Editorial: Trump’s fraud claim is the only nakedly corrupt thing about the election thus far. Count the votes

President Trump pumps his fist after falsely claiming election fraud during an election night speech in the White House.
(Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump’s declaration in the early hours Wednesday that the election was being stolen from him and his demand for Supreme Court intervention were, like many of his outbursts, irresponsible, but all the more so here because they continue his abhorrent campaign to undermine Americans’ faith in the election process.

Trump cried “fraud” because a number of swing states were still counting votes that had been legally cast before the polls closed. Those votes must be counted within the parameters of established law, not the president’s imagination. That should be obvious to reasonable minds — even among those who support the president.

In fact, the issue of the reliability of the electoral process could be more important in this cycle than the eventual outcome of the race. This nation has survived bad presidencies, and as much as four more years of Trump could widen the painful divisions in our polarized society, the nation cannot countenance such a blatant attack on the foundation of our democratic system.


This is what the president said after ticking off a list of states where he was leading with incomplete counts, which don’t mean much without knowing the context of where those votes were counted:

“This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election, frankly we did win this election. We did win this election. So our goal now is to ensure the integrity for the good of this nation, this is a very big moment. This is a major fraud on our nation. We want the law to be used in the proper manner.

“So we will be going to the U.S. Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop. We don’t want them to find any ballots at 4 o'clock in the morning and add them to the list. OK? It’s a very sad, it’s a very sad moment. To me, this is a very sad moment, and we will win this, and as far as I’m concerned, we already have won it.”

Whatever results this election brings, Americans need to spend some time in serious self-reflection about the past four years

Yes, it is a very sad moment. The president of the United States of America deliberately tried to subvert public faith in the electoral process. And it’s sad because that gambit did not come as a surprise. The president has been priming his supporters to believe that if he happens to lose, it could only be because of fraud. Remember, he claimed fraud four years ago — in a race he’d won.

We hope the president’s ploy here is just a momentary blip in the cycle. It was heartening to see some leading Republicans, such as Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, speak out against Trump’s absurd claims. But it’s disheartening that Republicans with more significant pull — say, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who won reelection in Kentucky — have not told the president publicly to back off.

No news isn’t good or bad news in the presidential race.

But then, McConnell led the Senate GOP’s collective shrug at Trump’s efforts to get the Ukrainian government to interfere in the election, so by remaining silent he is living down to the reputation he’d already cratered.

Despite Trump’s demands, the counting of votes continues Wednesday morning in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin (and even in states Trump appeared to have lost, such as Arizona and Nevada). How it will play out remains uncertain, but the path to an affirmed victory seems better for Democrat Joe Biden at this moment than for Trump.

Which, of course, the president could read from the cards dealt Tuesday night, which is why he went on the attack. If he thinks he’s losing the game, he attacks the game itself.

If electing a president is a game, though, it is one with the highest possible stakes. And in this moment of our history, following the rules is more important than the results they produce.