To say that the entire Republican party has been complicit in outgoing President Donald Trump's undermining of the 2020 presidential election results would be a severe understatement. The GOP has become so sycophantic that simply acknowledging reality — that President-elect Joe Biden won the popular and electoral vote handedly — is considered an act of bipartisanship worthy of praise. But before praising those who have spoken out against Trump, it should be noted that behind closed doors, Republican senators are not exactly in support of Trump's ongoing legal fight.
Its been over two weeks since the election was called for Biden, and only a handful of Republican elected officials have publicly called for the Trump administration to begin the peaceful transition of power to the incoming Biden-Harris administration. The rest of the Republicans have either regurgitated Trump’s debunked claims of election fraud or have been silent. Privately, however, as many as 21 GOP Senators have “expressed their disdain for Trump,” reports journalist, CNN contributor, and author Carl Bernstein. They just refuse to do anything about it.
“I’m not violating any pledge of journalistic confidentially [sic] in reporting this: 21 Republican Sens — in convos w/ colleagues, staff members, lobbyist, W. House aids — have repeatedly expressed extreme contempt for Trump & his fitness to be POTUS,” Bernstein tweeted Sunday evening.
He then went on to name the Senators: Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE). Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) Sen. John Thune (R-SD), Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN), Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ), Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL).
While few of these senators have publicly relayed their disdain for Trump, Sen. Murkowski was among the first to congratulate Biden and Harris, saying that she is "ready to work with their administration." Sen. Sasse has also denounced Team Trump's legal battle, while Sen. Toomey stated that, "President Trump should accept the outcome of the election." A few others have merely shown their support by publicly referring to Biden as president-elect — a standard practice in the pre-Trump era.
But the fact that these senators — en masse — have mostly decided to privately condemn what they publicly condone is a representation of larger problem within the party: a desire to protect the party's power rather than hold up an oath to protect the U.S. constitution.
When Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted “If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed… and we will deserve it” in May 2016, he unknowingly predicted the destruction of an entire political party that had been decaying since the rise of the Tea Party and the racist birther movement. And in forcing a journalists to announce their contempt for Trump, any facade that allowed Republicans to label themselves the party of “rule and order” has vanished.
Now, at the risk of angering Trump supporters, Republican leadership has kowtowed to a naked Emperor — tripping over the pieces of our crumbling democracy so they can continue to compliment him on his robe. “With few exceptions, their craven public silence has helped enable Trump’s most grievous conduct-including undermining and discrediting the US the [sic] electoral system,” Bernstein tweeted.
The truth is, Republicans haven’t just enabled Trump, they’ve encouraged him. Because while Trump can't spell and looks directly at solar eclipses, he’s smart enough to know that the party he represents will not cross him. He knows that he can and will get away with anything — from letting over 250,000 Americans die to attempting a coup — and all his Republican cohorts will do is whisper their concerns. Democracy does not die in darkness — it dies in the well-lit offices of publicly elected officials who stay silent in these moments.