What can we expect from Pa.'s new House Freedom Caucus?

EDITORIAL: Work hard on election protections

York Dispatch editorial board
President Donald Trump arrives at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Ga., before heading to speak at a campaign rally for Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., and Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., at Dalton Regional Airport, Monday, Jan. 4, 2021, in Dalton, Ga. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

For a party whose leader often uses Twitter to send out the message “LAW & ORDER” — albeit absent any discernable context — the GOP is replete with elected officials who demonstrate reverence for neither when it comes to the 2020 presidential election.

A startling number of congressional Republicans are setting aside the results of a lawful election in an effort to sow disorder when Congress meets on Jan. 6 to formally count and certify the Electoral College results. (The vice president oversees this process, which is normally an uneventful — even mundane — formality. Not this year.)

Despite President-elect Joe Biden’s overwhelming popular-vote and Electoral College victories in an election that even Trump administration officials have called “the most secure in American history,” the past week has seen:

  • Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas sue Vice President Michael Pence in an effort to force him to illegally declare Trump the winner during the Jan. 6 certification.
  • Eight of Pennsylvania’s nine Republican congressional representatives — including regional disappointments Scott Perry and Lloyd Smucker — announce they will oppose certification of their own state’s electors.
  • Eleven Republican senators say they will follow the lead of Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri in objecting to the certification.
  • An estimated 140 House Republicans expected to likewise oppose counting the electoral ballots.
  • President Donald Trump spend more than an hour on the phone brow-beating Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger into magically “finding” enough votes to hand the state to Trump.
A coalition of senators and senators-elect have pledged to reject the results.

Trump’s weekend phone call — recorded and made public after the president mischaracterized the conversation on Twitter — is egregious even by Trump’s nearly nonexistent standards. The likely illegal request echoed the president’s impeachment-triggering conversation with Ukraine’s president in 2019, in which he similarly requested “a favor.” Carl Bernstein, whose reporting contributed to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974, condemned the Georgia call as “far worse than Watergate.”

More:Perry, Smucker plan to object to Electoral College certification

More:Rep. Scott Perry backed failed lawsuit seeking to overturn Trump's Pa. loss

More:EDITORIAL: Pa.'s GOP: Pro-Trump, anti voting

It was. And it has been but a small piece of a puzzling effort to overturn an election that was nowhere near competitive. Biden’s victory margins of 7 million ballots and 74 electoral votes have been certified in all 50 states. Legal challenges to these results have been overwhelmingly rejected, including by the conservative-majority Supreme Court.

Yet Trump has refused to acknowledge reality, instead spewing baseless allegations and conspiracy theories echoed by a clown car full of attorneys and craven politicians hoping to insinuate themselves with the president’s rabid base.

Some in the Republican party — although far too few — have stood up forcefully against these ongoing, antidemocratic efforts.

“A fundamental, defining feature of a democratic republic is the right of the people to elect their own leaders,” stated Pennsylvania’s Sen. Pat Toomey. “The effort by Senators Hawley, (Ted) Cruz, and others to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in swing states like Pennsylvania directly undermines this right.”

But the numbers of Republicans willing to dismiss the clear will of the American people in a partisan power grab — well over half the party’s congressional representatives, nearly a quarter of its senators, untold numbers of state-level officials and millions of enrolled voters — is, frankly, frightening.

What if the Electoral College difference were not four of five states but just one? And what if the person in charge of certifying the results in that state were not Brad Raffensperger but Scott Perry? The nation is that close to having its bedrock principle of free and fair elections undermined.

That these antidemocratic efforts will fail this year is cold comfort. Absent immediate action, there will be a next time. Congress needs to move quickly and decisively to put stronger guardrails in place to prevent blatant, partisan efforts to subvert national elections in the future.