Republican officials who backed Donald Trump’s right to contest the election results in court remained silent as Trump tried to engineer a coup by pressuring state Republicans to ignore the voting results and pick their own electors.
Some of them may actually be rooting for a coup, but most of them have remained silent because they fear the wrath of Trump’s supporters if they waver in their support. There’s nothing like the fear of losing an election to get a politician to tow the line.
The public support includes even those who privately despise the president. Carl Bernstein recently named 21 Republican senators who he claimed “repeatedly expressed extreme contempt for Trump.”
“With few exceptions their craven public silence helped enable Trump’s most grievous conduct—including undermining and discrediting the U.S. electoral system,” Bernstein wrote.
Meanwhile in deep blue California, the state’s few elected GOP office holders have either expressed support for the president’s efforts or dodged the media when asked to comment.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House’s minority leader, refuses to accept Trump’s defeat, and state Senator Shannon Grove, the state Senate majority leader, has tweeted images comparing Trump to Moses fighting a battle, saying she believes the president will serve for “the next 4 years.”
Nevada County’s two representatives in Sacramento—Senator Brian Dahle and his wife, Assemblywoman Megan Dahle—have remained silent on the subject, but our two congressman have not been reticent.
Rep. Tom McClintock, whose fourth congressional district includes the Truckee area, has taken aim at mail-in voting, claiming without evidence that it is a “corrupt process” that allows ballots to be sent to “untold numbers of people who have moved or died.”
The county’s other congressman, Rep. Doug LaMalfa, was just one of two nearly two dozen officials contacted by the Los Angeles Times who was willing to comment on the issue.
LaMalfa, a reliable foot soldier for Trump over the last four years, backed the president’s claim of massive fraud in the election process. Like Trump, he has no evidence to support the claim, but is convinced it exists.
“The circumstances surround the Presidential election point to a fraudulent outcome,” LaMalfa tweeted recently. “The reports we’ve seen of non-residents, deceased voters, potential mail fraud, and partisan poll watching are deeply concerning and must be challenged.”
But when it comes to the results of his election, LaMalfa is confident the vote count was accurate and lacked fraud. When asked the question by a reporter for the Redding Record Searchlight, he became rather testy:
“You guys keep asking that, OK. That’s crap, alright. That’s just a game you’re playing, I don’t appreciate it. I don’t think our 11 counties in this district have an integrity problem, so the answer is ‘No.’”
Given LaMalfa’s track record, you can believe his support for Trump. For other Republicans who despise Trump or who don’t back him, maintaining solidarity with the president in public is a matter of political survival.
“They have flocked together in their cowardice in the House and Senate for the past three or four years, so the fact that they remain in formation isn’t surprising,” Reed Galen, a co-founder of the Lincoln Project who worked on the George W. Bush and John McCain campaigns, told the Times.
“There is no small amount of self preservation,” he continued. “Do they really want to come out and say something against Trump, or come out and tell the truth, and risk the ire of Trump, or Trump Jr…”
But the refusal to accept the election results—a position that will influence millions of Trump acolytes—could set a bad precedent for the country. The allegations of widespread voter fraud with virtually no evidence undermine public confidence and could set the stage for a further erosion of democratic norms.
“You never see a breakdown in democracy without a good bit of spineless semi-loyal behavior on the part of actors who ought to know better,” said Larry Diamond, who specializes in the study of democracy and is a senior fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution.
As Trump’s allegations keep getting rejected by state and federal courts and his path to reelection disappears, LaMalfa is ready to move on regardless of the results. As he put it in his usual elegant manner: “Our side doesn’t tend to burn down freakin’ buildings like the others do when the slightest thing goes wrong.”
He didn’t say anything about armed militias.