OPINION: The most important litmus test of all


If there’s one thing that keeps me up at night, it’s my worry that those of us who are dedicated to democracy and therefore committed to playing by the rules are underestimating the willingness of House Republicans to break the rules to elect Trump.

It’s easy to forget that most current Republican members of the House, including Republican Speaker Michael Johnson, refused to certify the outcome of the 2020 election.

In fact, Johnson helped organize 138 Republican House members to dispute that outcome, despite state certifications and the nearly unanimous rulings from state and federal courts that it was an honest election.

If Johnson and his cronies had so few scruples then, why should we assume they’ll have more scruples in the weeks following November’s elections?

The specific scenario I worry about is that in the wake of the elections, the House’s election-denying Republicans retain their majority in the next Congress by denying certification of Democratic candidates who have won by close margins. Then, on Jan. 6, 2025, the new Republican House majority refuses to certify Electoral College results from states that went for Biden by close margins — thereby ensuring that no candidate receives an Electoral College majority.

As a result, the decision about who’s to be the next president is made on a state-by-state delegation vote — almost surely delivering it to Trump.

I don’t think this scenario is far-fetched. Good faith can no longer be assumed. Quite the contrary: the current litmus test for Republican lawmakers in the Trump GOP is to say publicly that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. Presumably they and Trump will do anything to get the White House back.

So what can we do to prevent it?

Long before we reach this constitutional crisis, Speaker Johnson and others in the Republican House leadership must pledge to certify the results of the November elections. They should be asked by the media to make this commitment. If they won’t, Americans need to know — and know why.

It’s worth noting in this regard that Rep. Elise Stefanik, the fourth-ranking Republican in the House, has refused to commit to certifying the results of next November’s elections, saying “we will see if this is a legal and valid election.”

She then claimed that the 2020 presidential race “was not a fair election” despite multiple legal reviews sought by Trump and his allies confirming that it was.

Why hasn’t Stefanik’s refusal been more widely reported?

Why isn’t the mainstream media requiring House Republicans to commit to certifying the results of the November election?

The GOP has made 2020 election denialism a litmus test for membership in their party. The nation should make 2024 certification a litmus test for commitment to our democracy.

(Robert Bernard Reich is an American professor, author, lawyer, and political commentator. He worked in the administrations of presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, and served as Secretary of Labor from 1993 to 1997 in the cabinet of President Bill Clinton.)

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