As six states continued to tabulate their ballots and drew ever closer to making Joe Biden the next president on Thursday, there was a bolt from social media that sent chills down a lot of people’s spines and suggested that Donald Trump may not have played his last card when it comes to attempting a fully legal coup that would allow him to remain as president.
Right-wing radio host Mark Levin sent out an all-caps tweet suggesting that state legislatures controlled by Republicans could keep Trump in the White House:
REMINDER TO THE REPUBLICAN STATE LEGISLATURES, YOU HAVE THE FINAL SAY OVER THE CHOOSING OF ELECTORS, NOT ANY BOARD OF ELECTIONS, SECRETARY OF STATE, GOVERNOR, OR EVEN COURT. YOU HAVE THE FINAL SAY — ARTICLE II OF THE FED CONSTITUTION. SO, GET READY TO DO YOUR CONSTITUTIONAL DUTY
— Mark R. Levin (@marklevinshow) November 5, 2020
Levin’s post was retweeted by none other than Donald Trump Jr.:
Tim Murphy of Mother Jones caught Junior’s retweet and it led him to sound an alarm about what Trump and some of his more fanatical followers may have in mind:
“Levin was promoting a legal theory that drew some attention before the election. Because state governments have to formally certify results and then formally send electors to the Electoral College, the Republicans who control the state legislatures of Pennsylvania and several other swing states could (in this theory) simply send their own set of rival electors and force Congress to choose—potentially tipping the election to Trump. The Atlantic’s Barton Gellman reported earlier this fall that Republicans in the state had approached the Trump campaign about such a strategy.”
The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent explained a couple of months ago why such a strategy might not work in the long run:
“Virtually all states have made laws that provide for electors to be appointed in accordance with the popular vote outcome in them. (Maine and Nebraska do this by congressional district.) Thus, those scholars argue, legislatures can’t appoint pro-Trump electors without making a new law providing for appointment of electors based on legislators’ own will, not that of the voters.
“Such a new law would require the governor’s signature. And in three states where this appears most likely to be tried — Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — Democratic governors would veto any such effort by GOP-controlled legislatures.”
Would GOP-controlled legislatures even be willing to participate in such a plan?
For anyone wondering: spokesperson for Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman reiterated just now that the Republican controlled state legislature will NOT move to appoint electors to override popular vote, despite concerns about PA electoral process.
— Ryan W Briggs (@rw_briggs) November 5, 2020
They say they wouldn’t, but when was the last time you could trust the word of a Republican?
So let’s consider a hypothetical: Somehow the GOP manages to pull off their bloodless electoral coup, then what? Well, the case would likely wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court, which now has six conservative justices and only three liberals. Would they rubber stamp such a move? Well, what could stop them? Their consciences? As the old saying goes, you have to possess a conscience for it to bother you when you do something you know is wrong.
This entire nightmare scenario will likely never come to pass. But haven’t we been saying that again and again over the course of 2020? And it seems we’ve been wrong every damn time.