By Robert Reich
In case you missed the news, Joe Biden was elected president of the United States. With almost all ballots counted, Biden has over 75 million votes and Trump some 71 million. The Electoral College isn’t even close.
But Trump still has not conceded and some leading Republicans say he shouldn’t.
Senator Lindsey Graham warned on Sunday that Trump shouldn’t concede because “if Republicans don’t challenge and change the U.S. election system, there will never be another Republican president elected again.”
In other words, despite zero evidence of voter fraud, the GOP should attack the outcome of the election because a Democrat was elected president.
The nation was already divided when Trump became president. But Trump exploited our divisions to gain and try to keep power. He didn’t just pour salt into our wounds. He planted grenades in them.
And now he and his enablers appear willing to pull the pins.
Elections usually end with losing candidates congratulating winners and graciously accepting defeat. They thereby demonstrate their commitment to the democratic system over the particular outcome they fought to achieve.
Apparently there will be no graciousness from Trump and his allies, and no concession from Trump.
They don’t want America to heal. Evidently, they are not committed to the democratic system. They’d prefer continuous warfare because that’s the only way they think they can win.
It’s a nearly treasonous act: Destroy public trust in the system in order to retain power.
Although Americans have strongly disagreed over what we want the government to do, we have agreed to be bound by the outcomes of our elections. This meta-agreement has required enough trust for us to regard the views and interests of those we disagree with as equally worthy of consideration as our own.
But Trump and his allies have continuously sacrificed that trust for partisan ends. And it looks like they won’t stop until they’ve destroyed whatever trust remains.
Trump will be president for another three months. He is already mounting legal challenges and demanding recounts, maneuvers that could prevent states from meeting the legal deadline of December 8 for choosing electors.
If this continues, America could find itself in a situation similar to what it faced in 1876 when claims about ballot fraud forced a special electoral commission to decide the winner, just two days before the inauguration.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump, Graham, and Trump’s other Republican allies refuse to attend Biden’s inauguration. Maybe Trump stages a giant rally for himself instead, and Lindsey Graham introduces him as the “real” president. Trump sends firestorms of aggrieved messages to his followers – questioning Biden’s legitimacy as president and urging that they refuse to recognize his presidency.
This is followed by months of Trump rallies and tweets containing even more outlandish charges: plots against him and America by Biden, Nancy Pelosi, “deep-state” bureaucrats, “socialists,” immigrants, Muslims, or any other of his standard foes.
It could go on like this for years. Trump thereby keeps the nation’s attention focused on himself, remains the center of controversy and divisiveness, and makes it harder for Biden to heal the nation. Meanwhile, Lindsey Graham and his ilk keep millions of Republican voters in a state of perpetual fury leading up to the midterm elections of 2022 and the presidential election in 2024.
Now is the time for other Republican leaders to exercise true leadership and ask the nation to unify behind Biden.
Former President George W. Bush made a start. At the same time Graham was warning Trump not to concede, Bush phoned Biden to congratulate him, saying the race was “fundamentally fair” and “its outcome is clear.” In a subsequent statement Bush added, “I know Joe Biden to be a good man, who has won the opportunity to lead and unify our country.”
Kudos to Bush.
The media (including Twitter, Facebook, and even Fox News) can also help. They have already begun to call out Trump’s lies in real time and cut off his press conferences, practices that should have started years ago. They should continue to tag his lies and those of his allies, and ignore their baseless claims.
It would be a fitting end to a reality-TV president who has tried to turn America into a reality warzone.