Overturning the Presidential Election Result In Southwest Virginia

Photograph Source: United States House of Represetntatives – Public Domain

While Republican senators Hawley and Cruz grab the headlines in their attempts to curry favour with the previous inhabitant of the White House (and his base) by trying to upend the election result, a host of smaller Republican players around the country have made similar efforts at ingratiation.

The case of Western Virginia’s Congressional representatives is instructive in this regard.

I happen to live in the district of Morgan “the Morgue” Griffith (R-VA09) who, with the advantages of incumbency and hefty corporate subventions, has made it into something of a fiefdom.

Griffith was elected to the 9th in the Tea Party wave of 2010.

The Morgue, who is a lawyer, signed on to the Texas lawsuit trying to overturn the results of the presidential election, saying it was “well-written and persuasive”, even though the overwhelming consensus among legal scholars is that the lawsuit was completely without merit, and bordered on the frivolous.

The gravamen of the lawsuit initiated by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was that 4 states won by Biden– Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin— had “unlawful election results” because of the way they counted votes.

Biden’s victory ensured that Kamala Harris would have the deciding vote in any Senate decision that was tied, and Paxton argued that laws passed by the Senate had outcomes that affected Texas.

The Supreme Court threw out the case, saying “Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections”.

Ken Paxton is facing legal difficulties of his own, and some in the commentariat argue that his lawsuit was a brazen attempt to curry favour with Trump in the hope of receiving a presidential pardon.

Whatever Paxton’s motives were, the Morgue had to take a different legal tack— the impact of Senate decisions on Texas have no material bearing on the state of Virginia.

Hence the Morgue explained that he sided with Ken Paxton because the governors, not the legislatures, had implemented changes in voting procedures during the pandemic, while only legislatures had the authority to do so.

The Morgue was heedless of the fact that in Texas, Governor Greg Abbott had extended the early voting period by executive order—so why wasn’t Griffith challenging the election result in Texas? Readers will know the answer.

Griffith was the only member from Virginia to vote against part of COVID-19 relief bill, joining 129 other Republicans who voted against a measure to increase the next round of stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000.

The Morgue said he voted against the CASH Act because it didn’t include spending cuts, which Trump demanded as condition for increasing the amount of the stimulus payments.

In any event, the Morgue is a corporate shill, mainly for the fossil fuel industry. According to Blue Virginia, his backers include Norfolk Southern, Alpha Natural Resources, the National Auto Dealers Association, Dominion Energy, Altria, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Comcast, Eastman Chemical, FirstEnergy Corp, and Koch Industries.

Griffith puts more energy into representing his donors than his voters, by espousing the now standard Republican strategy of catering to corporate interests while fobbing-off his voters with culture wars.

Politicsthatwork.com says his voting record indicates that the Morgue opposes gun control, foreign and humanitarian aid, a humane immigration policy, labour rights, LGBT rights, racial equality, and women’s rights.

When the House of Representatives reconvened after the riot at the Capitol to certify the election results, Griffith was among 139 Republican representatives who voted against certification.

In this vote he was joined by Ben Cline (R-VA06), who represents the adjacent district. Cline has in fact been in lockstep with Griffith in doing Trump’s bidding on the election results.

Cline took over from the long-time incumbent Bob Goodlatte, winning his seat in 2018. He had previously served as Goodlatte’s chief of staff. Goodlatte was House Judiciary Committee Chairman when he retired, and used his position, assiduously, to protect corporations from civil litigation. So much so that CounterPuncher Ralph Nader gave him the nickname “Bad Bob” in a typically excoriating piece.

Cline appears to have acquired Bad Bob’s bag of tricks, and is backed by AT&T, the American Bankers Association, the National Auto Dealers Association, Dominion Energy, Holtzman Oil, Deloitte (after the Capitol riot Deloitte announced it would not be donating to Republican politicians who tried to overturn the election result), among others.

Politicsthatwork.com says that Cline opposes environmental protection, a humane immigration policy, LGBT rights, racial equality, and women’s rights.

Bad Bob may have departed the hallways of Congress, but Virginia’s Sixth District now has Bad Ben.

The news from the Virginia General Assembly offered a small contrast to the goings-on in the Virginia Congressional delegation. To quote the Roanoke Times:

“House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn removed three Republicans from committees Wednesday in response to a letter they sent to Vice President Mike Pence last week asking him to overturn Virginia’s electoral votes.

Dels. Ronnie Campbell of Rockbridge, Mark Cole of Spotsylvania and David LaRock of Loudoun asked Pence to reject the “certificate of ascertainment” that was submitted to formally cast Virginia’s electoral votes.

On the opening day of the regular session of the General Assembly, Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, removed Campbell, a former state trooper, from Courts of Justice; LaRock from Transportation; and Cole from Privileges and Elections. When Republicans controlled the House, Cole served as chairman of the elections committee”.

Previously, Campbell posted on his Facebook page a link to a petition asking the US Supreme Court to order a new election (it doesn’t have the authority to do so). In addition to asking people to sign the petition, Campbell also called for a fresh election without the use of absentee ballots.

LaRock attended the Trump rally in Washington DC which preceded the riot at the Capitol. He later issued a statement claiming the riot had been caused by “paid provocateurs”.

These Republicans would of course have got-off scot free had the Republicans controlled the Virginia House.

Kenneth Surin teaches at Duke University, North Carolina.  He lives in Blacksburg, Virginia.