It’s been a very long and weird week since Joe Biden won Pennsylvania and its 20 Electoral College votes, making him the projected winner of the White House and the president-elect of the United States.
Since then, President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has filed a blizzard of lawsuits entirely devoid of evidence, including one seeking to block the certification of election results. Trump himself has unloaded a barrage of falsehoods and misinformation on his Twitter feed - none of which will be repeated here.
So it only makes sense that Trump is moving to his next line of defense, Republican-controlled state Legislatures, including battleground Pennsylvania, where the Electoral College will meet in December to vote on a slate of electors.
Last Saturday, newly re-elected Pennsylvania state Sen. Mike Regan seemed to give the game away during a massive pro-Trump rally behind the Pennsylvania Capitol. There, the Republican told a largely maskless and very angry crowd that “I’ve been told, in no uncertain terms by the state party, by our leadership, that they are coordinating with the Trump campaign.”
Regan continued, saying that “so far, Pennsylvania has done everything the Trump campaign has asked them to do. So we are working hard to make sure that this is fair and free. Look, no one wants a president that is disregarded by 50 percent of the population. It is so important that we have every legal vote counted.”
Which is nonsense on its face. But it did not prevent the MAGA faithful from eating it up.
Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, a Republican as well, says that he has not spoken with Trump’s re-election campaign. Still, House Republicans have asserted that they’ve been deluged with calls about alleged improprieties.
This is where I’ll pause to note that, so far, no credible evidence of fraud has been found anywhere. Even Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, a frequent Trump loyalist, has said that Trump’s assertions of “large-scale fraud and theft of the election are just not substantiated.”
Meanwhile, as the investigative news site Spotlight PA reported last week, Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, a Republican, claimed during a Fox News interview that Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration was trying to “tip the scales in favor of Joe Biden,” even as he conceded that he doesn’t “have any evidence of misdoing.”
Corman had previously pushed back against a blockbuster story in The Atlantic in September, suggesting that GOP-controlled legislatures might install their own slate of electors, undoing the will of voters.
That’s illegal under current state law. Though it’s fair to note laws can be changed, whether the Legislature would try something that transparently brazen is another matter entirely. Wolf would almost certainly veto it in any event.
On Tuesday, House Speaker Bryan Cutler put veteran Republican state Rep. Seth Grove, in charge of a wide-ranging review of state election law. That action came as a cadre of House Republicans held a reality-beggaring press conference, where they called for a legislative-led audit of the election results to determine whether the election was “fairly and lawfully conducted.”
Republicans in Pennsylvania’s state Senate got in on the act on Wednesday, announcing that they, too, were launching their own review as a “as a way to restore trust in the vote,” they said in a statement.
Wanda Murren, a spokeswoman for the Department of State, which oversees elections in Pennsylvania, told PennLive that the election was “free, fair and secure.”
“Millions of Pennsylvanians followed the rules allowed by the [U.S. Supreme Court] and each voter, regardless of political party, must have their voice heard,” Murren said. “Allegations of fraud and illegal activity have been repeatedly debunked and dismissed by the courts. Those attacks against the core values of Americans are intended to undermine our democracy, and we must reject them.”
With his refusal to concede, and to allow Biden access to the resources he needs to pursue his transition, Trump is taking another sledgehammer to our Democratic norms. Pennsylvania Republicans, who so often wrap themselves in the cloak of the Constitution, are abetting that effort. And it’s shameful.
The birthplace of American democracy deserves far, far better.
An award-winning political journalist, John L. Micek is Editor-in-Chief of The Pennsylvania Capital-Star in Harrisburg, Pa. Email him email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek.