The Presidential Endgame
Category: Op/EdVia: john-russell • 3 weeks ago • 5 comments
Wall Street Journal Editorial
Perhaps it was inevitable that Donald Trump's re-election campaign would end as his Presidency began: with the President claiming victory and his frenzied antagonists denouncing him as a would-be fascist. The reality is that the U.S. can and probably will have a normal election outcome regardless of the shouting between now and then.
Mr. Biden is leading in enough states to win the Presidency, and if those votes survive recounts and legal challenges, he will be the next President. But whoever wins needs the other to concede to be able to govern. The result Americans on both political sides should want is one that most people think was decided fairly.
Mr. Trump has every right to demand recounts if state votes are close, and to go to the courts for relief if there is evidence of fraud. Joe Biden's lawyers are also in court, and they were for weeks before the election trying to ease mail-in ballot rules. Mr. Biden should also want the recounts and legal process to play out for the sake of his call to heal political rancor.
As for fraud, the Trump campaign will have to prove it to prevail in court. It won't be enough to charge that Philadelphia is historically corrupt, though it is, or that state election officials are partisan. The Georgia secretary of state is a Republican, by the way, contrary to Mr. Trump's remarks Thursday night. The vote counting in Arizona and Georgia has seemed professional and transparent.
The same can't be said of Philadelphia, where the Trump campaign had to go to court so its poll-watchers could observe vote counting. Incredibly, Democratic lawyers opposed that Trump request. This is exactly the wrong way for Democrats to behave, feeding GOP suspicions. The vote-counting standard should be transparency for both sides to ensure public confidence.
The Democratic Pennsylvania Supreme Court also contributed to the mistrust by rewriting state election law to let mailed ballots be counted until Nov. 6. We warned multiple times that this mess could happen, and the U.S. Supreme Court could have helped by intervening. Chief Justice John Roberts refused.
But it's also important to note that Pat Toomey, the GOP Senator from the Keystone State, says he has seen no evidence of fraud in his state's counting. We've also seen no concrete evidence. The delivery of a batch of votes all for Mr. Biden at one time can be explained by the practice of some jurisdictions to divide and report the votes of each candidate at different times.
The Trump campaign has made a substantive claim that thousands of votes in Nevada failed to meet the state's residency requirement. That ought to be provable one way or another. If the campaign has other evidence, bring it on and test it in court.
The suspicions of Trump supporters about all this are fed by the behavior of his opponents over the last four years. Democrats still spread the voter suppression myth about Stacey Abrams's defeat in Georgia in 2018. Democrats never accepted Mr. Trump's victory in 2016, and Hillary Clinton still prattles on that the Russians did it.
So do the media partisans who promoted the Steele dossier and served as an echo chamber for the Russia collusion farce. The FBI's abuses in 2016 were a genuine scandal that the media would have called out had it been aimed at a Democrat. Instead they treated Rep. Adam Schiff's lies as gospel. And then New York Times sages puzzle in public about why 70 million Americans again voted for Donald Trump? Look in the mirror, folks.
If Mr. Biden has 270 Electoral College votes at the end of the counting and litigation, President Trump will have a decision to make. We hope in that event he would concede gracefully. He has accomplished a great deal since descending on that Trump Tower escalator in 2015, including his historic first victory and a strong re-election performance when he was supposed to lose in a rout. We'd hate to see that legacy ruined by a refusal to accept the normal transfer of power.
Mr. Trump can rightly say that he helped the GOP save its Senate majority, gain seats in the House, and save the country from a radical progressive agenda. The election results show he has also broadened the GOP appeal to minorities and across middle-class America. His policies broadened prosperity to a forgotten group of Americans, and his willingness to buck conventional wisdom led to a diplomatic breakthrough in the Middle East. His judicial appointments have reshaped the federal courts and will echo through the law for years.
This is a considerable achievement, and it may look even better once Mr. Biden attempts to govern with an angry, impatient left. But Mr. Trump's legacy will be diminished greatly if his final act is a bitter refusal to accept a legitimate defeat. Republican officials will turn away, and eventually so will the American public that wants to see the election resolved.
Mr. Trump hates to lose, and no doubt he will fight to the end. But if defeat comes, he will serve himself and his country best by honoring America's democratic traditions and leaving office with dignity.