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Staff file photo by C.B. Schmelter / Rep. Chuck Fleischmann looks on as officials make remarks in 2019 at the Volkswagen Assembly Plant in Chattanooga. Fleischmann has said he will object to the Electoral College certification of Joe Biden on Wednesday.

When both houses of Congress come together on Wednesday to certify the electoral votes for the new president-elect, the normally routine meeting may resonate with the turmoil of the presidential campaign. That's because as of this week, 12 Republican senators and an unknown number of House members plan to vote against certifying President-elect Joe Biden's electoral victory.

One obvious response: Who is surprised?

Among the 12 senators expected to cast anti-democratic votes are Tennessee's Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty. Four GOP House members from our state, including Chuck Fleischmann and Scott DesJarlais, are likely to be among the House naysayers.

Most Tennesseans have pretty much gotten used to the willingness of those obedient servants' fealty to the president.

That dedication usually manifests itself in congressional votes on legislation. But Wednesday's certification vote is significantly different. This time, their loyalty to Trump will force them to demonstrate their contempt for the democratic norms that have made America an exemplar of good governance for more than two centuries.

Reading TFP reporter Andy Sher's Sunday article on Blackburn and Hagerty prompted the uneasy thought that they may have made that decision without having fully contemplated potential pitfalls.

Cue the president of the United States.

President Trump's hour-long taped conversation on Saturday with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has ratcheted up the stakes for those who have signed up to cast anti-certification votes that will not stop bipartisan approval.

The conversation initiated by President Trump was weirdly reminiscent of the taping system in the White House that captured President Nixon's angry and at times desperate effort to avoid the consequences of his role in the Watergate scandal. In both cases the presidents were abusing the power of their office, a corrupt act.

In a significant Republican response, former Speaker Paul Ryan called Trump's phone call the most "anti-democratic and anti-conservative act" he could think of, according to The New York Times.

Whether the Trump telephone call will prompt anti-certification Republicans to abandon their quixotic mission is by now irrelevant. Biden is the president-elect, per the electoral votes, and the protesters have already acknowledged their "not my vote" stunt is likely a fool's errand.

Besides, the statement by Blackburn and Hagerty seems inadequate given its reference to the election's "tainted electoral results," unaccompanied by an explanation. Similarly, Fleischmann's flimsy statement pledged his support for House and Senate colleagues' effort to "cast light" on concerns about the integrity of the election, whatever that means.

One should not have to argue for something so obvious, but a congressional delegation is supposed to respect the votes of other states' citizens, the better to jointly protect our democracy.

That's a problem with "nay" votes on certifying Biden's victory, since as disciples in the Trump cult of personality they are setting a bad example for their own constituents.

Trump's unwillingness, even an inability, to face the reality of his loss is his problem, not Blackburn's, Hagerty's or Fleischmann's. The ETA of that loss at the White House is about two weeks off but with foresight they could have avoided the self-inflicted wound to their reputations.

It would be helpful if they resolve to make peace with their colleagues across the aisle (Democrats must do the same), and compromise on legislation to help the millions of Americans who've endured nearly a year of lost jobs, the coronavirus deaths of friends and family and the terror of an upended economy.

It won't be long before they'll be able to do the people's work in peace without worrying about a Twitter storm from That Guy.

Michael Loftin is a former editorial page editor at The Chattanooga Times.

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Michael Loftin

 

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