New study finds one-third of Congress is now iffy on democracy

If your doctor diagnoses you with cancer, and then in the next breath tells you it’s nothing to worry about because eventually the cancer will get tired of making new cells and decide to leave on its own, you should probably get a new doctor. Because if Donald Trump is elected president again, that doctor will be appointed head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and he’ll no longer have time for you anyway.

But—also!—cancer is bad, and expecting it to leave on its own is perhaps the most fatuous thing one can do as a human, apart from making a guy who thinks Hitler did “a lot of good things” president—again.

And yet here we are. Three and a half years removed from President Joe Biden’s victory in a free and fair election, and our country and Congress are riddled with cancer. And there’s a nonzero chance the patient—the world’s preeminent democracy—will die. 

That’s by no means a foregone conclusion, of course, but as with actual cancer, the patient is getting sicker by the day, and lots of people who know better are just standing around watching it happen. Shockingly, these people now include roughly one-third of our Congress.

As The Associated Press reports:

As Trump makes a comeback bid to return to power, Republicans in Congress have become even more likely to cast doubts on Biden’s victory or deny it was legitimate, a political turnaround that allows his false claims of fraud to linger and lays the groundwork to potentially challenge the results in 2024.

A new report released Tuesday by States United Action, a group that tracks election deniers, said nearly one-third of the lawmakers in Congress supported in some way Trump’s bid to overturn the 2020 results or otherwise cast doubt on the reliability of elections. Several more are hoping to join them, running for election this year to the House and Senate.

More specifically, States United Action found that 170 representatives and senators of the total 535 Congress members are election deniers of some kind. Meanwhile, the group determined that two new Senate candidates and 17 new House candidates fall into the same category. And the situation is even more dire if you look at the Republican National Committee, which is now in the clutches of Trump lackeys: Lara Trump, Trump’s daughter-in-law, and prominent election denier Michael Whatley. (In fact, the RNC is now explicitly asking job candidates if they believe the 2020 election was stolen. What do you suppose happens if they say no?)

While boiling frog syndrome certainly applies here—we’ve gotten so used to election denial from these scoundrels it barely registers anymore—we’re actually a bit more like humans sitting in a hot tub inhaling psychedelic toad venom like it’s strawberry Fun Dip. Because I don’t know about you, but to me the past three years feel more like a hallucination than history—though, unlike congressional Republicans, we don’t have the luxury of denying reality.

As the AP points out, it’s particularly concerning that Congress members, of all people, are abandoning democracy, considering their traditional role in upholding it: 

The issue is particularly stark for Congress given its constitutional role as the final arbiter of the validity of a presidential election. It counts the results from the Electoral College, as it set out to do on Jan. 6, 2021, a date now etched in history because of the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

Of course, as we all know, the clear threat Trump poses to democracy and the rule of law could have been dealt with immediately after Trump had exhausted his legal remedies for challenging the election results. In a healthy, well-functioning democracy, members of both major parties would have stood arm in arm in opposition to Trump’s outrageous attacks on the election. Republicans in Congress would have denounced Trump’s baseless claims from the outset, making it abundantly clear that he was not just lying but corroding the very foundations of our country.

Instead, we got Republican officials spewing nonsense like, “What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time? No one seriously thinks the results will change. He went golfing this weekend. It’s not like he’s plotting how to prevent Joe Biden from taking power on Jan. 20. He’s tweeting about filing some lawsuits, those lawsuits will fail, then he’ll tweet some more about how the election was stolen, and then he’ll leave.”

Ah, the classics.

Of course, scores of Republicans who might have been appalled or felt chastened by Trump’s brazen coup attempt are now basking in the beatific glow of Trump’s gooey orange id. In fact, for roughly half of Congress, fascism has become tres chic

This is exactly why you cut the cancer out as soon as it’s identified. Because if you don’t, you could sprout a tumor that looks unnervingly like J.D. Vance.

Perhaps reasoning that it’s better to be vice president than sew hair onto Trumpy Bears in a work camp for 18 hours a day, Republican vice president hopefuls are now auditioning for the role by telling the feral leader of a cult of personality exactly what he wants to hear.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is the latest Republican to telegraph his intention to embrace Trump’s bullshit if and when the ocher abomination face-plants in November. On Sunday, he told Kristen Welker of “Meet the Press” that he wouldn’t commit to accepting the results of the 2024 election, because they could end up being “unfair.” 

Hmm, what are the chances Trump will decide the election was stolen if he loses: 100% or 110%?

Rubio joins other vice president hopefuls whose election denialism has been especially vociferous. They include Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, who in January refused to commit to certifying the 2024 election results if they went against Trump; Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, who, when asked if he would accept the 2024 election results, said, “At the end of the day, the 47th president of the United States will be President Donald Trump”; and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who has refused to acknowledge that former Vice President Mike Pence did the right thing in certifying the 2024 election. (Come on now, Governor! That dog won’t hunt. And not just because you repeatedly shot it in the face.)

Of course, it’s telling how defensive they all get when asked these questions, almost as if they know they’re doing the devil’s work.

Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky knew when he excoriated Trump over his actions on Jan. 6 but refused to back a conviction in his impeachment. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina knew when he said “count me out, enough is enough” in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s bumbling coup. Former Attorney General Bill Barr knew when he determined Trump was making up stories about the 2020 election to justify a government takeover.

And yet all three of these self-proclaimed patriots have endorsed this cancer’s return to Washington. Then again, Trump is a wildly charismatic, larger-than-life character with a smile that can light up a roomful of tiki torches.

Of course, anyone with three minutes to spare can quickly determine that Trump had always planned to claim the election was stolen if he lost. In fact, Axios reported that in the days before the election.

Behind the scenes: Trump has privately talked through this scenario in some detail in the last few weeks, describing plans to walk up to a podium on election night and declare he has won.

  • For this to happen, his allies expect he would need to either win or have commanding leads in Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Iowa, Arizona, and Georgia.

Why it matters: Trump’s team is preparing to falsely claim that mail-in ballots counted after Nov. 3—a legitimate count expected to favor Democrats—are evidence of election fraud.

Meanwhile, not a shred of credible evidence has ever surfaced to suggest the election was stolen on Biden’s behalf. Though we’ve seen lots of absurd and completely discredited “evidence”—evidence that has so far cost Fox News $787 million and Rudy “Just Say We Won” Giuliani $148 million. That should have definitely proved to all of these independent thinkers that Trump was systematically undermining global democracy so he wouldn’t feel like the colossal loser he actually is.

In other words, enough is enough. 

We were right to be alarmed by Trump’s rhetoric, and those who thought it was okay to “humor” Trump, or to fail to hold him accountable after Jan. 6 (thanks, Mitch), were disastrously wrong. If we get through this fraught period in our history, we need to repair our faith and trust in democracy, which includes calling out fascist rhetoric wherever we see it. Because this slippery dope has already brought us dangerously close to the brink.

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