November 8, 2020
Trump and Republican Party leaders are refusing to acknowledge that Democrat Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris have won the 2020 election. Despite Biden’s win in the Electoral College and his win of 4.4 million* and counting in the popular vote, Trump insists—without evidence– that there has been fraud and will not concede the election. So far, most Republican leaders are following his lead. This morning, for example, Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) suggested, contrary to the facts, that there are irregularities in the ballot counting.
Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) and former President George W. Bush were two of the handful of Republican leaders to congratulate Biden and Harris. The rest are keeping mum, possibly recognizing what Senator Lindsey Graham said out loud on the Fox News Channel this morning: “If Republicans don’t challenge and change the US election system, there will never be another Republican president elected again.”
Graham is right that, in their modern incarnation, Republicans will definitely have a hard time surviving unless they change the system even more than they already have. They are in the minority in the country, and a Democratic administration will likely pass a new voting rights act to replace the one the Supreme Court gutted in 2013. More voters will indeed make it hard for the current Republican Party to regain control of the country.
The obvious answer to the Republicans’ problem would seem to be broadening their appeal, and there are glimmers that a branch of the Republican Party is heading that direction. After the election, former chair of the Republican National Committee and adviser to the never-Trump Lincoln Project Michael Steele appeared on comedian Larry Wilmore’s new show on NBC’s Peacock streaming service.
Steele emphasized that he was still a Republican, but he was an American first, and that the Republican Party needed to get rid of its allegiance to Trump and rebuild. He pointed out that he has been a Republican since 1976, and that most of the people currently in charge are newcomers. Steele expressed disappointment that so many voters supported Trump in the election, but was more scathing of Republican Party leaders who “sycophantically kowtow to a[n]… egomaniacal henchman who has one… view of the world and that’s himself.”
Right-wing media outlets also continue to insist, without evidence, that the election was fraudulent. The Fox News Channel is emphasizing the many lawsuits Trump has filed without mentioning that the lawsuits have all, so far, been thrown out for lack of evidence of any kind of fraud. Once again, Trump’s people are constructing a fictional narrative through “investigations,” a theme that, after former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails and Hunter Biden’s Ukraine work, should sound familiar.
Memes on right-wing media are expanding on this rumor. They call for holding a new election, promise that the Supreme Court will step in to give Trump the win, or assure Trump followers that the election will get thrown in the House of Representatives, where Republican states will hand the White House back to Trump. These attacks are taking a toll. On CBS News’s 60 Minutes today, Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt, a Republican, said the people counting ballots in the city have received death threats.
This is not normal. The outcome of this election is not in doubt. Trump’s lawyers have launched a number of lawsuits challenging the mail-in votes that favored Biden, but judges have thrown all of them out from lack of evidence of any kind of fraud. There is no reason to think that the Supreme Court will step in, or that the election will get thrown into the House, although either is technically possible and may be what the president is hoping for.
Sources close to the president told CNN’s Jake Tapper that Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and his campaign adviser Jason Miller are telling Trump to hold rallies to push for a vote recount. Even aside from its implications for our democracy, this horrifies public health officials. Today we passed more than 10 million cases of coronavirus, with averages of more than 100,000 infections a day. Trump has insisted, without evidence, that we are “rounding the corner” on the virus, even as more members of the White House staff, including chief of staff Mark Meadows, have come down with it.
Aside from the coronavirus, the attack on the outcome of the election, even in the face of a clear win, is designed to keep the Republican base seething about an election leaders are telling them was stolen. The Trump campaign is fundraising on this issue, urging followers to donate for the legal challenges ahead. But the Wall Street Journal today noted that the fine print of the “Official Election Defense Fund” explains that 60% of contributions to the fund will go toward paying off Trump’s election debt, and 40% to the operating account of the Republican National Committee. Only after a donation hits the legal limit will the remainder go toward legal expenses.
Meanwhile, the refusal to acknowledge Biden’s win is hamstringing his ability to get his team in place. Emily Murphy, a Trump appointee at the General Services Administration, the agency in charge of signing the paperwork that gives a new administration access to office space and equipment as well as $9.9 million authorized for a presidential transition, has refused to sign paperwork enabling Biden and his team to begin the transition process. Once the transition begins, the new administration can begin to process disclosure and conflict-of-interest forms and get up to speed with ongoing government projects. But the GSA is refusing to allow a transition before Trump agrees that one is in order. Normally the transition begins the day after the election is called.
Trump’s people are standing almost alone in refusing to acknowledge the results of a democratic election. The rest of the world is greeting the new presidential team with joy. “London looks forward to working with you—it’s time to get back to building bridges, not walls,” tweeted London Mayor Sadiq Kahn. “Welcome back America,” tweeted Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo. In what must have been a bit of a blow for Trump, even his former personal ally Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Biden and Harris today with a personal tweet: “Joe, we’ve had a long & warm personal relationship for nearly 40 years, and I know you as a great friend of Israel. I look forward to working with both of you to further strengthen the special alliance between the U.S. and Israel.”
Vice President Elect Harris is a pathbreaker, the first woman elected to the vice presidency. This fact has not been lost on American women, many of whom think her election falls into the category of “high time.” Harris acknowledged this achievement in her victory speech last night, wearing a white pantsuit in honor of the suffragists, who fought for the vote, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who ran for the presidency in 2016. Harris is a pathbreaker in other ways, too: she is the first Indian-American and the first Black woman to be elected to the second-highest office in the land.
Tonight, the Biden team released its schedule for tomorrow. Biden will receive a briefing from his transition coronavirus team and launch a 12-person coronavirus task force co-chaired by Dr. Vivek Murthy, Surgeon General under President Obama and President Trump, and former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. David Kessler.
Vice President Pence’s coronavirus task force has not met in weeks, but will do so tomorrow. The president has not been seen in public since the election, except going to and from his golf course twice over the weekend. He has nothing on his public schedule for Monday.
*I had this wrong last night when I put it at 5 million.