For months now, Republican President Donald Trump has repudiated mail-in ballots, making the baseless claim that they amounted to a corrupt scheme. One effect of this was to discourage his own supporters from using them. The result? As votes were tabulated in key swing states following Election Day, the last ones counted — those very same mail-in ballots — greatly favored his Democratic rival, Joe Biden. And so by Saturday with enormous gains for the former vice president in Pennsylvania, the outcome was clear: Mr. Biden is projected to be the next president of the United States.
Predictably, Mr. Trump twisted these circumstances to portray the election as fraudulent and himself a victim of a media-driven conspiracy, and he has vowed an all-out war that will somehow result in his winning a second term. On Saturday, he tweeted: “I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!” Thankfully, some other members of his party — albeit too few of them — are refusing to let such bogus conspiracy theories and inflammatory rhetoric stand.
As early as Wednesday, Gov. Larry Hogan called President Trump’s initial claims of victory “outrageous and uncalled for and a terrible mistake.” And on Thursday, the governor accused Mr. Trump of “undermining of our Democratic process" with “frivolous” lawsuits that seek to reverse the election’s outcome.
“There is no defense for the President’s comments tonight undermining our Democratic process. America is counting the votes, and we must respect the results as we always have before. No election or person is more important than our Democracy,” Maryland’s governor reiterated on Twitter.
Mr. Hogan has crossed swords with Mr. Trump before. As governor of a majority-Democratic state that overwhelmingly supported Mr. Biden, it’s surely politically easier for him to challenge his party’s leader. But across the country, the reaction within the GOP has been far more tepid. Some of the truly soulless have fallen dutifully in line such as Sens. Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz. Others have stood up for counting all the votes including, thankfully, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Susan Collins. Sens. Pat Toomey and Ben Sasse have decried allegations of fraud without evidence. But why isn’t everyone? Elsewhere there is a deafening silence or, at best, some mealy mouthed words from Republicans who mostly want to change the topic.
They should be ashamed of themselves, for if Mr. Trump’s results were the result of fraud, then so must theirs be. And putting aside the presidency, the Republican Party fared quite well in the election, particularly given the COVID-19 pandemic and economic travails that surely weighed heavily on the minds of voters. The GOP gained seats in the House, and on the state level, no legislative body switched from Republican-majority to Democratic-majority, a contrast to the 2018 contest. Democrats ought to pay attention: Whatever the final vote tally at the top of the ticket and the record-setting vote tally for Mr. Biden, Americans did not reject Republicanism, they rejected Donald Trump.
The risk here is not just a short-term constitutional crisis. Even if the president’s strategy of tort and tantrum fails, the Trump legacy of lies, of vilification, of conspiracy theories, of division, hate and racial animus is likely to live on. Even now, there is speculation that Senator McConnell may deny the will of a Democratic president at every turn, down to Cabinet appointments. And many in the GOP are fearful that a toppled Trump will continue to wield huge influence with Republican voters.
And so, Republican leaders mince words or they don’t speak out at all, leaving some supporters confused: Was the election fair or wasn’t it? They deserve to be told the truth from people they should be able to trust.
As the dust settles, as results are officially certified, as the intense legal scrutiny reveals nothing but fodder for QAnon, the nation deserves honest, forthright leadership. Democrats and the media can point this out until they are blue in the face, and it won’t penetrate the Red bubble. It’s up to GOP leaders to be more like Governor Hogan, to step up and be counted for the sake of the nation and the democratic values they claim to hold dear.
The Baltimore Sun editorial board — made up of Opinion Editor Tricia Bishop, Deputy Editor Andrea K. McDaniels and writer Peter Jensen — offers opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. It is separate from the newsroom.