Over Fifty GOP Electors May Have Voted Illegally. Not One Democratic Senator Will Speak Up

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), flanked by freshman Democrats Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) (L), Senator
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), flanked by freshman Democrats Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) (L), Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) (bottom L) and Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), speaks with reporters after the weekly Senate Democratic caucus luncheon at the U.S. Capitol on Washington, U.S. January 4, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

When I grow up, I want to be a Democratic senator. It must be relaxing to never fight a battle. I find it heartening to know that not a single Democrat in the Senate is willing to challenge the Electoral College vote, even though we have evidence that over fifty Republican electors may have voted illegally. To challenge this would be a breach of decorum, and what matters now -- above all -- is to be polite. You don't want to cast aspersions upon the workings of the democracy; that might incline people to lose respect for the process, and hence to abuse it. Wouldn't that be horrible? Better to be a Democrat.

Imagine how poorly behaved Republicans would be in this circumstance: if the election had been handed to Hillary by the FBI and the Russian president, and the Electoral College were in violation of the law. They'd be so very obstreperous. It would be embarrassing. Worse: they might even change the outcome. Think what poor sportsmen they'd be considered if they did that. Better to be a Democrat.

I know -- the merely courageous will tell you that you can't win a battle that you don't fight. But Democrats have figured out something much more congenial: you can't lose one either. And losing is depressing.

Of course, it's also depressing to be a jellyfish nailed to a plank.

Still, we should sympathize. It's hard to stand up to things when you're spineless, and the spine-impaired are human too. It would be insensitive to call upon even one lousy senator to demonstrate courage here. The Senate should be a safe space.

Also, questioning the legitimacy of electors has only the very slimmest chance of changing anything; nobody doubts this. It's one of those battles where the odds are painful. And that's the kind of battle that really doesn't appeal, unless you're a hero. We've all met a few of those: pushy, annoying people who talk about "honor" and "principle" and "doing the right thing." Not the kind of people you want to caucus with. Heroes are lame. You want to be the sort of soldier who fights only the most winnable of wars. Sooner or later one of those battles will come along, and you can rest assured that Democrats will be all over it. We'll see an army of them, claiming their easy victory, and then graciously offering concessions and compromises to the losers, so that nobody's sore.

When it comes to not fighting, Democratic solidarity is truly impressive: a wall of cowardice. All it would take here is one -- a single senator -- to support the challenge, and then the matter would go to debate. Just one principled politician, willing to express outrage at Electoral College malfeasance. But progressives are better than that. If you rock the boat, then one of your friends might get wet, and then he'll be angry at you, and people will suggest that you're not a team player, and it will all be just so depressing.

And what's at stake, after all? The demonstrable illegitimacy of the new president? This strikes you as a reason to make noise, and risk Republican complaints? Do you have any idea how angry Sean Hannity will be?

It is time to recognize cowardice for what it is: a virtue. Which is to say, a quality evinced by the best people. Let us celebrate Democrats, because only the best lack all conviction.