As of Sunday, nearly all of the Republicans opposing the official January 6th challenge to Electoral College certification were the ones you would expect: Susan Collins, Adam Kinzinger, Ben Sasse, Mitt Romney, etc. The Republicans who have fought “Trumpism” tooth and nail from the moment the president assumed office (and before). If Trump were to suddenly turn around and demand that Congress certify the results of the election, these Republicans would find a way to oppose it. They are as predictable as they are pathetic.
But on Sunday night, a surprising name joined their ranks. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who has actually been one of the president’s strongest Senate supporters over the last four years, announced that he is officially opposing a challenge to the Electoral College results, insisting that it would create a dangerous precedent that the Democrats could use to destroy the integrity of our elections.
“I share the concerns of many Arkansans about irregularities in the presidential election, especially in states that rushed through election-law changes to relax standards for voting-by-mail,” Cotton said. “I also share their disappointment with the election results. I, therefore, support a commission to study the last election and propose reforms to protect the integrity of our elections. And after Republicans win in Georgia, the Senate should also hold more hearings on these matters. All Americans deserve to have confidence in the elections that undergird our free government.”
In making clear that he supports the underlying premises behind challenging the election – but not the method – Cotton set himself well apart from the Republicans we mentioned above. His concern is based on what doors we may be opening for Democrats by taking this drastic move. The problem, of course, is that Democrats don’t need Republicans to open the door. They are more than capable (and willing) of opening those doors themselves, a fact that Cotton should be quite aware of.
“The Founders entrusted our elections chiefly to the states — not Congress. They entrusted the election of our president to the people, acting through the Electoral College — not Congress,” Cotton said. “And they entrusted the adjudication of election disputes to the courts — not Congress. Under the Constitution and federal law, Congress’s power is limited to counting electoral votes submitted by the states.”
This is all true, of course. But again, this is the central problem. The Constitution doesn’t just hand this authority over to the states, they hand it to the state legislatures. This is an important point to make, seeing as how several states overrode their legislatures with both the executive and judicial branches. By any firm reading of the Constitution, these revisions – in and of themselves – invalidated their respective results.
Our respect for Cotton does not diminish based on this principled objection – mostly because the Republican effort has absolutely no chance of succeeding in the first place. But we do wonder if he truly understands what the Democrats have already gotten away with here.