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AP/KXAN Austin, Texas

GOP election objection: a win-win

No downside for the Trump-craven

Jeffrey Denny

Merriam-Webster’s 2020 Word of the Year is “pandemic” for obvious reasons.

For 2021, I nominate “performative.”

Used disapprovingly, performative means “made or done for show (as to bolster one’s own image or make a positive impression on others),” Merriam-Webster says.

That’s how America began this uniquely hopeful New Year: With the most daring political performative act against America in modern history.

You know:

A group of House and Senate Republicans rejected the clear, recounted, certified and legally upheld 2020 election results and Joe Biden’s overwhelming victory. All in cowardly fealty to sore loser Donald Trump.

“YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS! YOU ARE THE PITS OF THE WORLD!” Trump, Trumpers and Trump-craven politicians screamed at Republican electors, state legislators and Trump judges like John McEnroe disputing a line call as an emotionally immature lad.

The Pyrrhic rearguard GOP effort to subvert the election is outrageous, shameless, destructive, anti-democratic … call Roget’s, we’re running out of adjectives.

But it makes perfect diabolical sense from a performative, political theater standpoint.

Challenging Biden’s win has allowed Republicans running for reelection in 2022 or eyeing the White House in 2024 to both:

1. Kiss up to Trump’s base and avoid a far-right primary opponent; and,

2. Rest easy they didn’t have anywhere near the votes to overturn the election, so no harm, no foul.

Shameless Republicans can claim with straight face they did everything the Constitution permits to “stop the steal” — and prevent the radical liberal Democrat Socialists from turning America into Venezuela — without actually tossing the election like minions of a Socialist dictator.

A “zipless political f*ck” if you will, happily satisfying needs without guilt or remorse.

Performative politics happen all the time in Congress.

You vote against a bill in committee — and put out a righteous statement boasting about standing up for constituents and America — but when it comes to the final vote you quietly approve it under lobbyist, donor or party pressure.

That’s not flip-flopping; it’s politics. Quite often it gets the job done.

In the case of Electoral College vote certification, however, the GOP’s performative politics provoked a Constitutional showdown, violence in Washington incited by the defeated president, further angry division of the country, and undermining of the new president’s ability to lead the nation and get things done for America.

Yes, only a minority of 12 Senators and 100 House members are on record challenging Biden’s win. But except for a few moderate outliers, the crickets are deafening from the majority of GOP caucus members. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other GOP Senators subjected Trump tantrums for daring to recognize Biden’s election have gone turtle.

The reason is too obvious. As Romney politely noted, “the egregious ploy to reject electors may enhance the political ambition of some.”

Many Americans might gag at such a squalid, self-serving political calculation.

But it’s pretty smart if, as a politician, you need to put yourself above country by sticking with Trump. Consider:

Most Republicans believe Trump won.

You’ve seen the Fox poll: 68 percent of Republicans believe Democrats stole the election from Trump, and 77 percent Trump voters believed him that he won.

Nearly half of Americans backed Trump.

In spite of his disastrous, disgraceful, divisive presidency and deadly mishandling of the pandemic, Trump still won 47% of the popular vote and 232 of the electoral. Over 74 million Americans wanted more Trump.

Rest assured Trump will keep riding those votes as a power broker that can bend the GOP to his will and make or break Republican candidates, and possibly set up his 2024 comeback.

Trump is like Jake from State Farm.

You get it: An insurance policy.

As the 2020 election results showed, thanks to gerrymandering and other political whatnot, red places are redder and blue bluer, and rarely the twain shall meet.

“If it feels like Republicans and Democrats are living in different worlds, it’s because they are,” the Wall Street Journal assessed. “There are few places left in America where one tribe of voters is likely to encounter the other. Predominantly white, rural areas are solid Republican; urban areas are dominated by Democrats.” The number of “landslide” counties where one candidate destroyed the other has quadrupled from 391 to 1,726 since 1980.

So, even if you’re even a decent mainstream Republican running for election or reelection in a red place, you must genuflect to Trump because your main threat is being primaried by a Trumpy right-winger attacking you for not being Trumpy enough. You know Trumpism is bad for America, but you have to secure your flank.

Morals? We don’t need to stinkin’ morals!

Obviously, Americans hate the Congress they elect like I hate pie I order from Grubhub and myself after I eat it.

Gallup public approval of Congress over the past decade has rarely surpassed 20 percent and sometimes fell below 10 percent. That’s just above approval for Covid-19. Few other beliefs unite America more than how “Congressional ethics” is a bitter oxymoron.

So, when lawmakers “vote their conscience” to “do the right thing” for “the good of the country,” they’re considered the worst liars of all. Or maybe they’re free to act on their morals because they’re not running for reelection.

“Morals” is what Republicans once craven to the “Moral Majority” used to accuse Democrats of lacking because they supported same-sex marriage.

Ask Senator Romney how his morally standing up and standing out as the one honest Republican that Aeschylus’s lantern might find on Capitol Hill is working out.

If you want to see a pious, God-fearing Christian depicted as Satan’s evil twin, check out the right-wing media, websites, message boards and Facebook comments — heck, Trump’s Twitter feed — after Romney supported Trump’s impeachment and recently castigated fellow Republicans for trying to subvert the 2020 election.

Many of the ugliest comments about Romney’s speaking truth from his soul are from God-fearing Christians who seem to love Trump more than Jesus.

Actual patriotic Republicans sworn to the Constitution and others legally liable for lies — vote counters, electors, state legislators, respectable lawyers, judges, justices — have been doing the right thing (lest they be punished). As opposed to the shamelessly performative political Republicans and their smarmy handmaidens from the law firm of Giuliani, Dewey, Cheatham and Howe.

Yet lump me not among political cynics.

In spite of the GOP’s Trump performance art, I believe this too shall pass.

I trust what Winston Churchill did or didn’t say about America: We will do the right thing after exhausting all the alternatives.

Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer.

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