National Review’s Surrender Caucus Folds on Elections - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
National Review’s Surrender Caucus Folds on Elections

I’m friends with just about every one of the eight people who served as Louisiana’s Trump electors following the 2016 election.

I mention this because in the wake of that election, and before the eight convened to cast their electoral vote, they were deluged with a cascade of emails, letters, and phone calls. It turned out that Hillary Clinton’s camp, not satisfied with multiple public statements trashing our electoral process, opted to set loose an army of goons on Donald Trump electors across America.

Some of the entreaties toward the electors were polite, if pathetic. Others were hostile. Many were threatening. The demands were nonstop. More than one of my friends changed their phone numbers as a result. Not one had the slightest inclination toward changing his or her vote as a result of the harassment.

Democrats have attacked the sanctity of our electoral process every time they’ve lost a presidential election this century. At this point it’s expected they’ll do that. Following the 2016 election, they didn’t just harass Trump electors, they rioted in Washington on Inauguration Day. Damage from the mayhem stretched into the seven figures before law enforcement regained control of the streets.

Was anybody prosecuted for organizing those riots? No. Did anyone spend months in DC jails without bail or trial for participating in them? No.

But were there calls to change the format of our electoral process? Oh, yes.

We’re in the midst of a long-form campaign to pervert the electoral process by having states agree to unilaterally abandon it in favor of adhering to the “national popular vote,” in which the people of, say, South Dakota are supposed to surrender their role in American elections based on the vote totals someone might run up by reaping a rich harvest of ballots in New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles. It’s the kind of idea favored by the overeducated and undereducated alike, and it does direct violence to the spirit of our founding — namely, that we are the United States of America, and that what’s sovereign here is Texas, Illinois, Utah, or South Carolina and not the District of Columbia. Paramount in that equation is that California doesn’t get to tell Mississippi what to do.

It’s important to remember that each state has a role to play in the governance of this nation. When that isn’t remembered the results are always less than our standard. The Left has no interest in that standard.

Also following the 2016 election, the Left did something else to our electoral process. They bragged about it later in the pages of Time magazine. A cabal of people with power and money got together and plotted out a perversion of the system — which they arrogantly termed a “fortification” of it — to break down election integrity in key states.

Laws were changed without the participation of state legislatures, in direct violation of the Constitution’s prescription that those legislatures should have plenary power to dictate the manner of their conduct. The COVID “emergency” was used to justify things which are, or were, universally accepted as poor practice. Most importantly, mail-in balloting, which a bipartisan commission on elections more than 15 years before had castigated as the worst possible idea.

And then $400 million in Big Tech-generated “grant” money flowed to local elections offices in heavily-Democrat jurisdictions, turning those offices into get-out-the-vote operations for the 2020 Biden-Harris ticket.

One can and should be appalled at the failure of the then-sitting president of the United States, who saw this coming and loudly complained about it, to fight back against those efforts before the fact. It isn’t wrong to say that Donald Trump, the most powerful man in the world, had a responsibility to insure that cabal couldn’t pull off the coup they did. But while the core efforts at rigging the 2020 election through ballot-harvesting and Zuckerbucks didn’t specifically violate the law, except in some of the more egregious alleged incidences, it’s quite obvious that the proper conservative response to that election is to attack the failings of the system at the state level to make sure that if elections are to be “fortified,” it’s against vote fraud and manipulation so 2020’s fishy proceedings are a one-time anomaly.

With the understanding that state legislatures are the constitutionally established bulwark against this happening again.

There is still debate among Republicans over the 2020 election, with some still distracted by claims about software manipulation and Dominion, etc. There isn’t a whole lot of debate, at least among ordinary folks, that something quite unusual and more than a little sinister was at work to produce as president a feeble, senile man incapable of even campaigning for the job. Independents and even a growing share of Democrats share that feeling.

But the response to all this over at National Review is as it so commonly is. NR‘s editors, led by editor-in-chief Rich Lowry, knocked out a missive over the weekend which called for a revision of the Electoral Count Act of 1877.

To do what, you ask? Two things, principally…

At a minimum, it should make explicit and undeniable that (1) the vice president does not decide which electoral votes to count; and (2) states that hold popular votes to choose electors cannot later attempt to have their legislatures select their own electors. There is also a strong case for requiring more than a single senator to object to a state’s electors in order to trigger a vote, for requiring more than a majority vote of each house to throw out a certified slate of electors, and for clarifying that Congress is not the place to relitigate any challenge that was, or could have been, raised in the courts or in state election-contest proceedings.

One might read the first contention as an attempt to bail out Mike Pence’s putative 2024 presidential campaign, for which there is no particular public appetite. It isn’t wrong to say that Pence lacked the legal basis to contest the election results on January 6 when they came to him, though one might very well surmise that were the roles reversed in, say, 2012, Vice President Joe Biden would have hesitated not at all to declare them invalid.

But the second contention gives the game away.

The entire point of designating state legislatures, in the Constitution, as the arbiters of election process and results is to give the responsible public officials closest to the people the power to run this show.

Lowry and his people at National Review, who have spent this year repeatedly, ad nauseam, pimping Liz Cheney not as a cynical tool of the Washington establishment but somehow a bipartisan voice of reason because she was willing to attack Trump over Jan. 6 (as NR‘s editors did), can’t actually believe that tying the hands of those legislators in the event we get even more pronounced irregularities in a Philadelphia or Atlanta is a good idea.

Why on earth would Republicans agree to this, much less propose it?

And why would Lowry and the “conservatives” on the National Review editorial staff suggest it?

We get a certain bit of suggestion of why in the piece…

Senate Democrats, however, have recently been getting more serious about revising the Electoral Count Act. By participating in that process, Senate Republicans can pressure them to produce a clean standalone bill and can have input to shape the revisions.

Republicans are understandably mistrustful of a legislative process controlled by Democrats and are hesitant to do anything that looks like giving Joe Biden a win or siding with Biden against Trump. The former president is likely to react poorly once again to Republicans voting for a bipartisan bill. But if anything, a show of bipartisan cooperation on neutral rules for resolving election contests would rob Democrats of a rhetorical weapon. Suffering Trump’s passing anger now is preferable to facing another of his pressure campaigns if he is a candidate again in 2024.

Oh, OK.

Quick — name the last time there was a “clean standalone bill” for anything Republicans found to be good policy after Democrats got through with it!

Where do these people come up with this?

Yes, Republicans are mistrustful of “bipartisan” legislation when negotiating with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, or for doing deals with Joe Biden’s handlers. Even Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are loath to do that.

But “robbing Democrats of a rhetorical weapon,” that’s a big win to be sure. Potent, one might say.

As if the Democrats don’t manufacture rhetorical weapons out of thin air any time they please.

Do you want to know what this looks like? It looks like the classic “The Conservative Case For…” piece which appears at supposedly bipartisan outlets like the Atlantic, or all too often at National Review, simping for some idea or other which is not only manifestly not conservative, but horrendously unpopular with people who vote Republican.

Every time one of these things appears, it’s hard not to ask who paid for it.

Because offering up such a seemingly-unsolicited surrender when there is so little demand for it simply reeks of “checkbook conservatism.”

Lowry ought to answer for the genesis of this out-of-the-blue demand for upending the electoral process and defenestrating state legislatures’ constitutionally protected primal role in our elections. It’s suspicious, and it doesn’t wash. And the Right has suffered too many betrayals from its supposed “thinking” classes in recent times. The benefit of the doubt is gone.

Scott McKay
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Scott McKay is a contributing editor at The American Spectator  and publisher of the Hayride, which offers news and commentary on Louisiana and national politics, and, a national political news aggregation and opinion site. Additionally, he's the author of the new book The Revivalist Manifesto: How Patriots Can Win The Next American Era, available at He’s also a writer of fiction — check out his three Tales of Ardenia novels Animus, Perdition and Retribution at Amazon. Scott's other project is The Speakeasy, a free-speech social and news app with benefits - check it out here.
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