1936 was a great year for Republicans…in Maine. That year Alf Landon won the state and two Republicans won seats in the House of Representatives that had been held by Democrats: James C. Oliver (1895-1986) and Clyde H. Smith. Oliver, who had run on a platform of generous old-age pensions and inflationary currency, quickly distinguished himself as different from what could be expected of Maine Republicans. For one thing, he was one of the most visible supporters of radio priest Father Charles Coughlin and for another he was most likely to divert from Republican orthodoxy on issues such as labor and public power although he stuck stronger to it on the minimum wage and foreign policy than his Maine colleagues Smith and Owen Brewster. Oliver’s opposition to Roosevelt was not so much a conservative one, rather the populistic sort of Father Charles Coughlin and Dr. Francis Townsend. By 1938, many conservative Republicans were opposing Oliver’s renomination, some even going as far as to back his Democratic opponent. He also supported the Townsend Plan as did Smith and Brewster when it came for a vote in 1939. In his six years in Congress, he got an MC-Index score of 62%. Oliver’s consistently non-interventionist record aged poorly in Maine after Pearl Harbor and in 1942 he lost renomination to Robert Hale. Hale was both an internationalist and more conservative on domestic issues.
Oliver subsequently served in World War II and in 1951 he switched to the Democratic Party. He seemed a top recruit for the Democrats and they didn’t seem to mind his prior record of supporting Father Coughlin as they nominated him for governor in 1952. Although Oliver badly lost this contest, he in 1954 and 1956 ran against Hale and almost defeated him the latter time. He tried once more in 1958, and prevailed. In his single term in Congress as a Democrat Oliver proved to be staunchly liberal, only dissenting from the Democrats on foreign aid increases in 1960. Along with Senator Edmund Muskie, he reflected an increasing openness of Maine’s voters to the Democrats. Unlike Muskie’s election, his comeback proved a fluke as he lost reelection in 1960. Oliver’s MC-Index score in his last term was a 6% with a lifetime of 48%. He subsequently continued his career in the real estate business and ultimately moved to Orlando, Florida, where he resided until his death.
Hagerty, J.A. (1938, September 11). Revolt Against Oliver – Republicans Increase Opposition to Promoter of Townsend Plan on Eve of Election Disaffection Among Republicans…Republicans Support Democrat The Townsend Plan Issue Robbery a Political Issue. The New York Times.
The Maine Primary. (1936, June 23). The Journal-News.
Townsend Active in Maine Race. (1936, June 14). The Sunday Star.
At some point I will write a grand post on Joseph McCarthy. I really, really want to get it right and paint a complete picture of his anti-communist crusade. For now, however, I will focus on his ideology based on votes. A lot of people would think of him as being ultra-conservative, so placing him on my scale at between 90-100%. However, his actual MC-Index score is an 83%. His lifetime modified Americans for Democratic Action score is a 16%, and his DW-Nominate score is a 0.287. By contrast, John McCain gets a 0.381, Bob Dole a 0.322, and Mitt Romney (as of writing) a 0.294. This makes me wonder how much McCarthy was not merely defined by his own beliefs and actions but also by his more extreme supporters.
McCarthy attracted support for his investigations from both mainstream and fringe right. Some of the latter supporters included Gerald L.K. Smith, Willis Carto, and Gerald Winrod, all staunch bigots. The support of such bigots contributed to accusations that he was anti-Semitic, but McCarthy’s voting record seems to contradict this as he voted for the unsuccessful Ferguson Amendment to the Displaced Persons bill in 1948 and the successful Kilgore substitute to the Displaced Persons bill in 1950, both which served to increase admission of Jewish refugees into the United States. Some of the mainstream conservatives included Everett Dirksen of Illinois, Bourke Hickenlooper of Iowa, Styles Bridges of New Hampshire, and William F. Buckley Jr. of National Review. His most devoted Senate supporters were Herman Welker of Idaho, William Jenner of Indiana, and George Malone of Nevada. McCarthy’s domestic record was mostly mainstream Republican conservatism. He, for instance, opposed the continuation of price controls, particularly sugar. This would provoke controversy as McCarthy had accepted a loan (which he repaid) from a Pepsi-Cola executive, which got him the nickname “the Pepsi-Cola kid”. He supported most of the domestic agenda of the conservative 80th Congress such as tax reduction and the Taft-Hartley Labor Act, and opposed the Taft-Ellender-Wagner Housing Act. He was, however, more concerned about countering monopolies than many other Republicans, opposing basing point pricing legislation. Joseph McCarthy’s record on civil rights was primarily positive. In 1950, he voted against an effort spearheaded by Senator Richard Russell (D-Ga.) to weaken army desegregation and voted to end debate on the Fair Employment Practices Committee. As you might expect, McCarthy was among the strongest backers of domestic anti-communist legislation, such as the McCarran Internal Security Act.
McCarthy not only focused on anti-communism at home, but also abroad. He voted for the Truman Doctrine in 1947 and for the Marshall Plan. On the latter he was reluctant, did only after he had voted to cut the program, and subsequently he became a critic. One McCarthy push that really made clear who his closest allies were was his opposition to President Eisenhower’s nomination of Chip Bohlen as Ambassador to Russia. Bohlen had disagreed with the containment strategy of George F. Kennan and called for letting the USSR have its sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. However, Eisenhower easily prevailed over McCarthy on this one, Bohlen being confirmed 74-13. Joining McCarthy in dissent were ten Republicans and Democrats Edwin Johnson of Colorado and Pat McCarran of Nevada, both who had been staunchly non-interventionist before World War II. A more broadly supported effort was his proposal to cut aid to nations that traded with Communist China, but this proposal failed too 34-50, with majorities of Republicans and Democrats again voting against. McCarthy abstained from voting on his censure as did his Wisconsin colleague Alexander Wiley and John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts, who deliberately scheduled his back surgery so he would miss the vote. McCarthy was a friend of the Kennedy family, had employed Robert F. Kennedy on his staff, and had not campaigned for Henry Cabot Lodge’s (R-Mass.) reelection in 1952. After McCarthy’s censure, his stature fell and support for his proposals was minimal, but with his closest friends sticking by him.
In 1956, McCarthy was one of only four Republicans to vote against Eisenhower’s nomination of his Solicitor General Simon Sobeloff to the 4th Circuit Court. The other three were Welker, Jenner, and John J. Williams of Delaware. McCarthy, Welker, and Jenner voted against him for his opposition to use of informants in national security cases while Williams, who voted for McCarthy’s censure, may have done so over his support for Brown v. Board of Education (1954), a decision he thought was judicial overreach. His record ended with his death, with most of the subsequent narratives surrounding him being pushed by those who had opposed him.
HR 6391. McCarthy motion to suspend the rules for the purpose of proposing an amend. to reduce assistance to any recipient nation by $1 million for each cargo of communist goods shipped prior to date on which communist China becomes party to final Korean peace. Govtrack.
1952 was a great year for the Republican Party: they won the presidency and won control of both chambers of Congress. Senator Richard Nixon (R-Calif.) was now vice president, and in his place Governor Earl Warren, himself a presidential contender, picked his protege, Thomas Kuchel (1910-1994), to succeed Nixon. One might think of Kuchel as something of an avatar for Earl Warren were he in Congress rather than on the Supreme Court, as he had served as controller under him. Kuchel displayed conservatism in his first two years in Congress, scoring an 80% on the MC-Index, including a vote against censuring Joseph McCarthy. He justified this vote despite expressing distaste for McCarthy in a 1980 interview as consistent with his vote on the Dennis Chavez election case, in which he was one of only three Republicans to vote for his seating over the Republican who contested the election (Gillette, 10). After the 1954 election, Kuchel would build up his reputation as a moderate Republican and gained a lot of support from the Rockefeller Republicans. Indeed, he sided with Eisenhower on almost every significant issue. In 1958, Kuchel supported the California GOP’s effort to swap moderate Governor Goodwin Knight and moderate conservative Senator William F. Knowland, which failed on both fronts; Pat Brown (Jerry’s father) won the gubernatorial race and Congressman Clair Engle won the Senate race.
In 1959, the senator’s profile rose considerably with the leadership election in the GOP. Although the conservatives won the leader position with the election of Illinois’ delightful and politically shrewd ham Everett Dirksen, the Rockefeller wing won the whip position with Thomas Kuchel. Kuchel’s record during the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations was highly conciliatory, with him scoring at lowest a 26% and at highest a 50%. He played a key role in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and considered this one of his proudest achievements. Kuchel was also a staunch internationalist (albeit an anti-communist one) and helped Minority Leader Everett Dirksen (R-Ill.) to get support for President Kennedy’s Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963, which banned above-ground nuclear testing. For California, he was instrumental in the establishment of Redwood National Park.
Kuchel vs. Conservatives
Thomas Kuchel had, to put it charitably, a testy relationship with conservatives and more extreme characters on the right in the GOP, and partly it was his voting record. He had supported numerous key planks of the Great Society, including the Economic Opportunity Act in 1964, Medicare in 1965, and the failed effort to repeal the “right to work” section of the Taft-Hartley Act. He was also one of only three Republicans to vote against a school prayer amendment in 1966. Kuchel did, however, oppose rent subsidies, federal dictation of unemployment benefits, and in a notable disagreement with his mentor voted for an amendment to permit state legislative apportionment to take into account factors other than population. His underwhelming record from a conservative perspective in truth wasn’t enough to do him in.
Despite being party whip, he did not endorse Richard Nixon’s bid for governor in 1962, Barry Goldwater’s and George Murphy’s campaigns for the White House and the Senate respectively in 1964 over ideological disagreements, and Ronald Reagan’s campaign for governor in 1966. He did not endorse Nixon in 1962 because he opted to endorse no one else in his bid for governor in a failed effort to appear independent and please both moderates and conservatives. In 1966, he did not endorse Reagan because he conditioned his endorsement on him publicly repudiating the John Birch Society, which he didn’t do. Kuchel didn’t endorse him despite the Reagan campaign promising that there would be no primary challenge to him in 1968. He even went as far as to accuse the conservative movement in 1966 of being “a fanatical neo-fascist political cult in the GOP, driven by a strange mixture of corrosive hatred and sickening fear, who are recklessly determined to either control our party, or destroy it” (Kabaservice, 169). It is only fair to note that Kuchel’s harsh antagonism to this wing did not come out of a vacuum. He had received a string of letters from John Birch Society members warning of an invasion of the United States from Mexico. As Kuchel stated, “I got thousands of letters telling me that Chinese communists were in Mexico preparing to invade California” and after investigating he wrote a letter stating, “We have no evidence of communists gathering in Mexico, Chinese or otherwise” (Reich). The Birchers subsequently labeled him a “comsymp” (communist sympathizer) by them. Worse yet, Kuchel, a man who was married and had a daughter, was maliciously libeled by an accusation that he was a homosexual based on a claim that he was arrested for such behavior in 1949 (the man arrested was not Senator Kuchel). The perpetrators, which included a Los Angeles police officer, were successfully prosecuted for libel.
Kuchel seemed to be under the impression that given his leadership position in the GOP that he could burn bridges with the conservative wing based on the actions of certain extremists. His antagonistic relationship with the party’s conservative wing in addition to an anemic campaign (which he admitted to) narrowly cost him renomination in 1968 to the superintendent of public instruction Max Rafferty, a staunch conservative. Kuchel stated on his loss in his final Senate speech, “Some of the votes I have cast I know have been very costly to me politically. I think it is…vital that the Senate of the United States lead political opinion instead of following it” (U.S. Senate). It could be argued Kuchel got the last laugh when Rafferty lost to staunchly liberal Democrat Alan Cranston, the product of a campaign that started by alienating more moderate Republicans and an accusation that Rafferty had been a draft-dodger during World War II. Kuchel’s MC-Index score was a 48%, indicating an overall moderate record even though his words for conservatives were immoderate. Despite his loss, he had no regrets about his position, stating “Progressive Republicans brought to politics the philosophy of governing for the many. What comes particularly to my mind is Medicare. If it weren’t for Medicare today, there would be tens of thousands of Americans living in the poorhouse, with no care. It was a baker’s dozen progressive Republicans in the Senate who agreed we would vote for Medicare….I was their spokesman, and we provided the necessary margin for passage.” and said of conservatives that their theme “was militant anti-communism…They seemed convinced we were about to be invaded by the communists” (Reich).
Kuchel was a combative party moderate and although some of his decisions surrounding the conservative wing of the party are understandable and his 1962 refusal to endorse Nixon certainly didn’t cost him (he won his reelection handily that year), his 1966 refusal to endorse Reagan despite being offered an olive branch as well as his calling the conservative movement a “fanatical neo-fascist political cult” set him on his course to defeat. Kuchel is, like his mentor Earl Warren, without doubt a figure who could not be elected, much less become whip, in the modern Republican Party given not just their disagreements but outright antagonism to the conservatives.
Gillette M.L. (1980, May 15). Interview of Thomas H. Kuchel. Lyndon Baines Johnson Library Oral History Collection.
Kabaservice, G. (2012). Rule & ruin: the downfall of moderate and the destruction of the Republican party, from Eisenhower to the tea party – studies in post war US political development. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Reich, K. (1994, November 23). O.C. Politician and Ex-Senator Kuchel, 84, Dies. The Los Angeles Times.
In March 2020, Amazon as part of its efforts to limit anti-Semitic material, took most versions of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”) (1925) off of its website for sales, but this lasted only a week after controversy over whether censorship or confronting works of hate was more effective. What they did was put a note from the Anti-Defamation League as well as a critical review of the book on its listing. The sales of the book in Hitler’s lifetime not only spread his message, but it also made his fortune with the help of the Nazi Party’s publisher, Max Amann. These sales carried internationally after his rise to power in Germany but different versions were released to different nations. This was something that journalist Alan Cranston, who had been a correspondent in Germany in 1937 and 1938, discovered after seeing an English version of Mein Kampf in an American bookstore and noticed it was significantly less thick than what he had seen. Missing were the explicitly anti-Semitic and militaristic sections, parts that would cause alarm with the American public. Cranston, wanting to do more to change the world as opposed to reporting on it, got published the original work in full with an anti-Nazi cover through Stackpole Sons, a Hearst subsidiary, with the profits going to war refugee organizations rather than Hitler himself. Hitler was not pleased and sought to censor his very own book in the United States by suing through publisher Houghton Mifflin on grounds of copyright infringement. The legal theory behind the defense was as follows, as the book had initially been published in Austria and Austria was no longer a nation through the Anschluss that the copyright had expired. The court that heard the case in Connecticut did not buy this argument and sided with Houghton Mifflin, but before the book was taken off the market by court order half a million copies had been sold. That’s right, Adolf Hitler censored his own book in the United States!
Cranston would after World War II pursue a career in politics, serving as state controller of California and then as one of its senators from 1969 to 1993, where he would be known as a staunchly liberal Democrat who supported civil rights and environmentalism and opposed nuclear weapons. He was also reprimanded as one of the “Keating Five”, which is a story in itself for a future post.
As the first anniversary of the 1/6 capitol storming approaches us, I was curious to read not what the mainstream media was saying, which by and large echoed the Democratic position quite frankly, but what was being said in Congressional debates by the supporters of the objections. This is a bit of an unusual venture for me as it is very recent history and one might say its even ongoing given the existence of the 1/6 commission. I will focus only on the allegations surrounding Arizona and Pennsylvania as those were the only states in which objections were voted on, even though several legislators expressed that their objections on these were also statements against practices in other swing states that Biden won.
Full disclosure here, I did not support the challenges at the time for five reasons: I considered them hopeless, a grandiose way to express displeasure with how the mainstream media covered Biden as opposed to Trump, unsupported by evidence, politically unwise, and to stroke the galaxy-sized ego of Trump. I never personally liked him even though I found myself in agreement with many of his policies (deregulation, judicial nominations, lower taxes, opposition to “woke” politics, opposition to policies that are “open borders” in all but name) as they were mostly adoptions of conservative policies. Although my mind hasn’t changed on the wisdom of the challenges after reading these and conducting background research on claims made, especially considering what happened on January 6th, I have reached the conclusion that most arguments that came from most Republican legislators were based on charges of constitutional violations in the election process and not a charge of “systemic voter fraud” as former President Trump and a few other outspoken folks on the right alleged. Most of the grounds for objection were far more reasonable than presented by the bulk of the media, but because Trump focused on the systemic voter fraud allegation that was the one that got the most press and attention from Democrats, and it happened to be the very worst argument against certifying. This, along with the Capitol raid, served to irreparably damage any case he might have had based on process. I grant that any extra time taken to review or delay the process in these states based on rejections would almost certainly have not changed the outcome and that for Trump specifically anything other than him winning wouldn’t have been acceptable. If nothing else, his call to Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger proved it. I also found some facts I did not previously know. Some background information that is relevant to what is presented:
The Arizona Voting Registration Deadline Case
A little over a week before the Arizona voter registration deadline, progressive organizations Arizona Coalition for Change and Mi Familia Vota file a lawsuit against Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, alleging that their voter registration efforts being shut down due to COVID-19 mandated shutdowns without an extension of the deadline was unconstitutional per the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Hobbs, a Democrat, did not extend the October 5th deadline. However, District Court Judge Steven Logan (an Obama appointee) ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, extending until October 23rd. However, this ruling was undone by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which found the extension to be illegal yet gave prospective voters a two-day grace period to register, making the deadline October 15th. In this ten-day period over 35,000 people registered to vote. Biden won Arizona by 10,457 votes. However, this resulted in 10,922 voters registering as Republicans, 8,292 registering as Democrats, 498 as Libertarians, and 15,422 voters registering with neither party (Oxford, 10/16). Biden was estimated by Washington Post to have won 53% of independents as opposed to Trump’s 44% and won Democrats 96-3%, with Trump winning Republicans 90-9%.
Controversies Surrounding Changes in Pennsylvania Voting Law in 2020
In 2019, the Republican-led state legislature passed and Democratic Governor Tom Wolf signed Act 77, which allowed for voting by mail up to 50 days before an election and permitted people to sign up to vote by mail permanently, expanded time for voter registration by fifteen days, and gave financial aid to counties for new voting machines. This law was passed overwhelmingly with less than a handful of GOP legislators in opposition. In March 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States and lockdowns were put in place by the states. This also served to impact voting and voter registration policies. The changes instituted by both the governor and the state Supreme Court (which has a 5-2 Democratic majority) included a unanimous ruling that ballots cannot be rejected because of a failure for signature matching alone. The state of Pennsylvania also authorized the use of unsecured drop boxes outside of legislative authority, which the Trump campaign tried to stop but lost an October 2020 lawsuit. The practice has apparently been in use in other states before this. In addition, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court extended the deadline for mail ballots by three days, thus the deadline became 5 p.m. on November 6th, rather than 8 p.m. on Election Day. Another matter of controversy in Pennsylvania regarded the uneven application of “ballot curing” in counties, with the state issuing a guidance on the matter. Many Democratic counties got voters notified about faulty ballots to be fixed while numerous Republican counties did not, however the practice was not uniformly done by Democrats or Republicans.
The following Republican representatives spoke for rejecting electors on the grounds of unconstitutional election procedure:
Mo Brooks, Ala.
Paul Gosar, Ariz.
Andy Biggs, Ariz.
Lauren Boebert, Colo.
Kat Cammack, Fla.
Brian Mast, Fla.
Steve Scalise, La.
Clay Higgins, La.
Mike Johnson, La.
Andy Harris, Md.
Yvette Herrell, N.M.
Lee Zeldin, N.Y.
Elise Stefanik, N.Y. – Voted against Arizona objection, for Pennsylvania.
Dan Bishop, N.C.
Madison Cawthorn, N.C.
Ted Budd, N.C.
Jim Jordan, Ohio
Bill Johnson, Ohio
Warren Davidson, Ohio
Glenn Thompson, Penn. – Voted against Arizona objection, for Pennsylvania.
Lloyd Smucker, Penn. – Voted against Arizona objection, for Pennsylvania.
Jeff Duncan, S.C.
Jodey Arrington, Tex.
Roger Williams, Tex.
Representatives who voiced support for the “systemic voter fraud” argument were:
Mo Brooks, Ala. – If you count his charge that massive numbers of illegal immigrants voted and voted 80% Democrat (H89).
Paul Gosar, Ariz.
Matt Gaetz, Fla.
Marjorie Taylor Greene, Ga.
Brian Babin, Tex.
Arizona Objections (Gosar-Cruz)
Some notable arguments were in Jim Jordan’s speech; he regarded as suspicious Trump’s crowds vs. Biden’s crowds, estimating an event for Biden being 50 people while Trump had 5,000, stating incredulously, “But somehow the guy who never left his house wins the election?” (Congressional Record, H79) He goes on to state that 80 million Americans had doubts and 60 million believed it was stolen. Jordan also states, “We asked for an investigation. We asked Chairman Nadler, Chairwoman Maloney for an investigation. They said no. They wouldn’t want to investigate something that half the electorate has doubts about. It is just the Presidency of the United States” (Congressional Record, H79). He gets to the meat of his case afterwards, stating that the elections were conducted improperly because the state legislature didn’t decide in Arizona and Pennsylvania election procedures that went into use. He objected to voter registration being extended 18 days past October 5th in Arizona (its date for ending voter registration) because of an Obama-appointed judge despite Arizona law. Jordan regards this decision as contrary to the U.S. Constitution. He protests the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania extending the date mail-in ballots could arrive from 8 pm election day to Friday, and that ballots were processed before election day contrary to Pennsylvania state law Pennsylvania law. Jordan also alleges that Democratic counties permitted ballots to be “cured and fixed” before election day. He goes beyond this and charges that Democrats perpetrated violations of State Constitutions in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) joined the objection, citing Article II, Section I of the Constitution. He held that States are required to determine electors and states that Arizona’s voter deadline, which had been in place for 30 years, was extended from October 5 to October 23 in response to a lawsuit from a group demanding an extension and permitting registrations after that date to stick, despite a finding that that the state’s deadline, in place for 30 years, was constitutional (Congressional Record, H80). He complained of biased media coverage of the debate surrounding the certification of the electoral college. Biggs also charged that 32,000 people voted in violation of Arizona law. Included in his statement were about 1,000 affidavits and declarations regarding potential voter fraud in Arizona.
Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) argued that Article II, Section I, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution was violated, which states, “Each State shall appoint, in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors” as well as the election clause giving state legislatures the authority to dictate “the times, places, and manner of holding elections” (Congressional Record, H82). She holds that all votes cast from voters who registered after the October 5th deadline were unconstitutional.
Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) charged that the audit of the Arizona election was stopped after a court found a 3% error rate against Trump and a 0.03% error rate against Biden and alleges 400,000 mail-in ballots altered, switched, or erased from Trump’s totals (Congressional Record, H85). He also alleged that over 30,000 illegal aliens voted in Arizona. (Note: this is probably a botched interpretation of the voters registered between 10/6 and 10/15) Gosar also claims that over a thousand residences were visited for proof of residency and address, with 456 failing, with the Recorder’s office used as an address (Congressional Record, H85). Although he makes some out there claims, his stance is not to flip the election for Trump, it is to “Remand the slate back to the secretary of state, back to the Governor, with the following instructions: Until a full, complete electoral forensic audit is allowed by the secretary of state, the electors currently certified will not be counted” (Congressional Record, H85).
It was after this speech that the attack on the Capitol occurred.
Pennsylvania Objections (Hawley-Perry)
Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) held that the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court and secretary of state “unilaterally and unconstitutionally rewrote election law eliminating signature matching requirements” (Congressional Record, H88).
Glenn Thompson (R-Penn.) stated that although systemic voter fraud was unproven, he alleged a “systemic failure in the application of Pennsylvania’s voting law when it comes to the 2020 general election” (Congressional Record, H101). He also stated the following irregularities, “Uneven application of the law; ballot curing; ignoring signature validation requirements; using unsecured drop boxes; accepting ballots beyond the deadlines; and interfering with certified poll watcher access, among others” (Congressional Record, H101). Thompson held that these actions were taken by Governor Wolf, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State, and by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. As a side note, the U.S. Supreme Court also permitted the acceptance of absentee ballots in North Carolina and Pennsylvania past Election Day on October 28, 2020.
Andy Harris (R-Md.) cited the Democratic secretary dismissing signature authentication for ballots (Congressional Record, H101).
Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) held that Marc Elias, the Democratic Party’s chief election lawyer, had planned to inundate State and Federal courts with hundreds of election lawsuits to undermine State legislative control over elections (Congressional Record, H91). On a side note, Elias would in March 2021 be hit with an ethics sanction over a lawsuit against Texas over straight-ticket voting (Larsen).
Ted Budd (R-N.C.) most succinctly put forth the case of Republican objectors, “To sum it up, Pennsylvania officials illegally did three critical things: One, they radically expanded vote by mail for virtually any reason. Two, they removed restrictions when a ballot can be sent in. Three, they removed signature verification on those very ballots” (Congressional Record, H106).
On the widespread voter fraud arguments:
Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) argued, “I would like to point out that all the cases that have been thrown out have been thrown out on standing, not the evidence of voter fraud…By objecting today, we are telling the thousands of witnesses who signed affidavits that we have their back, and we will not allow local officials who violate their own election laws to steal this election from those who lawfully voted” (Congressional Record, H102).
Brian Babin (R-Tex.) stated, “I have no doubt that there was widespread election fraud this past November, and I am not alone. I stand here today speaking for 75 million Americans whose voice was unconstitutionally silenced” (Congressional Record, H105).
The objections began with Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) announcing that he would object to election certification. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and ten others followed suit, with him calling for an election commission to investigate election charges, based on the 1877 commission (I wrote about that one last year).
Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) held that 39% of Americans believed that the election “was rigged”. He contends that such a longstanding belief among so many people constitutes a threat to legitimacy in the future and states that “I am not arguing for setting aside the result of this election. All of us are faced with two choices, both of which are lousy. One choice is to vote against the objection, and tens of millions of Americans will see a vote against the objection as a statement that voter fraud doesn’t matter, isn’t real, and shouldn’t be taken seriously. And a great many of us don’t believe that. On the other hand, most, if not all, of us believe we should not set aside the results of an election just because our candidate may not have prevailed. So I endeavored to look for door No. 3, a third option, and for that I looked to history to the precedent of the 1876 election, the Hayes-Tilden election, where this Congress appointed an electoral commission to examine claims of voter fraud” (Congressional Record, S15).
Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) stated, “There is no question our U.S. Constitution empowers State legislatures to execute free, legal, and fair elections. Unfortunately, in several States, the clear authority of those State legislatures to determine the rules for voting was usurped by Governors, secretaries of state, and activist courts. Our laws and Constitution should always be followed, especially in a time of crisis. I don’t rise to undo a State’s legally obtained electoral college votes; rather, I rise in hopes of improving the integrity of the ballot to hold States accountable to the time-proven constitutional system of the electoral college” (Congressional Record, S23). Marshall also cites support for the commission.
Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) argued, “I say to Pennsylvania, quite apart from allegations of any fraud, you have a State constitution that has been interpreted for over a century to say that there is no mail-in balloting permitted except for in very narrow circumstances, which is also provided for in the law. Yet, last year, Pennsylvania’s elected officials passed a whole new law that allowed for universal mail-in balloting, and they did it, irregardless of what the Pennsylvania Constitution said” (Congressional Record, S25).
A lot of the objection to counting was based on court cases of varying validity in the run-up to the 2020 election that Republicans lost and the bypassing of State legislatures. It was by and large a protest over court decisions they lost, decisions made without State legislatures, and the beneficial effect they had on Democratic voter turnout (the degree to which I think this is true is overall minor). I also regard as an open question whether objection to the electoral vote count was an appropriate way to protest irregular election practices in the context of COVID-19, but two things are clear to me based on this research: the Republicans as a group were far more reasonable than portrayed in the press in their objections, with only five of them actually giving backing to Trump’s “systemic voter fraud” charges, and that Democrats mostly responded just to the low-hanging fruit among charges. I completely and utterly reject the charges that these actions were “seditious” or based upon a wish to undermine the will of the people. Sometimes the words of politicians get unfairly judged on what extremists do with them, as was the case with Rep. Clare Hoffman (R-Mich.), who I covered recently, for his “Judases” speech before Congress in January 1942. And in this case, it isn’t at all clear to me that the people who stormed the Capitol were reacting to claims of unconstitutional uses of authority in response to COVID-19 issued by most Republican members of Congress, rather the “systemic voter fraud” charge made by Trump and among his loudest and proudest supporters.
A few observations:
I realized I didn’t know the best arguments the GOP representatives were making. It was the worst arguments that got the most publicity, from Trump, the Democrats, and the MSM.
Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) comes off as one of the most effective and sensible of the dissenters in arguments, and you wouldn’t know it if you didn’t check out the Congressional Record (and how many people do, honestly?). I suspect there are greater things in this woman’s future.
The “size of crowds” argument is a popular one among Trump partisans but annoys me as it completely fails. The reasons are, first, because Biden supporters were more likely to stay out of crowds given their higher fear of COVID-19. This also hindered their voter turnout operations as there was less door-to-door campaigning. As someone who has worked on campaigns before, I know damn well how much more effective door-to-door is than phone calls. Second, it is entirely possible to have higher base commitment but lower popularity overall, and this was precisely the case with Trump. The people who show up at his rallies are NOT representative of the American public, as much as they’d like to think they are. It’s like the “which candidate has more yard signs” metric to predict who wins elections.
The argument surrounding judicial fiats and bypassing State legislatures NEVER GETS ADDRESSED directly by the Democrats, only lumped in with the numerous outlandish charges of voter fraud.
The group among the protestors that stormed the capitol really gave the Democrats political ammunition. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) called this effort a “coup” before the attack happened (S16).
Exit poll results and analysis from Arizona. The Washington Post.
In 1948, the Republicans lost their delusions that the 1946 election was a repudiation of the New Deal, and one of their losses was Earl Lewis losing to Democrat Wayne Hays (1911-1989) in Ohio’s 18th district. Hays, a staunch supporter of President Truman, became known as tough and mean; when Sam Rayburn (D-Tex.) wanted the second investigation into tax-exempt institutions, also known as the Reece Committee, undermined, he picked him to join the committee. Hays would proceed to fight the committee at every step of the way, criticizing it for having nine of its ten witnesses being part of the committee staff and walking out after the witness outside of the committee, San Francisco attorney Aaron Sargent, charged Senator Paul Howard Douglas (D-Ill.) of having connections to socialist organizations. Hays was ultimately successful in hamstringing the committee’s public operations, and this in addition to the unfortunate timing of the Reece Committee’s report relegated it to being forgotten by most. He was a liberal overall with his MC-Index life score being a 19%, but he was also a staunch party loyalist: he demanded the stripping of Adam Clayton Powell (D-N.Y.) of committee assignments for endorsing President Eisenhower for reelection over his view that the 1956 GOP platform was better on civil rights than the Democratic one. He would after voting against excluding instead of censuring Powell, vote for the resolution excluding him from the 90th Congress for misuse of office funds. Hays had some personal controversies of his own. In 1963, he was criticized for taking the head waiter of the House, Ernest Petinaud, to London and Paris on a junket, having the House pay for all his expenses. Hays defended the expense by saying that he served as a messenger for the junket and that he was invited partly because he was black and partly as a reward for being a nice fellow (Langeveld). In 1966, Hays again attracted controversy for how he handled a traffic stop. He was cited for speeding and for driving away from the officer who pulled him over for having offended him (Langeveld).
Hays was a loyal supporter of most items in the Democratic agenda, and in 1969 he succeeded Omar Burleson (D-Tex.) as chair of the House Administration Committee. It was during the Nixon years that Hays reached the zenith of his power, ruling at least partly out of fear that if he was upset, he would cut off the air conditioning to the offending member of Congress. He was indeed the most feared man in Congress, known sometimes as “the Archie Bunker of Capitol Hill” and became known for taking pleasure in settling personal scores (The Los Angeles Times). As head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Hays was someone who especially Democrats had to please. He backed public financing for presidential elections but not for Congressional elections, holding that it would be too chaotic. Among actions that caused controversy included the removal of jump seats in the House elevators, requiring staff to stand at all times, and banning tips for House barbers (Langeveld). Hays and Phil Burton (D-Calif.), another fellow known for being quite tough, formed an alliance for leading the House. It was Burton who referred to him as “the meanest man in Congress” (Langeveld). Republican Representative Bud Shuster of Pennsylvania (1983) agreed, “While his colleagues might have argued over whether he, as chairman of the House Administrative Committee and the Democratic Campaign Committee, was the second or third most powerful member of Congress, few disagreed that he stood in a class by himself as the meanest man in the House” (63-64).
Although Hays was indeed tough and mean, he was reelected time and again from this otherwise competitive district as he excelled at constituent service and was highly attentive. As an obituary noted, “He could stand at a rally and call voters by their first names; he sent greeting cards to mark marriages, anniversaries, births and graduations” (The New York Times). Hays would regularly help constituents with issues surrounding the federal bureaucracy and they thanked him through reelection. He also was known for taking heat for Congress when others would rather not step up.
As it turns out, Wayne Hays was not unassailable in his personal life. In 1976, his mistress, Elizabeth Ray, revealed that he had hired her as his secretary despite having no secretarial skills whatsoever and he had given her a lavish office. At the time of the breaking of the story, he had been married to his second wife for six weeks, and Ray was offended at not being invited to the wedding. As Ray recounted, Hays stated the marriage wouldn’t change the relationship “if you behave yourself” (Clark & Maxa). Shortly after the revelation, Hays almost died of an overdose of sleeping pills. He did admit to the affair in a speech before the House on May 25, 1976, stating, “I hope that when the time comes to leave this House, which I love, Wayne Hays may be remembered as mean, arrogant, cantankerous and tough, but I hope Wayne Hays will never be thought of as dishonest” (Los Angeles Times). His time came in September 1976, as he opted to resign in the face of an Ethics Committee investigation for misuse of government funds. It was not lost on observers that Hays was in hot water for one of the reasons Powell was, improperly employing a person they were in a relationship with. He made a brief comeback when in 1978 he won election to the Ohio state House, but lost reelection in 1980 by 500 votes to future Congressman Bob Ney.
Clark, M. & Maxa, R. (1976, May 23). Closed Session Romance on the Hill. The Washington Post.