Along with 10 of her colleagues, newly elected Sen. Cynthia Lummis pledged to vote against certifying the Electoral College results of the presidential election unless the federal government agreed to overrule state officials and investigate election results. But only in states president Trump lost. Then following the Trump incited attack on Congress, Lummis changed her mind and voted to certify the Arizona results. Then she changed her mind again and voted to reject the Pennsylvania certified results, saying that, “The allegations of fraud during this election were unprecedented, and left millions of Americans concerned that their votes don’t count. Discussions of election integrity must occur, and I will seek another forum to continue that discussion.”
Lummis did not say that the level of fraud was unprecedented. Rather she said that the allegations of fraud were unprecedented, ignoring the fact that these allegations were made almost entirely by President Trump and his supporters. She also chose to ignore the fact that, aside from Nevada, all the states whose results she questioned audited the vote and found no evidence of irregularities that would change the results. And she ignored the more than fifty lawsuits filed by Trump or Trump supporters that have been repeatedly thrown out for lack of evidence. These were rulings made in state courts, state supreme courts, federal courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court where all three justices appointed by Trump found no evidence to support the president’s claims. After two months of contentious legal action and social media frenzy, the vast majority of scholars, legal experts, jurists, commentators, state and local elections officials, cybersecurity specialists and Trump administration officials, including former Attorney General William Barr and investigators in the Justice Department, have all concluded that the charges of vote fraud are baseless. There is no evidence that the election was rigged or stolen.
Still, Lummis, in one of her first acts in office chose to challenge the legitimacy of the election. Barely out of the gate, she has set in place her legacy and will be remembered for encouraging misinformation and conspiracy theories, for siding with a president who after losing an election refused to step aside, for breaking her sworn pledge to defend and protect the Constitution, and for undercutting the norms and practices of representative democracy.
Then there’s our congressperson, Rep. Liz Cheney. Over the past four years Cheney’s congressional votes have aligned with President Trump 95% of the time. And yet, of late, Cheney has shown herself to be a champion of democracy, a Republican power broker willing to speak truth to even greater power, that is, willing to contradict the president.
The congressional attempt to overturn the election, Cheney has said, sets “an exceptionally dangerous precedent…” in that such a move would give Congress the authority to overrule state and federal courts. Not to mention the authority to overrule the nation’s voters. In any case, Cheney reminds us, a congressional overturning of the legitimately conducted election is clearly unconstitutional. While noting that she was unhappy with the election results, Cheney emphasized that the vote on the state certified Electoral College result is “…not about Trump. It’s about following the Constitution and recognizing that the authority here rests with the states and the people.”
This brings us to the attack on Congress. Following that attack, Cheney stated that what happened was the result of the president “…convincing people that somehow Congress was going to overturn the result of this election…There’s no question that the president formed the mob, incited the mob, the president addressed the mob. He lit the flame.”
In the aftermath of the attack on the Capitol, Lummis, on the other hand, said, “I hope it’s not Trump supporters that are involved in the mayhem. In my previous experience with these Trump supporters, they have been peaceful demonstrators, happy people, very patriotic, pro-America, and I feel like other forces like Antifa were advocating violence.”
Lummis’s statement came after the president urged his followers to act on his behalf. Then, after they did, he told them that he loved them. No evidence has been presented showing any involvement by antifa activists in the Trump crowd’s actions. No evidence and yet Lummis repeats rumors from far-right voices, from self-serving conspiracy theorists, from Trump and his family.
There’s a big difference in Lummis’s and Cheney’s views. I’d love to hear what the two would say to each other about all this. Maybe we could have a public forum. While I know I’m not a real journalist — I have a Master of Fine Arts degree in poetry writing, for God’s sake — I might be the perfect person for the job, a Democrat in a Republican dominated one-party ruled state. I’ll just ask the questions.
David Romtvedt is a writer and musician from Buffalo. His next book of poetry No Way: An American Tao Te Ching is forthcoming from the Louisiana State University Press.