- - Sunday, January 3, 2021

A lot of people are quite upset at Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley’s announced decision to object during the Electoral College certification process this coming Jan. 6. It’s, to be clear, a symbolic move, and will result only in two hours of debate in both chambers. At the end of the debates — the subject of which will be whether or not to count Pennsylvania’s (and possibly other states’) votes — Congress will still have to respect the Electoral College decision.

Unless, of course, both the House and Senate vote to reject. But, with multiple GOP senators having already recognized President-elect Joe Biden, and a Democratic-controlled House, this simply is not in the realm of possibilities.

At the moment much ink is being spilled over Mr. Hawley’s actions, with much of the condemnation coming from conservatives, who, narrowly interpreting his move in a legal or political framework, see it as either sour grapes or grandstanding for a 2024 run.

But framing the issue in this way — i.e. cold political calculation — does not, we think, capture the underlying importance of what Mr. Hawley is trying to achieve. By forcing public discussion on the issue of election integrity — the matter of election fraud simply can’t be denied on a certain level — the senator is doing what he can to ensure Americans don’t lose sight of this important — and what should be bipartisan — issue. He knows this won’t change what happens later in the month, it’s the change in how we count votes that comes in the coming months and years that Mr. Hawley is after.

And though a shift in process will not come from the federal level, powerful senators (and House members) have an opportunity to set the stage for conversation. They can, in a real way, provide intellectual cover to their fellow travelers in the statehouses who may feel intimidated by their liberal peers. To repeat, the big game will not be caught during the coming days. The feast, if it happens at all, comes later.

We should finally note that Mr. Hawley’s move is also, at the end of the day, about fairness and justice. As he put it during his recent statement:

“Following both the 2004 and 2016 elections, Democrats in Congress objected during the certification of electoral votes in order to raise concerns about election integrity. They were praised by Democratic leadership and the media when they did. And they were entitled to do so. But now those of us concerned about the integrity of this election are entitled to do the same.”

And there should be nothing, in our view, controversial about this.

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