On yelling at elected officials for... voting

On Sunday, Senator Ron Johnson (R) of Wisconsin sat down for an interview with NBC News anchor Chuck Todd. The main topic of discussion was one of the bigger current bones of contention in political circles, specifically the list of Republicans in the House and the Senate who plan to object to the certification of the Electoral College totals during a joint session this week. Johnson is among the Senators who plan to vote against the certification. This led to a rather heated exchange, with Todd basically accusing Johnson and his colleagues of undermining American democracy or something. While Johnson handled himself fairly well, his answers clearly didn’t sit well with Chuck Todd, who called him an “arsonist.” (NY Post)

“You made an allegation there was widespread fraud, you have failed to offer specific evidence of that widespread fraud, but you’re demanding an investigation on the grounds that there are allegations of widespread fraud. So essentially you’re the arsonist here. President Trump is the arsonist here,” Todd told Johnson.

“Because you didn’t have the guts to tell the truth that this election was fair!” he continued.

But Johnson shot back to say Todd was the “arsonist” because the mainstream media in January 2017 “dropped any pretense of being unbiased and actually chose sides during the election.”

Johnson said the media poured fuel on the fire when they ignored the investigation into Hunter Biden’s business dealings in China and Ukraine.

Well, that was certainly… interesting.

As far as this vote goes, everyone is free to make up their own mind as to whether or not they believe the election results were fairly and accurately tabulated, and if the correct result was recorded. The real question here is whether or not the results will wind up being certified and the specifics of the process that decide that issue. From all the reports we’re seeing at this point, the answer to the first question seems to be yes. It appears that there is far more than sufficient support for certification that it should pass fairly overwhelmingly (though not unanimously as it usually does) with bipartisan support.

But before anyone begins screaming at Johnson and the others who side with him or calling them a pack of arsonists or whatever, it’s worth remembering precisely what it is that you’re angry about. The scheduled vote is part of a process. This isn’t some optional exercise. It’s set forth in the 12th Amendment and we’ve been doing it since the election of 1804. With that in mind, we should ask ourselves why the crafters of the 12th Amendment would bother making the members of Congress vote if this was nothing but a rubber stamp.

The entire reason that I bring this up is that the system is designed so the presidential election process flows in stages with various checks and balances. Following the general election, the will of the voters in each state is supposed to be reflected by the selection of the electors. Their choices are compiled to determine the winners. But to keep things on the up and up, their votes have to be opened and counted in front of the people’s elected representatives. They vote to determine whether or not the process was correctly completed (as opposed to voting to pick the winners themselves).

In other words, the framers of the 12th Amendment continued the intent of the founders to allow for the possibility that something may have gone wrong along the way, either intentionally or through mishap, to corrupt the process. The vote is intended to reflect the judgment of each member as the answer to that question.

So with all of that in mind, the task of each member of the House and Senate on Wednesday is not to act as a rubber stamp. It is to vote as they are required to do. You don’t vote on a question that has only one possible answer. Some of the members have obviously decided that they don’t agree that the process was acceptable. You’re free to disagree with them if you wish. I disagree with votes those swamp-dwellers cast on a regular basis. But yelling at them for doing their jobs doesn’t seem to be in keeping with our finest journalistic traditions.