Bret Baier to Josh Hawley: Are you trying to overturn this election or not?

An effective bit of questioning last night from Fox, which Hawley doubtless thought would be more sympathetic to him. The thing about the coup caucus that he and Ted Cruz are leading is that they’re not actually trying to overturn the results. As far as I’m aware, not a single one of the 13 Republican senators participating have asserted that Trump was cheated out of his victory and deserves another term in office.

They’re all just sort of … open to the possibility.

Let’s call it “Schrodinger’s coup,” an attempt to disrupt the election in which the desired outcome simultaneously is and isn’t to see the president inaugurated again on January 20. Hawley wants MAGA fans to believe that he *is* trying to overturn the election, which is why he won’t squarely deny it to Baier here, but he also wants Americans who are opposed to the idea to believe that he *isn’t* trying to overturn it, which is why he keeps telling Baier that he just wants to be heard about election irregularities.

It’s a scheme to facilitate an authoritarian power grab and a humble democratic attempt by the people’s representatives to ventilate an issue that’s of concern to voters, all at once. All Hawley wants to do is talk atcha for a little bit, and if that happens to lead to an existential crisis in which the current president refuses to cede power, hey. Not his problem.

Dan McLaughlin knows the game that’s being played here:

How do we know this is all insincere? Because most of these Republicans are unwilling to actually argue in public that they believe the election was stolen (which it wasn’t). In justifying both the Texas v. Pennsylvania brief and the objections to Biden electors, Republicans have tried to thread a very narrow needle by claiming that they just want an airing and examination of legitimate questions about the integrity of the vote. This is, in fact, the same dodge that Democrats are still using to justify the effort to have Congress throw out the Ohio electors who proved decisive for George W. Bush in January 2005. And it is just as dishonest now as it was then…

Further proof of the cynicism of all of this is that none of the people pushing lawsuits or challenges to the electors — all of which rest on an assumption of vast, widespread, multi-state fraud in the tens of thousands of votes — are objecting to seating members of the House and Senate elected in the same election.

It’s a scam, the same way the Texas lawsuit was a scam. Texas was never going to convince SCOTUS to disenfranchise 20 million voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia, and Mike Pence and the congressional GOP were never going to have the numbers to block Biden’s certification tomorrow. The “fight” being put up by the coup caucus is as much of a scripted performance as the fight at the end of “Rocky.” They’re not even claiming to fight for the thing Trump fans actually want, having the president declared the winner, preferring the sort of weaselly hedge that Hawley engages in with Baier. It may well be that not a single Senate Republican will squarely allege tomorrow that Trump defeated Biden, choosing instead to stick to anodyne complaints about Pennsylvania statutes and Twitter suppressing the Hunter Biden story in late October.

Every politician in Washington understands this is a puppet show being staged to thrill MAGA fans, which is why so many of Cruz’s and Hawley’s colleagues are openly contemptuous of it. Every politician in Washington except one, I should say:

“[Trump] incontrovertibly thinks he won — and he thinks he won big — and the people around him don’t disabuse him of that because they don’t want to get crosswise, and because they told him he was going to win, so they can have it both ways,” [an] adviser said. “It’s not about his inability to move on. It’s about his inability to even diagnose what happened. He won’t yet conduct the autopsy, if you will.”

“Let’s say you get Raffensperger to commit fraud and get you the 11,000 votes — what does that even get you?” said the Republican official in frequent touch with the White House. “You still need three other states. I don’t understand what the ‘win’ is here. There’s no strategy.”…

“I think it is revealing that there is not a single senator who is arguing that the election was stolen from President Trump,” said Josh Holmes, an outside adviser to McConnell. “The divide in the party is whether it’s appropriate to pull the pin on an electoral college grenade, hoping that there are enough responsible people standing around who can shove it back in before they detonate American democracy.”

The last part is key. To the extent there’s any mystery tomorrow, it has nothing to do with whether the Cruz/Hawley arguments will prevail or whether Mike Pence will try to disrupt certification. The mystery is simply whether Cruz, Hawley, and the scores of House Republicans who’ll end up objecting would have behaved any differently if they’d had the numbers in Congress to actually overturn the election. They’re pulling the pin on the grenade knowing that more responsible actors around them will prevent it from going off. What if they didn’t know that? How many members of the coup caucus would have still participated if this wasn’t doomed to be a puppet show but actually had the muscle potentially to turn into a full-blown coup? If the GOP had 60 seats in the Senate, say, and 240 seats in the House, would there be enough Mitt Romneys and Pat Toomeys and Chip Roys to defeat an attempt to reject electoral votes won by Biden?

I honestly don’t know. And the fact that I don’t know is all I need to know about the state of the party in 2021.

Actually, there’s one other bit of suspense tomorrow, the number of swing states whose results will draw an objection. Reportedly Ted Cruz is planning to object to the results in Arizona just because it’s one of the earliest states in the roll call. Hawley has already said that he wants to air his grievances about Pennsylvania’s statutory process so presumably their results will be subject to objection as well. Trump has complained far too long about Georgia for someone, probably Kelly Loeffler, not to object to those results. As for Michigan, Wisconsin, and Nevada, we’ll see. Exit quotation from George Will: “[O]n Wednesday, the members of the Hawley-Cruz cohort will violate the oath of office in which they swore to defend the Constitution from enemies ‘foreign and domestic.’ They are its most dangerous domestic enemies.”