The start of the post-Trump era in Kansas Republican circles has not been terribly encouraging.
Derek Schmidt, generally a voice of reason who serves as the state’s Attorney General, decided to join in a lawsuit brought by Texas to try to overturn the presidential election. He justified this on the grounds that it was a serious constitutional question that the Supreme Court needed to address, but — as was entirely predictable — the Supreme Court quickly batted it away. It had quickly squelched another challenge on the same issue a few days before.
That was the end of the line for Donald Trump’s attempts to undo the election that he lost to Joe Biden.
My guess is that Mr. Schmidt knew exactly what was going to happen in court. He’s a sharp guy.
Mr. Schmidt also noted, by way of explanation, that his office had received 15,000 calls and emails encouraging him to join the lawsuit, and that is a much more honest answer.
Because that’s what this is about. This is about votes, particularly votes in the next Republican primary, whether that’s in two, four or six years.
We assume similar motives of Roger Marshall, who won the election last month to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Sen. Pat Roberts. He backed that Texas lawsuit as well.
He had to know what has been clear for several weeks, which is that there is no evidence of problems that would have changed the outcome of the election in the slightest. Republican elected officials, Republican-appointed judges, and any serious observers have made that clear, in recount after recount, lawsuit after lawsuit, and appeal after appeal. The U.S. Attorney General, William Barr, said as much. (Which, of course, got him crosswise with his boss, President Trump, and so he abruptly left office.)
But Rep. Marshall jumped on board. Because he’s not stupid, we have to assume he did so for entirely rational reasons — positioning himself politically the way he wants to be seen within the party.
I said at the outset that this is the post-Trump period, but that might not actually be true. Mr. Trump is going to try to remain the leader of the GOP, and many Republicans don’t want to cross him. Backing him even as he tries to undo an election is evidently viewed as politically advantageous to some Kansas Republicans. Because even if Mr. Trump is no longer the center of power, it’s not lost on Republican officials that he got more votes in this state than the other guy. The last thing they want is to face down a challenger on the right, flinging out direct-mail hit-pieces, zapping them for “helping put Sleepy Joe in the White House!!”
We certainly wish the two sitting senators Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts had been more vocal, distancing themselves from this nonsense, showing a better path forward for the state’s dominant political party. To their credit, they have not jumped on board with the Trump lawsuits or the baseless claims that the election was fraudulent or rigged. Sen. Roberts, in his farewell remarks, made an appeal to bipartisanship and compromise, and that was certainly welcome. But they did not exactly distinguish themselves here with leadership, in a moment when they could have distinguished themselves.
Where are the voices of reason? I know lots of Republicans around here who’re waiting.