What a donnybrook is shaping up as Vice President Pence gets ready to open the seals under which the Constitution required the electoral votes to be transmitted to him. Outside, a protest is being organized by those Secretary of State Clinton lost the 2016 election for describing as “deplorables.” Inside, a revolt is brewing over electors from what are being dubbed “contested” states. President Trump, we see in Georgia, has been working the phone.
God bless America, we say. We look at all this as a final, desperate demand by President Trump’s base for . . . the word we keep thinking of is “standing.” Their most recent plea, Congressman Louie Gohmert’s lawsuit, was rebuffed on the issue of standing. The United States district judge in that case, Jeremy Kernodle, wrote a memorably clear explanation of why Mr. Gohmert lacked for standing to bring his case to a court.
The judge marked standing as a curb on the power of courts. We favor that curb. It’s related to the confinement of the judicial power to resolving actual cases and controversies. Without the doctrines of standing and of cases and controversies, courts could run the country by fiat. The lack of standing was also the issue on which Texas was rebuffed the other day when it tried to haul Pennsylvania before the Supreme Court.
It strikes us as inevitable, though, that if the courts, for their own good reasons, are not going to grant standing to the so-called Deplorables, or anyone else, the pressure will rise for Congress to do so. Hence the more than 100 members of the House who say they will object to some of the electoral slates for Vice President Biden. Same with the dozen or so senators who say they’ll do something similar. And the protesters outside.
Not to mention Mr. Trump’s gobsmacking phone call with the state secretary of Georgia. What in the world could anyone on that phone call have been thinking? On its face it seems like an open and shut case of trying to suborn vote tampering. Were that Mr. Trump’s intent, though, why would he do it in a recorded phone call with lawyers on the line? It was bound to leak; so the intent could well have been precisely to stoke the politics.
In any event, the Wall Street Journal, in a series of powerful editorials, has been trying to warn the GOP off Mr. Trump’s “electoral hustle.” The courts, it notes, “have rejected every Trump campaign attempt to intervene in the state results.” It says Mr. Trump’s lawyers “make charges in public that they won’t even bring to a court, perhaps because they know there are penalties for speaking falsely before judges.”
Which brings us back to Congress. No court can punish any senator or representative for anything said in either house. They can’t even be questioned in any other place. No wonder Vice President Pence’s spokesman says the veep “welcomes the efforts of members of the House and Senate to use the authority they have under the law to raise objections and bring forward evidence before the Congress and the American people.”
Rarely has a vice president been enthroned in such a catbird seat. Mr. Pence has studiously avoided taking sides on the merits in dispute, the better, we speculate, to preserve his ability to preside. The only task he’s actually assigned by the Constitution is to “open all the certificates” so the votes can be counted. In the end, in our view, the result will be more credible for everyone having been given a chance to be heard.
Photograph of Vice President Pence by James McNellis, via Wikipedia and licensed by Creative Commons.