt at counter-revolution. Will white evangelical Christianity gain numbers? I don’t think so – they might cannibalize other denominations, but I’m not feeling a religious revival coming.

    The other big threat to Republicans comes ironically from the capitalists. Big bidness wants big markets. Big bidness has no use for racism because it fractures markets. Big bidness is internationalist and extremely open-minded about just what percentage of the human race they’d like to make money from. (~100%).

    Fevers burn out. I suspect this one is close to breaking.

  22. Sleeping Dog says:


    In states that restrict primaries to party members, moderate Rs (I mean this relatively) that manage to win in near swing districts will likely lose in the general, when the hard right candidate could not garner support from center right R’s and independents.

    E.g., here in NH, Rs are competitive in both congressional districts and in the 1st, that seat has gone back in forth depending on if it is a presidential year. If a Madison Cawthorn or for that matter a Ted Cruz clone, were to be the R nominee, they’d be slaughtered in the general.

  23. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Lounsbury: I was just going to bring that up.

    Molly Jong-Fast

    And here’s the president of the United States trying to steal the election.

    4:20 recording apparently from inside the WH

  24. Sleeping Dog says:
  25. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Lounsbury: @Sleeping Dog: It’s just another “perfect” phone call.

  26. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    “There will be many Republicans, including their leader in the Senate, who will say that they oppose the effort. But the fact that so many are signing on for such a despicable, anti-democratic stunt would have been unthinkable even a few weeks ago.”


  27. Mikey says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: That’s a very valid FTFY. Does anyone think that if these efforts actually succeeded, these “many Republicans” would say “but wait, we didn’t mean it, it was just supposed to be performative!” Of-fucking-course not–they would proceed with huge smiles as Trump took office after his successful theft of the election.

    Yeah, they say they oppose this now, because it has no chance of actually getting anywhere, but they’d be on board with it in a picosecond if it got them four more years of Trump.

  28. Teve says:

    Consensus on Parler is that Trump, being very smart, was setting Raffensperger up, to catch him in more criminal lies!

    Details were not specific.

  29. mattbernius says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    But, as we saw in 2020, the same can be said for moderate Democrats in districts that lean Republican. Most of the house losses this election were in areas the Dems gained in 2018.

    The reality is there will be some swing at the margins, but in most places the structural dynamics favor Republicans for at least the next decade, if not beyond.

    The idea that demographic death is coming to put the Republican party out of power has been floating around for most of my 30ish year adult life.

    Like Gadot, it has yet to arrive and things are not looking good.

  30. Just nutha ignint cracker says:


    Democrats better never, ever lose the House.

    Might be easier to admit that whatever policy and agenda that anyone wants that will make the country a better, more open, more free, and more equitable place isn’t gonna happen.

  31. mattbernius says:

    To put my point a different way, does anyone think that any of the OTB readers who reliably vote Republican are going to abandon their House Member or Senator if the vote to support this bullshit?

    Will they be embarrassed? Sure. Otherwise they would have poked their heads up and defended the President at some point during all of this. Hell, even JKB is smart enough to have kept his mouth shut on this topic.

    But for the vast majority of them, a Republican representative that voted to overturn 2020 is still better than a Democrat.

    And so long as the majority of State District boundaries on the Federal and State levels are drawn to emphasize suburban and rural votes, those are the folks whose votes are going to proportionally count more. Which means that the vast majority of Democratic candidates are starting at a deficit.

  32. gVOR08 says:


    Consensus on Parler is that Trump, being very smart, was setting Raffensperger up, to catch him in more criminal lies!

    Isn’t that a perjury trap?

  33. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Teve: Certainly true though–given the definition of “malfeasance” is “not getting what I want.”

  34. Lounsbury says:

    @mattbernius: There is an ongoing blindness among the Squad type urban Left to the reality that Latin and immigrant minorities are broadly more culturally conservative than the Academic language soaked culty Left imagines, and one can say forget as well upwards aspiring immigrants don’t typically take to poverty lumpenproletariat oriented discourse. The significant Latino underperformance in both Texas and Florida illustrating.

    Were the Republicans not in the grip of a fevered Reactionary white racialist moment….

    A part of the challenge the Democrats have is the US Left is terminally incompetent in communicating outside of partisans, and of course your hard Left as all ideologues Left and Right, are self-deluded into thinkung their fringe is broader than it is.

    And to remind, here a certain set of Lefty commentators shouted critics down over the very idea that the violent segment of the protests as well as moronic slogans like Refund the Police would negatively impact results.

  35. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mikey: Fork! They’d do it for four years of Pence, four years of Cruz, four years of governance by no one. Doesn’t matter who or how ridiculous–Woody Allen channeling Hitler’s cloned nose would be fine. They don’t care who as long as the name doesn’t have a “D” next to it on a ballot and the person cares only about the power not the governing.

  36. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @mattbernius: What was it that someone quoted a couple of days ago–that the fundamental principle of the GOP is that liberalism is evil? Something on that order.

    There are other similar nostrums–evil in the service of liberty is no vice, God sometimes chooses evil people to do good things–there are a bunch of them. Even conservatives will agree with Malcolm on getting what they want by whatever means are necessary. They just won’t agree that HE should do it.

  37. Barry says:

    @gVOR08: “Isn’t that a perjury trap?”

    ‘Perjury Trap’, ‘Genius detective’, tomayto, tomahto.

  38. Teve says:


    Isn’t that a perjury trap?

    how is that, exactly?

  39. CSK says:

    I think you can only commit perjury if you’ve taken an oath to tell the truth.

  40. An Interested Party says:

    Were the Republicans not in the grip of a fevered Reactionary white racialist moment….

    This, of course, is the key…many segments of ethnic minority groups are culturally conservative, but the racist white portion of the GOP prevents large-scale support from ethnic minorities…it’s laughable that anyone would actually believe that someone like Nikki Haley or Tim Scott could ever become the Republican standard bearer in a presidential election…

  41. An Interested Party says:

    In other news, a notorious arsonist is telling people to calm down while he attempts to burn down their house…

  42. Matt says:

    @An Interested Party: Indeed people are people regardless of their ethnic status. The only thing keeping democrats from losing a chunk of ethic minorities is the GOP’s open embracing of white supremacy.

  43. LexinLA says:

    Ted Cruz: “…the past two months…” of allegations of voter fraud

    Um… NO SIR.

    Because Trump has been screaming that if he lost it would only be because of voter fraud for much longer than that. He had been poisoning the well at least six months prior to the election. And we ALL saw it coming. Well… At least those of us not drinking the Flavor-Ade….

    Could these jokers BE any more disingenuous and/or dishonest?

  44. Teve says:

    @Matt: yeah but if they drop the white supremacy they lose a big chunk of white people.

  45. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Republican Election Subversion Coming to Bitter End for now …

    FIFY 😀

  46. james hunt says:

    @Matt: The devil went down to Georgia as Charlie Daniels said and he suckered and bunch of uneducated socialist!! The war is not won we did lose a battle but we will win the war!!!!