As reports of today’s select committee hearing are starting to roll in (from The NY Times, The Washington Post, Politico, The Hill, and elsewhere), I’m struck by the fact that the ongoing threat to democracy is not diminished by Trump no longer being an incumbent president. While there’s the issue of executive privilege, which Biden’s DOJ reportedly has waived, and although the idea of an incumbent president attempting to secure a second term contrary to the will of the voters is especially obnoxious to self-government, the danger posed by The Big Lie (and what I call “electoral McCarthyism”) does not depend on holding onto Article II power.
Instead, as I mentioned in an earlier post, the biggest risk that Trump starts a second term on January 20, 2025, as a consequence of his being awarded electoral college votes that he did not win as a result of the popular vote in the relevant states, is from members of Congress being willing to declare him the winner even though he actually lost, in a second–and this time successful–version of the Big Lie. In this respect, while it’s good that Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger are part of the select committee, what will be the enduring significance of the fact that they are the only two Republicans (and serving in defiance of their own party’s leadership)? If the rest of the GOP is willing to defy the reality of election returns, because it is enthralled in the “electoral McCarthyism” of Trump’s insistence that he wins elections regardless of the evidence, and if these Republicans control Congress on January 6, 2025, what’s to protect the will of the electorate then? Is there a plan, either through the work of the select committee or otherwise, to confront this problem?