Given the choice between respecting the wishes of the 3.45 million Pennsylvanians who cast their ballots for President-elect Joe Biden and assuaging the wounded ego of the sad little man in the White House who already knows he’s beat, Republicans who control Pennsylvania’s state Legislature have chosen the worst of all possible worlds.
Last week, House Speaker Bryan Cutler, Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, and dozens of other Pennsylvania House Republicans sent a letter to the commonwealth’s Congressional delegation urging them to reject their home state’s slate of electors when Congress meets on Jan. 6 to accept the results.
The gesture is a token one.
The Democratic-controlled U.S. House isn’t about to tamper with the results. It’s also worth noting that Tuesday was what’s known as “Safe Harbor Day,” which locks Congress into accepting the state-certified results.
The Keystone State Republicans who signed the letter could not have signaled more clearly or ostentatiously where their true loyalties lie: With a wannabe Putin who’s been dealt defeat after defeat in the courts, as his clown car of lawyers drives around the country trying to prove fraud where none has been shown to exist.
From some Republicans, this kind of cravenly partisan nonsense is expected.
The Washington Post reported that Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry plans to honor the request to oppose the state’s slate of electors. This is the same Perry, who, when twice given the chance during his re-election campaign to disavow the odious QAnon conspiracy theory and its whackjob adherents, decided the best course of action was to throw in with a pack of certifiable crazies.
You similarly expect this kind of spinelessness from the likes of Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly, who asked the U.S. Supreme Court to declare Pennsylvanian’s mail-in balloting law (you know, the one that re-elected him) unconstitutional.
Kelly asked for the entire election to be thrown out, disenfranchising millions of voters. Last week, thankfully, the high court rejected Kelly’s claim.
The same goes for state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe and the other Republicans who filed a last-minute suit in Commonwealth Court last week seeking to force Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar to withdraw their certification of the state’s election results.
On Tuesday, the Post reported that Cutler, newly re-elected the House’s presiding officer, took calls twice last week from President Donald Trump, where Trump tried to convince him to help reverse his 81,000-vote thumping by Biden.
Cutler, who’s generally a decent guy, gets some credit for telling Trump that he had no power to overturn the state’s slate of electors.
That’s the right thing to do. But Cutler’s independence gets shredded in the face of revelations about the letter he and Benninghoff sent calling for Congress to reject the electors.
In the state Senate, newly elected President Pro Tempore Jake Corman similarly has made it clear that he has no authority to overturn the election results.
But that doesn’t solve the problem of Sen. Doug Mastriano, who, when he’s not busy organizing sham super-spreader hearings, is vowing on his official Facebook page that he “will not rest until Pennsylvanians feel their voices were heard” in the election.
They were. And Biden won.
Let’s be clear, by indulging Trump’s fever dreams about the election for even a second, Pennsylvania Republicans are participating in a coup. They can dress it up however they want. But that is the inescapable conclusion.
In the month since the election, Trump has traveled the country spreading the fraud that he won. He’s doubled- and triple-downed on social media with the same fraud. He’s grifted hundreds of millions of dollars from his supporters for a “legal defense” fund that’s really being used to underwrite his future ambitions.
And once again, given the choice between standing up for democracy and saying they won’t stand for the kind of fascist behavior they’d condemn from any other leader, Pennsylvania Republicans have joined hundreds of their fellows nationwide by falling meekly into line.
The damage they’ve done to the democracy they claim to treasure will take years to undo. If we can ever undo it at all.
And that will be on them.
An award-winning political journalist, John L. Micek is Editor-in-Chief of The Pennsylvania Capital-Star in Harrisburg, Pa. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek.