Monday, October 04, 2021


"Reform conservative" Ramesh Ponnuru tells us at Bloomberg Opinion that we're all being a wee bit hysterical about this preserving-democracy thing. Ponnuru cites Robert Kagan's recent Washington Post essay about the 2020 coup attempt and the risks for 2024.
Kagan speaks for many in saying that “Trump came close to bringing off a coup earlier this year.”

It ought to be possible to be alarmed by Trump’s conduct, and the number of Republicans who have indulged it, without such overstatement.

... Vice President Mike Pence rejected the lawless course that Trump and his associates were pushing: that he should throw out the electors from seven states that went for Biden.

It would have been another blow to the health of the American political culture if he had gone along. But even in that case, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi would have presumably called an end to the farce by suspending the joint session of Congress. Trump would not have stayed in power after Jan. 20.
So Ponnuru believes that, with rioters outside and inside the Capitol Building, there wouldn't been the slightest bit of risk if the vice president of the United States had validated their deepest suspicions, and endorsed one of their preferred remedies, by declaring that the process of overturning the election results should begin? Ponnuru thinks that the demonstrators would have been mollified because the Speaker of the House -- a person every Republican voter in America hates -- stepped in to prevent the vice president from doing what all the demonstrators regarded as his constitutional duty? Ponnuru really believes that would have gone smoothly?

Ponnuru also doesn't believe we need a whole lot of fancy new laws to protect democracy -- just a tweak or two here and there.
... Kagan recently made the case for a coalition including Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans that would cooperate on pro-democracy measures...

While giving credit to Republican Senators Mitt Romney of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska for voting to convict Trump after impeachment for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, he faults them for not having shown any interest in this project....

To the extent that Trump’s post-election campaign compels any policy response at all, it is a reform of the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which contains confusions and imperfections that an unscrupulous and nimble political leader could exploit. It should, for example, be amended so that it takes more than one senator to force a vote on an objection to a state’s electors. The bar for Congress to throw out a state’s electors should also be raised.

But Democrats have not been pushing for this kind of narrow reform. It is not included in either of the main “voting rights” bills that Congress has taken up. It’s hard to fault Sasse and Romney for “balking,” as Kagan puts it, at legislation they have not even been asked to support.
I'm sorry the Democrats haven't included reform of this act in their election bills. But what prevents Romney and Sasse from introducing legislation to reform the act themselves? They're supposed to be independent, sometimes contrarian Republicans; their brand is that they'll put country ahead of party. So what prevents them from deciding to lead this fight? I mean, apart from the fact that they don't want to do it and their fellow Republicans would filibuster any attempt to do it? If we maintain the belief that some Republicans aren't partisan hacks, why do we simply accept the fact that no Republican, even "the good ones," will ever take the initiative this way?

Kagan is right to be afraid. Ponnuru is wrong to be dismissive. And if a constitutional crisis happens, Ponnuru will pay no penalty for being wrong.

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