Editorial: The presidential election is over. Republicans must admit that Biden won
Members of the electoral college on Monday formally recognized a reality that was already obvious: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the 2020 election and will be the next president and vice president of the United States.
Coupled with the rejection by courts at all levels of frivolous claims alleging election fraud and irregularities, the 306-232 vote of the electoral college sends an unmistakable message to President Trump and his enablers among Republicans in Congress: It’s over. Continued denials of that reality can only corrode faith in democracy and exacerbate dangerous divisions in this society.
They’ve done enough damage already with the wild allegations and conspiracy theories they’ve been peddling relentlessly for weeks. A recent Fox News poll found that almost 70% of Republicans believe that the election was “stolen” from Trump, evidently buying his claim that he couldn’t possibly lose in a fair contest.
If Trump cared about the welfare of the nation, he would congratulate Biden and (if that is his choice) prepare to seek the presidency again in 2024. But it’s unrealistic to expect that a narcissist like Trump would acknowledge reality after the electoral college vote, any more than he did after a string of losses in the courts. As electors started to meet around the country, White House advisor Stephen Miller told Fox News that “alternate” slates that backed Trump in the contested states would submit their votes to Congress too. It wouldn’t surprise us if Trump continued to cry “fraud” up to the moment Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20 — and perhaps even after that.
Republican members of Congress are in a different position. If they want to be taken seriously — including by the new president — they need to stop giving aid and comfort to Trump’s delusions about a rigged election.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has taken refuge in anodyne statements about the need to count every legal vote, while deflecting the question of whether Biden is the president-elect. It’s time for McConnell to accept that Trump lost in a free and fair election and to respond positively to any overtures from Biden for bipartisan cooperation.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield has even more to repent for. McCarthy disgraced himself and California by joining more than 120 House Republicans in endorsing a preposterous and anti-democratic lawsuit by the state of Texas challenging the election results in four states carried by Biden. On Friday the Supreme Court, which includes three Trump appointees, rejected Texas’ plea — the second time it had rebuffed a challenge to election results. (Trump, characteristically, lashed out at the Supreme Court, tweeting that the justices had “chickened out” by refusing to address the supposed merits of Texas’ claims.)
The soon-to-be-former president can continue to spin fantastical theories about the election. But now that the electoral college has voted, Republicans in Congress shouldn’t parrot them. Doing so will not only make it harder for Republicans to work with the new administration for the good of the nation; it will also inflame divisions in the country that Trump has stoked with baseless charges of election fraud.
On Saturday, pro-Trump demonstrations in Washington were followed by clashes between Trump supporters and counterprotesters. According to police, four churches were vandalized over the weekend. Police released photographs of white men marching with and burning a “Black Lives Matter” banner removed from a church.
More such conflict is likely if Trump is allowed to nurture his imaginary grievances without contradiction from others in his party. No one is expecting congressional Republicans to renounce their support of Trump in the election or to disguise their differences with the new administration. But they must acknowledge that Biden in fact is legitimately the next president and agree to work with him in responding to challenges facing the country.
Commenting on the electoral college vote, Biden on Monday said: “Faith in our institutions held. The integrity of our elections remains intact.” That’s true, but the system worked because principled judges and state and local officials, a number of them Republicans, did their duty in the face of an attempt by a self-serving president and his allies to annul the will of the people and retroactively disenfranchise millions of voters. Republicans in Congress who abetted or acquiesced to that attempted subversion of democracy need to accept that it has failed before the last vestige of public faith in the process is erased.
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