On January 6, an insurrectionist mob stormed the US Capitol building in an effort to stop the Electoral Vote count that would make Joe Biden President. Several groups, including the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, planned a coordinated attack in response to an intentionally promoted Big Lie: that Democrats and others used systemic fraud to steal the election from Donald Trump. Planners did not intend to protest peacefully – they wanted to overthrow the results of an election because they did not like the result.
They wanted to overthrow a democratic election, and they said so on social media:
“Get violent. Stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal.”Reuters Staff, Reuters
Donald Trump was not the only elected official telling this lie – other American political leaders, including First District Congressman Rob Wittman, helped set the conditions for the storming of the Capitol. Wittman had the power – and the obligation associated with that power – to stop this. He refused to publicly accepting the results of the 2020 election (which he was happy to do with respect to his own race, by the way).
Instead, he supported this false narrative of a fraudulent election by objecting to the counting of Pennsylvania’s Electoral Votes on the grounds that the State “failed to follow the laws and constitutional tenets that govern its elections. Worse, he still refuses to calm divisions by publicly accepting the results of the free and fair election that made Joe Biden President and kept Wittman in Congress.
When Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana each sent two slates of Electors to Congress after the election in 1876, Congress had no procedure for adjudicating disputes between elected officials in a State. Tilden and Hayes accepted the formation of the Commission that eventually awarded the disputed Electoral Votes to Hayes in return for the end of Reconstruction and the associated military occupation of the former Confederate States. This agreement, by the way, paved the way for the Black Codes and Jim Crow and the de facto, if not de jure, reestablishment of slavery.
In 1878 Congress passed the Electoral Count Act, which created the conditions for Wittman’s objection, to settle disputes about competing slates of Electors after future elections – not to allow Congress to block the counting of Electoral Votes that State officials had lawfully certified by State officials.
To be sure, Pennsylvania officials other than the Legislature changed election rules because of the pandemic, and Pennsylvania Courts adjudicated the associated Constitutional questions. Wittman and his fellow seditionists make the specious claim that this means its Electors were not appointed “…in such manner as the Legislature shall direct” as Article II Section 1 of the Constitution requires.
Of course, Pennsylvania’s Legislature created the Courts that adjudicated these disputes and the offices and officers that certified these Electoral votes. Further, the Pennsylvania Legislature did not itself intervene to change that certification. So it’s not clear how exactly it did not in fact direct the appointment of those Electors as Constitutionally required.
All of this is, of course, water under the Constitutional bridge. Joe Biden is President and now controls the Executive Branch of the US Government. He won the Presidency in a lawful and fair election – legislatures and Courts have seen evidence to the contrary, to the extent any exists, and adjudicated any disputes. Even the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank, accepts this conclusion.
Still, Rob Wittman refuses to say this publicly. He refuses to tell his constituents that Joe Biden won a legitimate election and has authority to govern as President under the Constitution. Mr. Wittman does this because he worries more about his political career than he does about US democracy. He continues to sow division by refusing to renounce the stolen election lie because he believes he, and other conservatives, should stay in power, whether or not they can win elections.
He’s wrong. His constituents are watching, and will continue to organize and rally and point out his support for sedition and insurrection. They will continue to point out that Rob Wittman supported , and continues to support, overturning a free and fair election because he and his base did not like the result. We won’t forget.