‘Couldn’t With a Clear Conscience’: The GOP’s Awkward Breakup With Trump

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Matt Laslo
·7 min read
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Bill Clark/Getty
Bill Clark/Getty

The Trump show was canceled by the American people, but you wouldn’t know that from talking to many Republican lawmakers or the diehard fangirls—and the Proud Boys—descending on the nation’s capital at the behest of the sorest of all losers, the outgoing president himself.

On Tuesday members of the House of Representatives will conduct one of their most solemn—and usually boring—duties: simply counting votes from the Electoral College. This quadrennial dance has been predictably mundane and mechanical for decades. And it will be this time, even though rank-and-file Republicans in the House and Senate are pouting and may protest the results from several states, a move that could drag the inevitable out for six hours or even into Thursday.

The open secret here in Washington, D.C.—even amongst those Republicans carrying the president’s latest jugs of swamp-water—is that everyone knows how this ends: President-elect Biden will have his win codified.

Just because everyone knows the outcome doesn’t mean the president doesn’t want to throw one last, made-for-TV carnival (albeit a warped one accompanied by angry protesters, countless police officers, security gates, the National Guard and the threat of violence, like the last time many of Trump’s fan club came to town).

The Republicans coddling his obese ego are doing so for a number of reasons—political ambitions, a fear of Trump voters which is closely tied to fear of Trump himself, and possibly a few who actually don’t think local officials—whether Democratic or Republican—can count. But unlike the lemming-like ass-kissing the GOP has exhibited for the past four years, what’s notable this time around is that many Republicans are openly opposing the most powerful thumbs and loudest cry-baby on the planet.

Predictably, that’s putting them in an impossible position with their own GOP voters who are being asked to believe a rank-and-file Republican over the President of the United States of America.

It’s getting awkward for many, because they’re having to do what Democrats, Independents, public health officials, foreign leaders, doctors, scholars, intelligence officers, senior cabinet members, junior government employees, and the press corps have tried to do since Trump sauntered into the White House: They’re trying to simply point out that the sky is blue.

That was evidenced outside the Capitol Tuesday where Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) was surrounded by more than 25 of his constituents. As the sporadic sound of car horns from a pro-Trump, anti-China caravan rang out nearby, Cramer fielded questions from his voters who both trekked to Washington to support the president’s latest Trump-sized myth and also to personally pressure lawmakers like Cramer to put personality, party, and power above all else.

After Cramer left the outdoor town hall meeting, The Daily Beast asked him how the conversation with his voters who disagree with him went. He was unfazed.

“They're trying to pull me that way, but, as I say, you know, there's two things: my conscience and the Constitution. And my reading of the Constitution and my reading of the Holy Spirit is, do the right thing and then explain yourself,” Cramer told The Daily Beast as he walked across the Capitol grounds. “I don't have to persuade anybody. I just have to be able to sleep well at night.”

Cramer knows his audience, but he’s still opposed to the president’s latest gambit, despite his constituents’ boisterous support for the anti-democratic ploy.

“The easiest vote in the world would be to do what the vast majority of my constituents want me to do. That'd be easy, but when I, you know, read that Constitution—and the clarity of it—and think about my oath to it. I just couldn't with a clear conscience,” Cramer said.

For the past few weeks, he’s spent time poring over the 12th Amendment, talked to some lawyers, and discussed the issue with colleagues. He’s firmly convinced he’s right, and that the president he’s supported the vast majority of the time is wrong.

“There's nowhere in there that says you do anything other than count them. Unless there's less than 270 or there's a tie,” Cramer said “There's nothing in there relating to objections… I think it's up to the courts to decide whether a slate of electors was fraudulently elected or not and shouldn't have been certified. It's certainly not our job to do that.”

These Deluded GOP Senators Plan to Join Hawley in Rejecting Electoral College Vote

Still, he won’t be ripping on his party or the president, because the Trump era has turned him and most of his Republican colleagues into the subjective relativists conservatives have decried for decades.

“No. I'm not disappointed in it. I guess, I understand people have different views. You know people have different opinions. People have different reads of certain things and have different motives that motivate them. All I can worry about is me,” Cramer said.

Across the Capitol, during a House vote series on Monday, The Daily Beast caught up with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy—flanked by his security detail—as he left the House floor and headed towards his Capitol suite. When asked if he supports the effort to challenge the election, he smirked and audibly chuckled.

“What’s that laugh?” The Daily Beast asked.

“Because you guys always try to get me walking,” McCarthy—now no longer smirking—replied. “I think it’s very healthy we have debate. I think it’s right we have the debate.”

Other Republicans know there will be repercussions for getting on this last wild Trump-ride. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY)—the No. 3 House Republican leader—and even her father, former Vice-President Dick Cheney, have vocally opposed what many are calling an attempted coup. Others in the party are drunk on knock-off Trump Kool-Aid; they’re not alone.

“There are people on the left here who would love to ignore the Constitution—edit it or amend it—and get rid of the electoral college, and I’m advocating that we shouldn’t,” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) told The Daily Beast. “If it would be successful it would undermine the Electoral College.”

For those Republicans braving the inevitable backlash, they’re now feeling the withering, unforgiving, relentless, and largely unthinking power of today’s conservative misinformation machine.

“One thing that does surprise and disappoint me is the degree of disinformation,” Massie said. “Some of the outside agitators—not my colleagues, but outside agitators—are giving the public the impression that if they come to D.C., that they could cause enough people in that chamber to reject enough Biden votes that Trump has a path to re-election, which is absolutely false.”

For Democrats, it’s not even an “I told you so” moment. It’s a WTF moment. And they’re sick of fueling the perpetually raging Trumpster fire.

“The thing that makes this country special is the peaceful transition of power. We had an election,” Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), who was tapped as a senior adviser to the Biden-Harris administration, told The Daily Beast. “This thing is over. [It] should be a formality, but some people will choose to make it a spectacle. And it’s unfortunate, but we’ll get through it.”

Even though he’s the incoming president’s eyes and ears on Capitol Hill, Richmond told The Daily Beast he hasn’t even discussed this latest GOP charade with Biden. That’s because he seems to be seeing clearly, like some Republicans are finally doing.

“So we don't win under any circumstance,” Massie said. “That's not being disclosed to a lot of folks.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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