The gall of McCarthy and his fellow Trump toadies in the Republican Party is only surpassed by their irresponsibility and fecklessness. In taking their oaths of office as members of Congress, they swore that they would “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” And, yet, here they were, supporting a Trump venture that the attorney general of Pennsylvania, in a brief opposing the Texas lawsuit, described as a “seditious abuse of the judicial process.” The gambit amounted to a flagrant effort to overturn the most basic liberty enshrined in the Constitution: the right of the people to choose their leaders. In the unlikely event that the lawsuit had succeeded, the country would have been plunged into chaos, and Trump would have succeeded in his reckless effort to defy the rules of democracy.

The only conceivable defense for the actions of the Republican signatories is that they supported the Texas lawsuit in the sure knowledge that it would fail. Terrified of incurring the wrath of an enraged Bully-in-Chief, they postured for him, and for the maga mob. But what sort of defense is this for politicians elected to a body that likes to see itself as a model for the world? A pitiful one at best, and not one that would stand up in any court of law or any court of history. One lesson of failed democracies is that when officials or institutions genuflect before would-be authoritarians, in the hope that somebody else will head them off, or control them, the results can be disastrous.