Even the Court’s conservatives, then, seemed to recognize that this was not a constitutional controversy that merited its involvement but a crude power grab. And yet so many other supposedly serious figures in the Republican Party did not. This lawsuit was not some folie à deux in which Trump and Texas—or, more precisely, Texas’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, who has his own legal problems—got caught up in their own private madness. No fewer than seventeen states that Trump won signed on to what’s known as an amicus curiae brief urging the Court to take Texas’s suit. Missouri’s attorney general, Eric Schmitt, played a leading role in that effort, but all the state officials who put their names to it rushed to do something shameful. So did the members of the House of Representatives who similarly expressed their support. There are a hundred and twenty-six of them, at last count. (Two are from New York: Elise Stefanik and Lee Zeldin.) Many of them are not marginal figures; the list includes Kevin McCarthy, the House Minority Leader. It is enraging and also profoundly sad that these Republicans value our democracy so little. Why were they so willing to treat a system that, for all its flaws, has proved sturdy even in the Trump years as a disposable partisan toy? How could they, without mortification, back a brief that included the suggestion that the election must be crooked, because the chance that Trump’s opponent could have won the four states was less than one in “a quadrillion”?
There is no acceptable justification. There needs to be a real reckoning; if prominent Republicans do not now use the Court’s decision to renounce Trump’s campaign to overturn the election, they will do real and lasting harm to the country. The early signs are not good. The head of the Texas G.O.P. put out a statement suggesting that “law-abiding states” might want to form their own “Union of states,” while others, as of Saturday morning, were silent. Trump, of course, is unrepentant. He tweeted, “WE HAVE JUST BEGUN TO FIGHT!!!”