Capitol Riot

'Our Democracy Would Enter a Death Spiral': McConnell Rebukes Electoral Challenge Minutes Before Protesters Storm Capitol

The warning came a bit too late.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.) on Wednesday sought to forcefully reject attempts to stymie certifying the 2020 election results, as some Republicans expressed that they would vote against making President-elect Joe Biden's electoral college victory official.

"The voters, the courts, and the states have all spoken. They've all spoken," McConnell said, referencing unfounded claims of voter fraud and election irregularities put forth by President Donald Trump and some of his supporters on Capitol Hill. "If we overrule them, it would damage our Republic forever."

McConnell went on to detail Democratic efforts to cast doubt on past elections, including 2004 and 2016, arguing that such efforts to overturn the will of the voters makes them no better than the Democrats they've criticized over the last several years.

Contrast that with Sen. Ted Cruz (R–Texas), who used his time on the floor to argue for a commission that evaluates alleged voter fraud. The country needs an "independent" body to study the claims, he said, omitting that court after court has rejected Trump's lawsuits, with his own judicial nominees issuing scathing rebukes. The common thread: There is no evidence behind any Republican objection.

Several Republicans joined (or planned to join) Cruz, including Rep. Paul Gosar (R–Ariz.), Rep. Jim Jordan (R–Ohio), and Sen. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.).

"Do Cruz et al. have any specific reason to believe the audits and recounts that states have conducted since the election, all of which validated Biden's victory, were deficient?" asks Reason's Jacob Sullum. "They don't say. Yet they imply that the certification of electoral votes in 'disputed states' cannot be trusted, based on allegations by the same man Cruz has said lies almost every time he opens his mouth."

Some in the GOP didn't have a chance to make their election skepticism official—including Hawley, the Trumpian populist who was the first to publicly announce he would make such claims—because pro-Trump protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol, smashing the windows and pushing past police to overtake the Senate chamber. One woman has been shot.

That occupation came after Trump asked that his supporters move to the Capitol to "show strength" and "fight" during a speech earlier Wednesday.

It should go without saying that Trump has emboldened the chaos in Washington, D.C., today. He did so directly and unapologetically. But so, too, have so many GOP leaders—those who recklessly lied to the American people about widespread election fraud, and those who made excuses for Trump's brazen immorality over these last four years.

"If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral," said McConnell today. That seems slightly prophetic at this point. If only he had found such courage before this moment—in other words, before he no longer had anything to lose.