Two weeks ago, Americans elected Joe Biden as our 46th President. The following Saturday, all reasonable doubts about that outcome were removed when the Associated Press declared Biden the winner in Pennsylvania. That fact is indisputable, but President Trump has never let inconvenient truths bother him before, and they aren’t now.
Trump went to court to challenge the results: among the several suits he filed in Pennsylvania, one charged that Republican observers were barred from observing ballot counts. The allegation was false, and Trump’s lawyers knew it. On questioning, they admitted there was “a nonzero number of people in the room.” The judge hearing the case, a George W. Bush appointee, then said, “I’m sorry, then what’s your problem?” Case dismissed.
So were others asking the courts to block counting ballots or for voters to correct ballots rejected for errors such as lack of signatures. In Michigan, it was much the same story: Trump’s challenges to vote counting there were dismissed as “mere speculation.” Ditto for Arizona and Nevada.
He tried something different in Georgia. Trump wanted ballots received in the mail after November 3 not to be counted. The case was dismissed in one day. The judge in that case said there was “no evidence” that ballots were mishandled. Similar suits were thrown out in Arizona and Nevada.
Not even one of 29 Republican secretaries of state have reported any major voting issues. That hasn’t stopped Trump asked for a recount in Wisconsin, where he trailed by more than 20,000 votes. He’s asking his loyalists to help pay for the recount. Most of the money his “Official Election Defense Fund” takes in winds up in his “Make America Great Again Committee” PAC, created to allow him to retain influence in the Republican Party.
The election is lost, legal challenges have failed, and the money Trump’s asking for isn’t being used for what he says it would have been. In other words, it’s business as usual for the president.
The sound and fury coming from Trump won’t keep him in office. But the weeks he wastes with his challenges and stonewalling the transition to Biden’s team put the nation at risk. The next president will need to deal with the staggering impact of increases in COVID-19 cases on the economy, to say nothing of the public health system. Denying the new administration lead time to prepare to take control of the executive branch is singularly unhelpful. Among Trump’s actions to block the Biden team are refusing to allow the GSA to release $10 million to Biden and denying him access to presidential daily briefings.
If kneecapping an incoming administration on domestic matters creates problems, doing so in foreign policy issues is positively distressing. Uncertainty about how the new team will handle the challenges of office creates a period of vulnerability. Foreign powers, especially hostile ones, don’t give a new administration a “honeymoon period.” They will use the transition period to exacerbate international tensions. Secretary of State Pompeo’s ill-conceived remark that “there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump Administration” telegraphed a message of internal strife to all of our foreign adversaries. They know Biden will be the next president; they are sure to take full advantage of our political problems.
Even more importantly, the nation has an uninterrupted history of peaceful transfer of power from one presidency to the next. This is more than mere tradition. It is the very kernel of democracy itself. America’s trust in our government stands on our trust that elections are fair. Trump’s truculent refusal to accept the will of the people sparked violent protests on the Capitol’s streets last Saturday. Thousands of Trump supporters protested the election results, resulting in at least one stabbing and 20 arrests. Earlier in the day, while en route to an urgent meeting with his golf caddie, Trump gave thumbs up to those protesters as his motorcade drove by their gathering places.
Divisions within the Republican Party are surfacing: prominent GOP voices are saying Trump needs to face facts and allow the transition to proceed; Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said, “we need to begin the process.” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said, “I expect Joe Biden to be the next president of the United States.” Former national security advisor John Bolton said, “I think it’s very important for leaders in the Republican Party to explain to our voters … that, in fact, Trump has lost the election and that his claims of election fraud are baseless.”
Trump must face reality, accept the truth, and tell his die-hard followers to do the same. It would be the best thing he can do for the country. The consequences of his failure to do so are too ghastly to contemplate.
Mitch Edelman, vice chairperson of the Carroll County Democratic Central Committee, writes from Finksburg. His column appears every other Tuesday. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.