The silence isn’t just deafening. It’s dangerous.
Over the past week, The Washington Post asked all 249 current Republican House members and Senators a simple question: Who won the election?
Just 29 responded. Of that group, 27 – whether in prior public statements or in response to the Post’s survey – said they believed that President-elect Joe Biden had won while two (GOP Reps. Mo Brooks of Alabama and Paul Gosar of Arizona) said that Donald Trump won.
Which means that 220 House and Senate Republicans refused to take a position on who won the 2020 election. Which is 88% of all of the Republicans in Congress. Which is stunning.
It’s stunning because, well, it’s not a hard question. At all.
Here are the facts: Biden won 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232. Biden has, to date, received 81,284,062 votes (51.3%) to Trump’s 74,221,849 (46.9%).
In the face of those facts, Trump and his allies – led by Rudy Giuliani, who is now off the election fraud beat after testing positive for coronavirus on Sunday – have offered up a series of conspiracy theories (Hugo Chavez!), debunked anecdotes (ballots being burned!) and frivolous lawsuit (Trump’s legal team has “won” one of the 39 lawsuits it has brought regarding the vote count).
Saying that we need to consider both sides of this argument equally is an utter farce. It’s as though one side is arguing that 2 +2 = 4 and the other side is saying that 2+ 2 = 5, and we have to act as though both arguments are equally valid.
And it’s actually worse than that. Because while we can dismiss the 2 + 2 = 5 crowd without much concern about the impact of their bad math on the rest of the country, we can’t do that with what Trump is doing. Because what Trump is doing is actively working to undermine one of the central tenets of democracy: The belief that – whether or not your preferred candidate won – the presidential vote was conducted fairly and safely, and accurately reflects the will of the American public.
This isn’t a minor thing. Because if some decent chunk of the population is so convinced – facts be damned – that Trump won and the election was stolen from him, it leads to events like we saw in Michigan on Saturday night: A group of armed protesters surrounded the home of Democratic Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson demanding that she “stop the steal” of the election from the President.
According to CNN’s reporting of the incident:
“Benson said her 4-year-old son was about to start watching ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ on Saturday night when a group of protesters began chanting into bullhorns in front of her house.
“The protesters made ‘unambiguous, loud and threatening’ demands to overturn the election results, which the state certified in late November, she said in a statement.”
Appalling displays like that one need to be laid directly at the feet of Trump, yes. But the 88% of elected Republicans in the House and Senate who refused to answer the Post’s question on who won the election shouldn’t escape blame, either. The longer these Republicans allow Trump to publicly engage in this political fantasy, the more frequent incidents like what happened this weekend will grow. That is just a fact.
What’s truly remarkable about all of this is that the vast majority of Republican elected officials know, of course, that Biden won. Witness Kelly Loeffler’s answer during a debate on Sunday night. Or this from Biden during an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper:
“I say this tactfully. There have been more than several sitting Republican senators who’ve privately called me and congratulated me.”
Why not say it publicly, then? Because they are afraid of a) Trump and b) their own party base. Silence is their best strategic course because it allows them to avoid provoking Trump while also not saying something (“Trump won”) that they know is false.
But this silence has consequences. Dangerous ones. Which is why every Republican member of Congress who has so far refused to say who won the election should be asked that same question – over and over again – until they actually answer it.