“My critics are overreacting,” lamented the arsonist as he touched a lit match to a floor soaked with gasoline.

It’s extremely on-brand for this guy to play the victim at a moment when he’s trying to destabilize the country by enabling an authoritarian power grab. It’s also on-brand for him to not frankly admit that’s what he’s doing. If you’re going to back a coup, own it. Dispense with the flowery nonsense about Americans having “concerns” about election integrity and needing those concerns ventilated by Congress. The Senate’s had two months to investigate voter fraud if it wanted to. Postponing the certification of Biden’s win so that Congress can throw together a last-second “commission” to “audit” the issue is a transparent attempt to delay the transfer of power and create a pretext to overturn the results. “Once completed, individual states would evaluate the Commission’s findings and could convene a special legislative session to certify a change in their vote, if needed,” reads Cruz’s proposal, all but begging swing states with Republican legislatures to seize the belated opportunity to declare Trump the winner after all.

Even if the commission came back after 10 days and declared that it’d found no evidence of widespread fraud, as it undoubtedly would, not a single mind would be changed among MAGA fans who’ve embraced the “stop the steal” narrative. This process has never been about evidence or making sure that an appropriate adjudicator examines it. It’s a means of coping with the intolerable fact that Trump lost. Adding another part to the coping mechanism like a “commission” won’t achieve anything.

Still, part of me is glad that Cruz has resorted to this. He was the ultimate tea-party senator, the biggest star of a movement that never tired of lecturing the left about the Constitution and the country’s founding ideals. Now he’s the ringleader of a half-assed plot to wreck American democracy on behalf of a corrupt strongman. He’s the most contemptible fraud in a contemptible bunch, a politician singularly emblematic of his age. And as usual, he’s being too clever by half in the little schemes he hatches to advance his presidential ambitions. In 2016, his scheme was to play nice with Trump in hopes of inheriting Trump’s voters after Trump inevitably imploded. Didn’t work then, not going to work going forward.

How disgusting is his “electoral commission” plot to block certification? So disgusting that even Lindsey Graham won’t go along with it.

That’s really disgusting.

Everyone knows what Cruz’s gambit is actually about:

Hawley was the first Republican in the Senate to declare that he’d object to the electoral college results on Wednesday, a move destined to earn him special gratitude from Trump before 2024. Cruz couldn’t stomach that. He’s eaten too much sh*t over the past four years in order to ingratiate himself to Trump voters to let Hawley elbow past him now as the MAGA heir apparent. At some point after the 2016 convention he arrived at a crossroads: Did his presidential ambitions matter so much to him that he was prepared to spend four years abasing himself before a man who’d insulted his wife? Because if so, if he was willing to incinerate his last bit of manhood in order to advance his career, he’d have to stick to that plan come what may. No sense going halfway. If that meant defending Trump on impeachment, fine. If that means supporting Trump’s half-assed coup attempt, fine. If that means defending a presidential order to the military to redo the election, well, he’ll just need to be fine with that too. There’s no point in spending four years doggedly passing every loyalty test thrown at you only to fail the big one in the end. (Right, Mike Pence?)

There’s no getting back his dignity at this point. He might as well ride this tiger until it either eats him or drops him off at the White House.

All I want from him and Hawley is honesty. The reason millions of Republicans have “concerns” about the election is because Trump has spent the past two months propagandizing at them with every bit of Internet conspiracy nuttery to float across his transom. Cruz and Hawley are willing to exploit that propaganda to try to overturn the election on Trump’s behalf, not because they believe it themselves but because they’re soulless careerist politicians who believe doing so will give them a leg up in the post-Trump GOP. They don’t have the stones to admit that so instead they’re hiding behind the defense used by all conspiracy cranks, that they’re “just asking questions.” They’re doing much more than that, notes Yuval Levin:

President Trump himself has obviously encouraged them in this course. He is deeply fluent in the fraud conspiracies, and seems genuinely to believe them — as he has often shown himself incapable of separating fact from fiction too. We now also know that he has tried to get state officials to steal votes for him even as he claims the Democrats stole them away. He is intent on talking a different reality into being and demands that others accept it. To abide and encourage the election-fraud conspiracies is to affirm the web of lies he has been spinning, and the Republican politicians who have chosen to do that know full well that this is what it means.

To knowingly pretend a lie is true is, simply put, to lie. Doing that carefully enough to let you claim you’re only raising questions only makes it even clearer that you know you’re lying. Lying to people is no way to speak for them or represent them. It is a way of showing contempt for them, and of using them rather than being useful to them. This is what too many Republican politicians have chosen to do in the wake of the election. They have decided to feign anger at a problem that cannot be solved because it does not exist, and this cannot help but make them less capable of taking up real problems on behalf of their voters. And in any case, it makes them cynical liars.

“This mess is the culmination of Trump’s thoroughly defective character and judgement, obvious from the beginning, denied by many who thought they could ride him to greater fame and fortune, and enabled by bootlicking sycophants for far too long,” adds Jim Geraghty, describing Cruz and Hawley and a cast of thousands of others. The most Hawley’s had to say in his own defense is that Democrats have objected to the electoral votes in elections won by Republicans, which is true but not while the sitting president was in month three of trying to get the election results overturned by any means available. John Kerry conceded. Hillary Clinton conceded. Trump has sued in dozens of courts to get ballots thrown out, lobbied state legislators to appoint their own pro-Trump electors, lobbied the secretary of state of Georgia to “find” votes for him that’ll flip the state, lobbied his own vice president to disrupt the certification of Biden’s win on Wednesday, and even called for his fans to organize a “wild” demonstration while Congress is meeting in hopes of intimidating members of the House and Senate as they vote.

There’s no precedent for what’s happening. But Cruz and Hawley are willing to provide political cover for it anyway, legitimizing the coup attempt by using Congress’s session to air their “concerns.”

Their reward is the phone call that Brad Raffensperger leaked yesterday, revealing just how corrupt the attempt to undo defeat has become. Any Republican in Congress who hadn’t yet committed to joining the coup caucus must be newly ambivalent this morning, not knowing what other surprises Trump might have in store as his bid to cling to power turns increasingly desperate. If you decide to object on Wednesday, you’re all-in for wherever this magical journey leads over the next 16 days. It’d be idiotic to sacrifice your integrity in order to pass Wednesday’s loyalty test and then infuriate Trump and his fans by failing a subsequent loyalty test when the president tries to call out the military or refuses to leave the White House on January 20 or whatever. The folly of trying to win over MAGA is that you’re only as good as the last test you’ve taken. Fail just once, as Tom Cotton is finding out, and you’re finished.

Via Andy McCarthy, here’s what Cruz and Hawley have signed onto by embracing the “stop the steal” effort. With Republicans like this, asks McCarthy, who needs Democrats?

They have labored to delegitimize an election in which Republicans, while narrowly losing the presidency, did spectacularly well down-ballot. This effectively bids Democrats to challenge critical GOP wins in the House, the Senate, and the state governments. They have positioned Republicans as favoring the disenfranchisement of voters in battleground states that Republicans must win if they are to win the presidency in the future — a stance that could be justifiable if pervasive fraud had been proved but is suicidal when it has not.

They have unfathomably abetted the Left’s project to eradicate the Electoral College. They have laid the groundwork for Democrats to argue in 2024 that Vice President Kamala Harris, a fierce partisan, has the power to negate the electoral votes in states won by the Republican candidate. They have invited Democrats, in future elections, to convene illegitimate Democratic electoral slates to undermine Republican slates duly certified to cast Electoral College votes in states Republicans have won.

And now, in one fell swoop, a faction of the GOP — the party of limited government — urges that the Swamp has the power to invalidate every state’s sovereign determination, under its laws, of its presidential electors.

It makes sense that Trump would embrace all of that because he thinks only of himself, not the party or the country. What does he care about limited government? Cruz and Hawley were supposed to be better. They aren’t. Noted for future reference.

Here’s Adam Kinzinger, one of about a dozen Republicans left in the House with any sense of civic obligation, explaining why he won’t join the coup caucus. Exit quotation from Mitt Romney: “I could never have imagined seeing these things in the greatest democracy in the world. Has ambition so eclipsed principle?”