If the losing party can’t accept defeat, the whole enterprise of electoral democracy is finished. Two-party competition means each party taking turns depending on what the voters want in any given election.
President Trump himself will never acknowledge this. But the Republican Party institutionally must. That is the critical challenge facing Senate Republicans and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.): When and how decisively will they pull the plug on Trump’s desperate effort to force upon the nation a second term that he did not earn from the electorate?
If the United States is to adhere to its foundational premise that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, then Senate Republicans as a party in government need to recognize President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration not merely as a fait accompli they cannot undo but instead the actual choice that the voters genuinely made in this election.
It’s true that some leading Democrats attempted to negate the validity of Trump’s own election in 2016. Hillary Clinton conceded quickly and graciously in the immediate aftermath of the voting. But in a 2019 CBS interview, she unjustifiably called Trump an “illegitimate president” because of “voter suppression and voter purging” as well as “hacking” and “false stories.”
Even worse, former president Jimmy Carter went so far as to say, that same year, that Russia’s interference “if fully investigated would show that Trump didn’t actually win the election in 2016.” In repeating the point, Carter didn’t even hedge: “He lost the election, and he was put into office because the Russians interfered on his behalf.”
This is wrong. Trump genuinely won the votes in 2016 that put him in the White House, whatever the reasons the voters had for preferring him to Clinton, as most Democrats accepted. Yes, there was outrageous voter suppression in Wisconsin, but not enough to make the difference in that state, much less in Michigan and Pennsylvania, which Clinton also would have needed for an electoral college majority. It is irresponsible for Clinton, Carter or anyone else to deny the validity of Trump’s 2016 victory.
But we learned in grade school about two wrongs. And what Trump is doing now is much more wrong, because an outgoing president’s attempt to delegitimate the mandate of an immediate successor is inherently more corrosive. [Continue reading…]