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OPINION

There’s no bottom for how low Republicans will let Trump go

Most Republicans either cheer him on or quietly stand by as Trump, high on denial and megalomania, trashes democracy — and then gleefully buries the remains in a deep grave.

Photo illustration by LEsley Becker/Globe Staff; Adobe; Globe file photos

How low will Republicans let President Trump go when it comes to destroying trust in the election results of 2020?

So low, there’s no bottom in sight. Only a few Republicans, like Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, refuse to wallow in Trump’s muck. Most Republicans either cheer him on or quietly stand by as Trump, high on denial and megalomania, trashes democracy — and then gleefully buries the remains in a deep grave.

What happened in Michigan on Tuesday night shows how far and low the GOP will go to help Trump try to steal the election from Joe Biden. Republican members of a Michigan elections board at first refused to certify election results from Detroit — a starkly partisan play designed to hold up official acknowledgment of Biden’s win over Trump in that state. The decision was reversed after an outcry from state officials and voters from the affected area, many of whom were Black.

Trump, of course, egged on the rogue Republicans, as did Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee. As that ugly drama unfolded, Trump fired Christopher Krebs, the chief of cybersecurity for the Department of Homeland Security, after he vouched for the integrity of the voting system. Meanwhile, in Nevada, the Trump campaign announced a new lawsuit, asking a state judge to declare Trump the winner or invalidate the presidential vote results.

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No one who understands election law really believes Trump can prevail in court. But Republicans are cynically willing to let him try anything to chip away at the outcome, even if all he does is destroy faith in the democratic process.

Is there anyone more stomach-turning in that regard than Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina? In 2016, Graham called out Trump for claiming an election he thought he was going to lose was “rigged.” Now, Graham’s trying to rig an election Trump actually did lose. According to The Washington Post, Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked Raffensperger to consider potential ways to disqualify Georgia ballots. While Graham called Raffensperger’s account of what he said “ridiculous,” Raffensperger called it for what it was: pressure to look harder for evidence of nonexistent fraud. After applying that pressure, Graham still made sure to fist-bump Vice President-elect Kamala Harris when she made her first post-election appearance on the Senate floor. Afterward, he said he was only “saying hello,” not congratulating her.

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In the category of “most-stomach-turning nonelected Trump apologist,” the winner has to be Rudy Giuliani, the onetime mayor of New York. Once dubbed “America’s mayor,” after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Giuliani is perpetuating his own terrorist attack on America in his role as Trump’s personal lawyer. Lawyers on both sides of the Bush-Gore 2000 election fight agree that the Trump election lawsuits are rooted in fantasy, not legal principle. But Giuliani shamelessly pretends otherwise. The Pennsylvania attorney general who argued in court against him on Tuesday said Giuliani’s performance was “sad to watch” and had descended into “lunacy and conspiracy theory and fearmongering.”

What is Trump’s hold on Graham and Giuliani? How much of their current conduct is rooted in their own personal self-loathing? Answers to those questions will make for compelling reading in future deconstructions of the Trump years. For now, the why doesn’t really matter. Graham and Giuliani are pathetic enablers who are helping Trump tear apart trust in democracy.

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The complicity of Republicans like Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is less complicated, if just as pathetic. It’s all about power. McConnell wants to make sure two Republican senators from Georgia who now face run-off contests against Democrats are reelected and that he retains control of the Senate. For that, “he needs to energize the MAGA crowd,” Republican strategist Scott Reed told The New York Times. To that end, McConnell will let Trump go as low as necessary.

As for Senator Marco Rubio joining a small group of Republicans who are willing to refer to Biden as “president-elect,” if that is courage, they still stand deep in the hole that Trump has dug for American democracy. As the coffin is lowered, don’t they know the clods of dirt he is throwing down will hit them too?


Joan Vennochi can be reached at joan.vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @joan_vennochi.