It’s a sad commentary when the president of the United States takes to the White House podium and issues forth wild-eyed allegations of the sort you might expect from a hermit who has retreated to a deep woods cabin from which he refuses to venture without a tinfoil hat to protect himself from invisible intergalactic aliens forever using radio waves to steal his ideas.
But that’s where we are. And with President Trump spewing evidence-free nonsense about a conspiracy to steal this election, current Republican officeholders must speak up. Not in support of Joe Biden, of course, but for our small-d democratic processes.
So far, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah has set the standard, via Twitter, for integrity and honor.
While noting that Trump was within his rights to exhaust his legal remedies, Romney continued: “He is wrong to say that the election was rigged, corrupt and stolen — doing so damages the cause of freedom here and around the world, weakens the institutions that lie at the foundation of the Republic, and recklessly inflames destructive and dangerous passions.” That’s the kind of forceful statement we need from Republicans.
Give credit as well to Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker for saying, accurately, that Trump’s comments "that there’s some national conspiracy around this aren’t supported by any of the facts — and they are damaging to democracy.”
And to Larry Hogan, Republican governor of Maryland, who called Trump out this way: “There is no defense for the President’s comments tonight undermining our Democratic process.”
Further, it was encouraging to see Representative Will Hurd of Texas tweet that “a sitting president undermining our political process & questioning the legality of the voices of countless Americans without evidence is not only dangerous & wrong, it undermines the very foundation this nation was built upon.”
A sitting president undermining our political process & questioning the legality of the voices of countless Americans without evidence is not only dangerous & wrong, it undermines the very foundation this nation was built upon. Every American should have his or her vote counted.— Rep. Will Hurd (@HurdOnTheHill) November 6, 2020
But too many other Republicans have offered up weak, mealy-mouthed — or church-mouse — statements that don’t mention Trump and his attempts to delegitimize the process and instead merely say that the vote-counting should continue and the results should be respected.
One might hope for a forceful rebuke to the president from newly reelected Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who fashions herself after storied Pine Tree State truth-teller Margaret Chase Smith. Instead, we got this weak tea:
“States have the authority to determine the specific rules of elections. Every valid vote under a state’s law should be counted. Allegations of irregularities can be adjudicated by the courts. We must all respect the outcome of elections.”
Come on, senator. You just won reelection. You are a senior member of the Senate. Show some spine!
The idea that it’s somehow illegitimate to count mail-in ballots or to continue vote-counting beyond Election Day is simply ridiculous. Every sentient person should realize that.
Certainly anyone who is in politics or who has observed the public process knows that. They also know that there is not some grand conspiracy to snaffle the election.
And yet it wasn’t just the president issuing arrant nonsense. Over at the Trump Propaganda Network, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich aided and abetted the efforts of chief Fox Trumpswab Sean Hannity to fan fake flames of outrage. Always ready with grandiloquent analogies he (falsely) believes lend the grandeur of history to his asinine pronouncements, Gingrich compared the vote-counting to the Battle of Gettysburg.
“You are watching an effort to steal the presidency of the United States,” said the man who has done perhaps more than any other living politician to debase the dialogue of US politics. “This is a genuine deep crisis of our survival.”
As far as hysteria and hyperbole go, it would be hard for anyone to outdo Gingrich’s fever-swamp fatuity. Still, House minority leader Kevin McCarthy was willing to offer his own utterly false assertion.
“President Trump won this election,” McCarthy declared on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show on Thursday. “We cannot allow this to happen before our very eyes.”
It’s shameful. Presented with a choice between speaking up for their country, shilling for Trump, or hiding in the political closet, too many Republicans have opted for the latter two courses.
How these soulless, gutless hacks must despise Mitt Romney for setting a standard for integrity — and through his action, making it clear to all just how far short of that mark they themselves fall.
Scot Lehigh is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeScotLehigh.