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Special Comment on the Cruz Electoral College Objection
I haven't blogged for a while--it was Christmas, I have a life, and my mea culpa post on lockdowns can wait a few more weeks--but I posted on Facebook about Sen. Ted Cruz's objections to Congressional certification, and was asked to make that post more widely shareable. It's been a while since my last special comment, but this seems like an appropriate occasion to make another.
The appropriate penalty for signing the Ted Cruz electoral college objection letter is immediate, lifelong banishment from the United States, and all its territories and possessions. The Speech & Debate Clause (among other things) ensures this will never happen, but, in a just world, these Senators, and their collaborators in the House of Representatives -- these arsonists against our Republic -- would never be allowed to freely breathe its air again.
I'm not fanatical about this. I thought that Sen. Hawley's symbolic objection to Pennsylvania's electoral votes was a Pretty Bad Idea, but a defensible one. He said he wanted to use the electoral certification process to make a soapbox against the Pennsylvania judiciary and executive branch's blatant usurpation of legislative powers, but his objection would not have overturned the election result even if successful. Stupid to use the delicate vehicle of presidential legitimacy for soapboxing--and it was even stupider when Barbara Boxer did it in 2005--but not obviously an attempt to burn the basis of constitutional self-government (free and fair elections) to the ground.
But the Cruz letter is simply shameless. It cites "widespread allegations" of voter fraud as an excuse to institute a national committee to investigate voter fraud. This ignores the overwhelming and definitive evidence that, while voter fraud and election cheating did happen in the 2020 election, it did not come close to affecting the outcome.
(If you don't like those links, I can link you to court ruling after court ruling showing, in detail, how empty the Trump Campaign's claims are. If you still believe, falsely, that courts have thrown these cases out simply on standing grounds without considering the evidence, that only shows me that you have been reading misleading or outright fraudulent right-wing press reports about the rulings, not the rulings themselves.)
Cruz's letter also avoids the circular nature of the objection: the only reason so many Republicans today believe Biden won illegitimately is because people like Sen. Cruz fed those beliefs shamelessly and without a basis in truth.
The letter elides the fact that the electoral commission of 1877 was a notorious failure, and that the Electoral Count Act was passed precisely so we would never have to do it again.
It memory-holes the obvious fact that their proposed commission would--if remotely guided by facts or the rules of evidence already considered and adjudicated by many courts and state legislatures--have no choice but to reaffirm Biden's victory, at which point Cruz et. al. would move to delegitimize the commission as yet another "deep state conspiracy" and reject its conclusions, just as they have done to every legitimate body that has examined this election already.
This is a plan designed to appeal to some of the most epistemically closed-minded people in our Republic--Trump diehards who believe the election was "stolen" just as fervently, and just as foolishly, as left-wing campus fanatics believe "institutional racism" is the defining fact of modern American power structures--while massively, pointlessly, and permanently escalating our political hardball to include the very legitimacy of our republican form of government. The next time a Republican wins the presidential election--and it will happen, it always does--Democrats in Congress will have been given all the excuse they need to make up a bunch of lies and move to invalidate that victory.
How can this cycle of political arson possibly end, except in bloodshed? I recently wrote extensively about how precisely this event, a loss of political legitimacy for the electoral college certification process, could plausibly lead to civil war. It was bad enough in my scenario, when the civil war was more or less a tragic accident. It's so much more shameful for Republican elected officials to baselessly, and with full knowledge of what they are doing, hurry it along. Biden's victory is clear enough to enough Americans that there will be no civil war in 2021, thank God, but Cruz and his reckless ilk are laying a foundation for a future crisis that will be much harder to avert.
One final comment: one of the most shocking events of the 2016 election was the conscious decision by the Republican establishment, in the final days of the GOP primary, to allow Trump to win rather than get behind Ted Cruz. This seemed incomprehensible at the time. Cruz was obviously a posturing jerk, but the alternative was Donald J. Trump. Did conservative elites hate movement conservatism (which Cruz represented in that primary) so much that they'd choose a dumpster fire like Trump over a run-of-the-mill ambitious politico like Cruz?
Well... maybe they were on to something. Maybe Cruz's boundless ambition and complete lack of shame, combined with his modicum of competence and veneer of rationality, seemed more dangerous (in the long run) than Trump -- who was still, at the time, something of an unknown quantity.
Maybe they were right.
Live not by lies. It's harder and harder to do this, because we have the right-wing liars on the one hand and the left-wing liars on the other, both sides more powerful and more numerous than honest, truth-seeking Americans.
Worse: both sides lies empower and amplify the lies of the other. Many right-wingers believe right-wing lies about the election because they have (correctly) lost faith in the left-wing institutions that are calling out these lies. The left-wing institutions have cried wolf so often that they are not only ignored, but whatever they say is presumed to be the opposite of the truth. For only slightly different reasons, average left-wingers find themselves today in their own epistemic black hole, too.
But we have to try. We have to reject Sen. Cruz's fraudulent attack on the basis of our republic. We have to reject lies, and we have to be willing to call them lies, because our first duty, before every other duty, is to the Truth.