To the Editor:
The refusal by the Supreme Court to consider Texas Attorney General Paxton’s bogus suit to void the presidential election results for four battleground states was greeted with relief by most Americans. The decision should guarantee that the validity of Joe Biden’s election will not be challenged by more baseless lawsuits. Few expect, however, that Trump will ever accept the fact that he lost the election and it is apparent that he will continue to loudly proclaim his fantasies of election fraud.
Trump’s intransigence is no surprise. Many pundits including his psychologist niece had predicted that he would never acknowledge defeat and would attempt to overturn a valid election loss. His incessant and false claims of election trickery attest to the accuracy of those predictions. His behavior resembles that of a banana republic autocrat and constitutes a direct attack on democratic election processes.
Trump’s behavior is reprehensible but as disturbing is that a majority of slavish Republican legislators on both the national and state level have supported and abetted his outlandish efforts. At the time of the Supreme Court decision, only 27 Republican congressmen had acknowledged that Biden had won the election and several publicly endorsed Trump’s unproven accusations of widespread fraud. Over 100 Republican House members supported the Texas Supreme Court suit. Several Republican state attorneys general filed amicus briefs supporting the false charges. The actions of these Republican officials attest to Trump’s dominion over the Republican party. Such slavish behavior is more characteristic of a tribe or cult than a political party in a democracy. The complicity of Republican legislators in the attempt to overturn a free and fair election is a direct attack on democratic constitutional principles and constitutes a violation of their oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. Most Republican legislators are educated individuals who are not likely deluded by conspiracy theories concerning imaginary nefarious forces at work to subvert the election. Their primary motivation is the fear of retribution if they oppose Trump. Their sycophancy is a result of a moral failure in which their access to office and power is more important than upholding constitutional standards.
Trump’s influence on Republican legislators ultimately is derived from the zealous support of his electoral base. A recent survey reports that over two-thirds of Republican voters believe Trump’s bogus claims that the election was permeated by massive fraud. Threats against election officials and calls for armed resistance confirm that many Republican supporters are less of a rational electorate than a deluded cult. Many of the Trump base are deeply mired in crackpot internet conspiracy theories such as QAnon that explain any opposition to Trump as an evil “deep state” plot. It is chilling that a large proportion of Americans lack the critical thinking to see through unsupported lies and harebrained conspiracy theories and are willing to support the overthrow of a fair and democratic election.
We can all be relieved that Biden won the election but we cannot take consolation from the fact that Trump and his sycophants continue to undermine the electoral foundations of our democracy. Early in our history, George Washington warned of the dangers of extreme factionalism among political parties. When factionalism degrades to the level of a cult, only the perceived interests of the cult are relevant. This is where the Republican Party currently seems to be, making compromise for the common good impossible. Although the Republic seems to have held firm under the Trump onslaught, the pillars of American democracy have shown themselves to be fragile. The supporters of democracy must remain vigilant.
Robert D. Russell, Ph.D.
We can’t help but think it’s kind of funny: Republicans have always claimed to be “conservative.” Conservatism used to mean hanging on to the old ways. This crew is about as conservative as…words fail us.