Opinion: Republican leaders should not betray our democracy

Yet if you follow the baseless claims of President Donald Trump and his staunchest allies, you might believe we are confronting an event of utmost controversy or vast legal questions.
Spoiler alert: We aren’t. The voters picked Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and they will take office as president and vice president January 20. Still, a handful of Trump zealots in Congress are injecting a veneer of chaos into the process, seeking to undermine faith in our democracy itself.

So, we have to ask the question: Who among us, especially in the current iteration of the Republican Party, will hold firm on the side of the voters and the rule of law against Trump’s assault on the fundamentals of our system of government?

We should note that while it is positive that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a growing number of leading Republicans have acknowledged the legitimacy of the election and Biden as President-elect, it is unacceptable that the outgoing President and his loyalists continue to undermine our democracy.

In many ways, we face another inflection point — the kind of moment when our individual and collective actions determine in what direction we will travel, what type of society we will inhabit, what kind of country we will be. It’s in those instances when a leader’s character can be revealed and a people’s fate can be sealed. It’s in those decisions that we discover who stood on the right side of progress and who failed to uphold our best interests and values.

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These moments are littered throughout our history books. Who fought with then-Gen. George Washington for independence and revolution over despotism and autocracy. Who stood with President Abraham Lincoln for the union and freedom over secession and slavery. Who joined the allies to preserve democracy and human rights against Nazi horrors and fascist violence. Who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis for civil rights, resisting the forces arrayed against human dignity.

The examples go on. And we face another such point right now: Congress is meeting to certify the Electoral College results January 6, marking the final stop on the road to Biden’s inauguration. No matter what Trump and others try to claim, nothing will change the outcome.

What makes this time different, though, are the threats of multiple Republicans to formally object to the tally, thereby rejecting the will of the voters in a contest that shattered turnout records.
Perhaps this is a last-ditch effort to appease Trump’s ego, but it’s enough already. The election was fair, secure and free — and any attempt to undo the vote won’t work. Like the more than 50 lawsuits filed since November 3, this has no merit.
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But the perceived political cost of crossing Trump forces us to consider again: This week, who will stand for what’s right over what’s expedient? Who will choose country over party and law over partisanship?

The recent past offers us a prime answer. A few weeks ago, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed an absurd lawsuit seeking to throw out roughly 20 million legally cast votes in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. A number of his Republican attorney general colleagues and 126 Republican members of Congress joined him, only to see their ridiculous plea swiftly rejected by the US Supreme Court.
This gambit made headlines. But beneath the hysteria, something far more remarkable happened, too. There were Republicans who said no. Leaders from Idaho, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Ohio and even Texas refused to support this case.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a former Texas attorney general himself, said he “frankly struggles to understand the legal theory of” the suit. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Gov.-elect Spencer Cox called this case “an unwise use of taxpayers’ money.” Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah referred to it as an “effort to subvert the vote of the people (that) is dangerous and destructive of the cause of democracy.”
And, in a brief filed with the Supreme Court, a group of prominent conservative lawyers and former elected officials described the Texas case as “a mockery of federalism and separation of powers.”

These leaders held true to the ocath they swore as lawyers and as public servants: to uphold the Constitution and defend the very heart of our republic.

This shouldn’t be anything special. But in this day and age, their actions are. And these leaders show us what it means to stay true to our nation’s — and their own — character. If we wish to see our values and our way of life survive beyond this unsteady interlude, we need more voices to follow in these footsteps. We need to see that level of dignity and honesty on the floor of Congress. Anything less is a betrayal of our democracy.

This is a time to step up to the plate. It’s not the first, and it won’t be the last. But it speaks to who we are — and can be — as a people.

Just think back to the origins of our modern system. When the founders concluded the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, a group of citizens standing outside saw Benjamin Franklin, the elder statesman of early America, emerge from the deliberations and asked: What sort of government would we see? What would our future hold?

To this, Franklin said simply: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Our democracy isn’t a self-fulfilling prophecy. It requires constant attention and care. And now is another moment to keep our republic intact — to sustain our magnificent experiment, led by elected representatives ready to preserve the promise of our Constitution.

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