President Donald Trump has it exactly, eternally wrong. This year’s election was not a fraud or a failure. It was a glorious triumph for American democracy, and this week we should all be thanking the heroes who helped make that victory possible.
Yes, I know the argument: It shouldn’t be necessary to praise people for doing their duty and upholding democratic values. But this year, when Trump and his toadies have tried relentlessly to undermine the integrity of our political system, it’s important to recognize and reinforce those who refuse to crumble under his pressure.
It’s particularly worthwhile to single out Republicans — judges, election officials, government appointees and even a handful of elected officeholders — who put principle above party, facts over fantasy, and the truth ahead of the temper tantrums that continue to erupt daily in the White House.
Take just one hero: Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state. A self-described “conservative Christian Republican,” he defied enormous pressure to alter an outcome that saw Joe Biden win his state by 12,000 votes. Raffensperger had this to say about Trump on CNN: “I wish he would have won, and especially in Georgia. I certainly cast my vote for him, but the results are what the results are.”
It’s astonishing and alarming, but undeniably true: In the Age of Trump, that amounts to a courageous statement for a Republican official. “The results are what the results are.” The facts are what the facts are. And Raffensperger’s honesty only highlights the craven complicity of many GOP officials who failed to oppose Trump’s carpet-bombing of democratic norms.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for example, said any comments he would make about the election were “frankly irrelevant,” but that’s simply not true. His failure to publicly accept the results aided Trump’s scurrilous campaign to overturn an election he lost by more than 6 million votes.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy was even more mendacious, telling Fox, “President Trump won this election, so everyone who’s listening, do not be quiet. We cannot allow this to happen before our eyes.”
Fortunately, some GOP heroes stepped forward and wouldn’t support Trump’s campaign of chaos and chicanery. There was federal district Judge Matthew W. Brann, who dismissed Trump’s lawsuit in Pennsylvania as a combination of “strained legal arguments without merit and unsupported by evidence.” Brann added, “In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state. Our people, law and institutions demand more.”
There was Christopher Krebs, head of Trump’s own Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, who issued a report calling the election “the most secure in American history.” Krebs added in boldface, “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes or was in any way compromised.” Throughout his presidency, Trump has had absolutely no respect for independent professionals stating facts that don’t flatter him. So it’s not surprising that he fired Krebs as soon as his report was issued.
A few bold Republicans officeholders, very few, summoned the courage to call out Trump’s attempts to “subvert the will of the people and overturn the election,” as Sen. Mitt Romney put it. He added, “It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American president.”
Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland told the Washington Post, “We’re beginning to look like we’re a banana republic. It’s time for them to stop the nonsense. It just gets more bizarre every single day and, frankly, I’m embarrassed that more people in the party aren’t speaking out.”
Another who did is an obscure Michigan official named Aaron Van Langevelde, an attorney for Republicans in the state legislature who also serves on the Board of State Canvassers, which is charged with certifying election returns. In a blatant attempt to reverse the results in Michigan, where he trails by about 155,000 votes, Trump invited state Republican leaders to the White House last week — but Van Langevelde was unmoved.
As he stated in voting to uphold the outcome: “We have a clear legal duty to certify the results of the election, as shown by the returns that were given to us. We cannot and should not go beyond that. As John Adams once said, ‘We are a government of laws, not men.’”
On Thanksgiving, let’s remember Aaron Van Langevelde and Brad Raffensperger and the other intrepid Republicans who defied the president to uphold that sacred principle.
Steven Roberts teaches politics and journalism at George Washington University.