As a political observer, chances are you fall into one of two camps: those who believe President-elect Joe Biden’s masterfully handled Donald Trump’s 4-week-old juvenile “I WON!” national meltdown or, that for the sake of his own destiny and that of the nation’s, he should set an example and the right precedent by wiping the floor with him. For several critical reasons, I’m in the latter group.
To begin with, we must preserve the integrity of our free and fair elections by insisting that the winners won and the losers lost. There’s no wiggle room. We cannot allow a candidate to undermine democracy by ‘refusing to accept’ the will of the people. Will every sore-losing politician now believe he or she can simply deny that the results are real? Claim the election was rigged? Thereby sowing further division and fomenting even more partisan toxicity?
With his incessant “RIGGED ELECTION!” rhetoric, Trump’s successfully convinced two-thirds of Republican voters that Biden stole the election. This is a very dangerous landscape he’s tilling. It’s also incredibly counter-intuitive for the GOP. The more he hammers the base about rigged elections the less inclined they are to vote. “Why bother?” is what we’re currently hearing from Georgia Republicans as that state faces a critical run-off election January 5th which could decide control of the Senate.
By taking the high road, Biden is undermining his own presidency. He’s allowing Trump to set an impossible legislative table for him. The more Trump succeeds in de-legitimizing Biden’s presidency the easier he makes it for Senate and House Republicans to obstruct his agenda.
Biden not directly and forcefully addressing Trump’s democracy-raping behavior serves to normalize it. We let little children stomp their feet and march off into their rooms to sulk…not our presidents. It’s terribly misguided to adopt the ‘Oh, let’s just ignore him and his tantrums…he’ll come around eventually’ philosophy. Trump never ‘comes around’. He only digs in deeper.
The peaceful, orderly transition of power is the bedrock of our democracy. It’s simply not ok for a candidate to claim, even before the first votes are cast, that ‘It’s fair if I win but rigged if I lose’…and then claim victory despite being the clear loser. The message that reverberates globally is, America is a banana republic in chaos.
Biden needs to stand up for himself and our democracy. He needs to tell Trump and voters that his behavior is not just undignified and dishonest, but threatens our national security and is un-American, especially for a president. He needs to state unequivocally that such behavior will not be tolerated, will be investigated post-inauguration and that the soon-to-be former president is not above the law and will be held accountable for any crimes committed while in office. And that goes for Rudy Giuliani and Trump’s other attorneys, whose misrepresentations, lies and frivolous lawsuits should result in disbarment.
Biden must be demonstrably strong in restoring credibility in not just our elections, but in our precious norms and institutions. Truth and facts matter. The media matters. The FBI, Justice Department and intelligence community matters. Our independent judiciary matters. Separation of powers matters. Co-equal branches of government matters. Biden cannot let a lame-duck Trump re-define the rules and run ramshod over the Constitution.
The message Biden needs to clearly deliver? “Don’t concede, pal, but you lost and I won. And come January 20th you’re getting tossed out of the People’s House whether you like it or not”…