All Republicans Should Admit the Election Is Over

Bookmark

On Monday, the Electoral College formally affirmed Joe Biden as president-elect by 306 votes to 232. The next day, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell congratulated him, recognizing for the first time that President Donald Trump had in fact lost the election. Other leading Republicans have also joined in acknowledging what they’ve known, or should have known, for weeks.

It’s a pity this took them so long, but better late than never. What’s important now is that the entire Republican Party aligns behind this view. That would begin — only begin — to repair the damage inflicted on the U.S. system of government since the election. In due course, looking beyond the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6 certifying the Electoral College count and the inauguration on Jan. 20, the new president and Congress, together with the states, should give urgent attention to restoring public confidence in the country’s electoral systems.

They have their work cut out for them.

For last month, Trump and many of his supporters have complained to the general public of massive systematic fraud and a stolen election, with numerous lawsuits to make the story seem plausible — yet they failed again and again to present evidence for such claims to the courts.

The culmination of this effort was the lawsuit brought by the attorney general of Texas, supported by his Republican counterparts in 17 states and more than 125 Republican members of the House, attacking election procedures in four other states and seeking to overturn their results. It was an action without the slightest prospect of success — brusquely dismissed, as it was always bound to be, by the Supreme Court.

This exercise in cynicism may well have done serious and lasting damage. It’s true that the courts threw out these bogus cases, and in that sense the system has withstood the assault. But, thanks partly to Trump’s theatrics, tens of millions of Americans have lost what confidence they had in the electoral system. If a deeply divided country no longer trusts elections to choose who wins elected office or its courts to rule on a what a fair election requires, then it’s no exaggeration to say that democracy is endangered.

The first crucial step is for Republicans to follow McConnell’s belated lead, as he’s urging them to do, and accept the election result. Then, difficult as this might be, Democrats and Republicans need to come together across the country to review and strengthen every state’s electoral procedures — no longer to improve their own chances of success, which only compounds the problem, but instead to build confidence across the political divide that the process is fair. Perhaps that prescription seems so naïve and unrealistic as to be hopeless. If so, the country really is in trouble.

Editorials are written by the Bloomberg Opinion editorial board.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.