December 2, 2020 – We always knew Trump would contest the election results. He’s spreading wilder and wilder conspiracy theories about non-existent voter fraud. Of course, these claims haven’t held up in court because there’s zero evidence. But the integrity of thousands of people responsible for maintaining American democracy is being tested as never before.
Tragically, most Senate and House Republicans are failing the test by refusing to stand up to Trump. Their cowardice is a devastating betrayal of public trust, and will have lasting consequences.
They worry that speaking out could invite a primary challenge. But democracy depends on moral courage. These Republicans are profiles in cowardice.
Fortunately for our democracy, many lower-level Republican office-holders are passing the test.
Take, for example, Brad Raffensperger – Georgia’s Republican secretary of state who oversaw the election there and describes himself as “a Republican through and through and never voted for a Democrat.”
Raffensperger is defending Georgia’s vote for Biden, rejecting Trump’s accusations of fraud. He spurned overtures from Senator Lindsey Graham, who asked if Raffensperger could toss out all mail-in votes from counties with high rates of questionable signatures. And Raffensperger dismissed demands from Georgia’s two incumbent Republican senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, both facing tougher-than-anticipated runoffs) that he resign.
Raffensperger has also received death threats from Republican voters inflamed by Trump’s allegations. Election officials in Nevada, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Arizona are also reporting threats. But they’re not giving in to them.
Let’s not forget other public officials in the Trump administration who have stood up for democracy and against Trump – public health officials unwilling to lie about Covid-19, military leaders unwilling to back Trump’s attacks on Black Lives Matter protesters, inspectors general unwilling to cover up Trump corruption, U.S. foreign service officers unwilling to lie about Trump’s overtures to Ukraine, intelligence officials unwilling to bend their reports to suit Trump, and Justice Department attorneys refusing to participate in Trump’s obstructions of justice.
Some of them lost their jobs. Some quit. Many were demoted. A few have been threatened with violence. That’s the price they had to pay to do what’s morally right under Trump, who has no idea what it means to do what’s morally right.
The question after January 20, when Trump is gone from the White House, is how many Senate and House Republicans will find the integrity to stand up for America rather than bend to the conspiracy theories and hatefulness that will be the legacies of Trumpism.
Robert Reich’s latest book is “THE SYSTEM: Who Rigged It, How To Fix It,” out March 24.He is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written 17 other books, including the best sellers “Aftershock,””The Work of Nations,” “Beyond Outrage,” and “The Common Good.” He is a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, founder of Inequality Media, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentaries “Inequality For All,” and “Saving Capitalism,” both now streaming on Netflix.