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With apologies to Mark Twain, reports about the death of Trumpism are premature. At least for a few days more, Donald Trump has license to keep upsetting apple carts in Washington.
Just when it seemed the president was roadkill and about to be abandoned by his own party, growing numbers of GOP members of Congress are signing on to a last-ditch effort to challenge the election results. Because success in any state would require a majority of both houses to vote no, the objectors are virtually certain to fail.
Yet the swelling ranks of supporters in both chambers signals that it’s still Trump’s party and that enough of his 74.2 million voters are sticking with him that the pols have concluded it’s not politically healthy to go against him.
Most important, the challengers have more than enough clout to force debates on each state they dispute, and to require every member of Congress to vote yes or no on whether to accept the results as reported.
The development will turn what is normally a routine procedural step into a heated battle and marks a major victory of sorts for Trump. It follows weeks where the president and his legal team got almost no traction among elected officials for their claims of widespread voter fraud, largely because court after court dismissed their filings. Claims by lawyer Sidney Powell alleging an international conspiracy involving voting machines drew widespread scorn.
Suffering from Trump fatigue and eager to focus on the future, most Republicans simply wished the president would go away quietly. Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell congratulated Joe Biden on his victory and urged GOP senators to accept the election results, scheduled for final certification on Wednesday.
But in recent days, more and more House members said they would object to a tally showing Biden getting 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232. Reports say up to 140 of the 211 GOP members would vote no on the grounds that results in some states are not trustworthy.
Until Saturday, just one senator, Josh Hawley of Missouri, said he would join them, arguing that some states, such as Pennsylvania, had improperly changed or not followed their election laws, a move that would force both houses to conduct the debate and vote.
Suddenly, however, nearly a dozen other senators, some just elected, issued a Saturday statement saying they, too, would vote no. Led by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, they demanded that Congress appoint an electoral commission to conduct a 10-day emergency audit of states where Trump has charged there were sweeping instances of fraud.
They cite as precedent the 1876 election between Democrat Samuel Tilden and Republican Rutherford Hayes, where the electoral votes in four states were in dispute amid a flurry of charges of cheating.
“Congress did not ignore those allegations, nor did the media simply dismiss those raising them as radicals trying to undermine democracy,” the lawmakers said in their statement. “Instead, Congress appointed an electoral commission — consisting of five senators, five House members, and five Supreme Court justices — to consider and resolve the disputed returns.”
“We should follow that precedent,” the GOP senators added. Hayes was eventually declared the victor by a single electoral vote in a deal involving the withdrawal of federal troops from Southern states during Reconstruction, and a decade later Congress passed the Electoral Count Act, which lays out the certification process.
The most immediate impact of the sudden shift of support for the president could be felt in Georgia, where voting will close Tuesday for the two Senate runoff elections.
Trump and Biden will hold dueling rallies in the Peach State Monday, and if Democrats win both seats, they will flip the Senate and gain control of Congress and the White House.
The implications of one-party rule are enormous, especially given the growing ranks of socialist-leaning Dems. As Trump has acknowledged, his America First agenda would be a dead letter.
Whatever the results, Trump will get the blame or credit. While a Dem victory would be reasonably charged to recent chaos he has created, the sudden embrace of his quest by Republican lawmakers could produce last-minute momentum that leads to a GOP victory in Georgia. In that case, he would be leaving the party the Senate power to block much of Biden’s agenda, and preserve his own legacy.
So far, however, there is concern among many in the GOP that his attacks on the integrity and competence of Georgia’s Republican governor and secretary of state might lead many of his supporters to stay home Tuesday. On Friday, he inexplicably tweeted that both runoffs are “illegal and invalid.”
Moreover, the president’s initial support and then criticism of the COVID stimulus package as a “disgrace” is giving Dems ammunition to portray McConnell as an obstructionist for blocking direct votes on the $2,000-per-person checks that Trump suddenly embraced. Dems point to the episode as a reason why they should control the Senate.
If that weren’t enough, hovering in the background is the question of how Trump leaves the Oval Office. I have never doubted he would do so voluntarily, and the fact that he and Melania are searching in Florida for a home and a school for their son illustrates he has privately accepted the reality of a Biden presidency, even as he rails against the results and exercises every possible right to contest them.
By convincing many Republicans to object to the certification, he has extended those rights to Wednesday. As president, it is his last stand.
So long to a beloved PR legend
New York lost one of its longest and most dedicated boosters with the passing of Howard Rubenstein, who was 88. I counted him a friend and always admired his conciliatory way of preventing any disagreement with anyone from becoming disagreeable.
Yet the most notable feature of the coverage of his death is that many other journalists also trusted the top public-relations executive. This is like dogs praising a cat.
The reason is simple: Rubenstein earned that trust. The essence of his approach to his clients, from George Steinbrenner to politicians to Leona Helmsley, was that lying to the public was indefensible.
A plaque on his desk summed up his thinking: “If you always tell the truth, you don’t have to remember what you said.”
He lived by those words. May he rest in peace.
Here’s how to needle the left
Reader Thomas Meehan has an idea, writing: “It’s the ‘Trump Vaccine,’ and the media should call it that every time it’s mentioned. If you do, it will be remembered as the ‘Trump Vaccine,’ and that will make it especially annoying forever to those on the left.”
Heckuva job, Mayor de Blasio.
From The Post: “So many bullets flew in the Big Apple in 2020 that the number of shootings and gun victims matched the total for the two prior years combined.”