Who Will Be Inaugurated?

Just because the theaters are closed doesn’t mean that we lack for drama. Our quivering reaction to the latest Chinese import may have shuttered Broadway, just as it has emptied restaurants and city streets—unless, of course, you are a member of the nomenklatura—but there is still plenty of excitement to be had in the unfolding entertainment of our political life, especially in the final episodes of what we might call “West Wing II—or Who Will Get to Write 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as His Return Address Come January 20?” 

On Saturday, a group of 11 Republican Senators—including Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and Mike Braun (R-Ind.)—joined Josh Hawley of Missouri in declaring they will vote against the electors on offer in several disputed states at the joint session of Congress on January 6. At last count, at least 140 GOP representatives plan to vote against the slate of Democratic electors in those states as well. 

In my view, this is as it should be, and not just because Republicans are now giving Democrats a taste of their own medicine. 

Remember how the Democrats went wild in 2004 when George W. Bush won the election? Remember what they have been doing to Donald Trump since before he was inaugurated in 2016? (See this handy round up and here.) Spare me the lectures about “civility,” “the peaceful transfer of power,” and the general awfulness of Donald Trump. Turnabout is fair play, especially in a game when letting things go means ensuring more of the bad treatment you just endured. If anyone has it coming, it is the Democrats—and they deserve to get it good and hard. 

But that is not the only reason I applaud the decision of those stalwart Republicans to vote against the slate of Biden electors in those disputed states. There is also a matter of principle. In a statement released Saturday afternoon, the 11 senators joining  Hawley clearly outlined the situation. 

“America is a Republic whose leaders are chosen in democratic elections,” they wrote. “Those elections, in turn, must comply with the Constitution and with federal and state law.”

Who could disagree? Moreover, is there anyone who would take issue with their further observation that “when the voters fairly decide an election, pursuant to the rule of law, the losing candidate should acknowledge and respect the legitimacy of that election”? “Hear, hear,” I say. And I’d be happy to emblazon the next bit on a placard and walk around the Capitol waving it: “if the voters choose to elect a new office-holder, our Nation should have a peaceful transfer of power.” 

But here’s the rub. Was the presidential election in those disputed states conducted in accordance with “the Constitution and with federal and state law”? Did “the voters fairly decide” the election? 

I think there are serious questions about both. 

As Mark Levin, among others, has pointed out, serious questions surround whether the disputed states followed the Constitution or even their own laws in the way they changed the election rules in the run-up to the 2020 election. If they didn’t, are their elections legitimate? And what about all the other anomalies, statistical and otherwise? 

Bottom line, according to the senators’ statement: “The 2020 election . . . featured unprecedented allegations of voter fraud, violations, and lax enforcement of election law, and other voting irregularities.” Indeed, the allegations of fraud “exceed any in our lifetime.” They noted further that various courts, including the Supreme Court, had nonetheless refused to hear and consider the evidence of voter fraud.

The senators are asking for an emergency audit of election returns in the disputed states. Will that happen? And even if it does, would it make any difference?

President Trump has promised to reveal evidence of massive voter fraud in just a couple of days, January 6, when rallies supporting him are scheduled around the country. “Massive amounts of evidence will be presented on the 6th,” he tweeted. “We won, BIG!”

At this point, two months after the election, one may be forgiven for feeling a little jaded. Krakens have been promised. To date, they have failed to materialize. 

Nevertheless, I think the GOP initiative is very much worth pursuing. In a sober essay at Power Line, John Hinderaker asks the key question: “How much voter fraud was there?” Answer: A lot, probably. The qualifier is necessary because, as Hinderaker notes, most of the evidence is “circumstantial.” 

This is not to say that it is unconvincing. Far from it. Hinderaker cites an imposing study by the political scientist John Lott, who argues that “vote fraud may account for Biden’s win” in Georgia and Pennsylvania, as well as in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, and Wisconsin. I think Lott’s analysis is compelling. Will it, even if upheld, make any difference? 

Hinderaker seems convinced by Lott’s analysis, too, but concludes there is “no way” that such arguments “will result in the election being overturned.” 

“At this point,” he says, “even if Republicans were able to show how, and by whom, fraud was perpetrated in various states, which likely would require confessions from Democratic operatives, it is too late to prevent Biden’s inauguration.”

He is probably right. But if he is, there is no doubt that Joe Biden would enter office “under a cloud of uncertainty.” The truth is that “close to half of the country doubts that he actually won the election.” That may be understating things.

As I say, I believe that Hinderaker is basically correct in his observations. My one hesitation concerns his categorical statement that there is “no way” that the election might be overturned. The chances, I agree, are slender to the point of anorexia. But I remember a wise observation by R. Psmith in P. G. Wodehouse’s treatise Leave It To Psmith. “In this life,” that incomparable bon vivant observed, “we must always distinguish between the Unlikely and the Impossible.” 

It is doubtful that Joe Biden will not be inaugurated on January 20, however illegitimate his victory was. Nevertheless, what is unlikely is not, for all that, impossible, an observation I make not to impart false hope but merely to register an admonitory caution.

[Updated January 3, 8:07 ET]

About Roger Kimball

Roger Kimball is editor and publisher of The New Criterion and the president and publisher of Encounter Books. He is the author and editor of many books, including The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia (St. Augustine's Press), The Rape of the Masters (Encounter), Lives of the Mind: The Use and Abuse of Intelligence from Hegel to Wodehouse (Ivan R. Dee), and Art's Prospect: The Challenge of Tradition in an Age of Celebrity (Ivan R. Dee).

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

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