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Trump putting democracy to the test after his loss to Biden

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By MICHAEL TACKETT and CALVIN WOODWARD
FILE - In this Jan. 20, 2017, file photo President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence listen to the National Anthem sung by Jackie Evancho with former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle during the 58th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Obama, who invited Trump to the White House soon after Trump's election four years ago and pledged cooperation in the transfer of power, is not shocked that a man who “never admits loss” is refusing to acknowledge defeat now. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

Winston Churchill was not known for leaving his thoughts unspoken. One of them was this: "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried.”

President Donald Trump, who has professed admiration for, if not deep knowledge of, the British prime minister, is putting Churchill’s observation to one of its greatest tests by refusing to accept the results of an election that delivered victory for Democrat Joe Biden. Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, calls this a “dangerous path” for the United States.

Trump has forced a dusting off of the arcana of the procedures for the Electoral College, which for almost the entirety of the nation’s history has been a formality and not an instrument to overturn people’s votes.

A sitting American president is, for the first time, trying to convince the people that they should not believe the numbers that clearly demonstrate his rival's win. Rather, Trump is making baseless claims of massive fraud, demanding recounts and calling for audits in an effort to discredit the outcome and, in the process, put democracy itself on trial.

It's possible that the mercurial president is one tweet away from a change of heart, but so far that is not the case. And the sweeping majority of his fellow Republicans are allowing him to play this out.

Obama, who invited Trump to the White House soon after Trump's election four years ago and pledged cooperation in the transfer of power, is not shocked that a man who “never admits loss” is refusing to acknowledge defeat now.

“I’m more troubled by the fact that other Republican officials, who clearly know better, are going along with this, are humoring him in this fashion,” Obama told CBS' “60 Minutes.” “It is one more step in delegitimizing not just the incoming Biden administration but democracy generally. And that’s a dangerous path.”

With one eye on Trump, Republicans may have the other fixed on Georgia, where they want his energy to help their candidates win two Senate runoffs in January and ensure at minimum that Biden has to deal with divided government. Republicans have seen how Trump batters dissidents, and few have chosen this consequential moment to cross him.

“Republicans are sticking with him out of fear,” said Eric Dezenhall, a crisis management expert who worked in communications in Ronald Reagan's White House. “Fear has always worked for Trump. Tantrums have always paid dividends.

"Republicans fear if they don’t stand by him, one midnight tweet will cost them Georgia," he said. More broadly, "they don’t want to anger him."

Trump is using not just his sway over the party but also the levers of government to keep Biden at bay at least for a while longer.

An agency little known outside Washington, the General Services Administration, has held off on recognizing Biden as the president-elect, denying him access to the money, offices and machinery routinely afforded to the incoming team. Biden has also been denied the classified briefings that previous presidents shared with presidents-elect so that rising national security threats don't catch the next administration and the country off guard. Trump installed loyalists at the Pentagon and fired his defense secretary after Biden's victory.

In the meantime, a contagion of falsehood has been spread from the losing side, magnified on social media and given brute force by Trump himself.

In Philadelphia, a beleaguered city commissioner on the panel responsible for conducting and counting the vote said he's been stunned by the traction that wild tales of fraud have gained in the state that clinched victory for Biden. The commissioner, Al Schmidt, is a Republican.

“One thing I can't comprehend is how hungry people are to consume lies,” he told CNN. Asked if he held Trump himself responsible for that, Schmidt said: "People should be mindful that there are bad actors who are lying to them.”

During a break from even more pressing electoral business, his team checked allegations of dead people voting. “We looked it up,” Schmidt said. "Not a single one of them voted in Philadelphia after they died.”

Trump is also making unsupported claims of unfairness in five states, repeating allegations even when they've been firmly debunked. This as his supporters hail race calls by the media when those calls go their way and denounce calls as illegitimate when they don't.

Not everyone in officialdom shares the timidity of GOP lawmakers when it comes to standing up to Trump.

The Homeland Security Department's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has slapped down rumor after unfounded rumor about voting malfeasance and joined with state election officials in a statement declaring the election to have been the “most secure in American history.”

By secure, they meant there was no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes “or was in any way compromised.” That was a clear repudiation of Trump's unfounded accusations.

States have until Dec. 14 to finish the counting and certify the results. That's also the day Electoral College delegations are to meet in their respective states to cast and tally electoral votes, with a joint session of Congress set for Jan. 6 to affirm the count and declare the official result. It's a process thick with pro-forma minutia that Americans rarely need to understand but this time conceivably might.

The U.S. has long promoted the conceit that it is the world’s beacon of democracy. Now, the most essential tool of democracy, the vote, is under attack.

The story of presidential elections the night of, the day after or even weeks of indecision later has been one of candidates swallowing the bitterness of defeat and smoothing the path for the winner. Presidential transitions have unfolded as if by muscle memory. The peaceful transfer of power has never been in question in living memory until now.

Perhaps the closest the U.S. has come to today's conflict was the presidential election of 1876, when Samuel Tilden, the Democrat, appeared to win, only to have Rutherford B. Hayes, the Republican, ultimately declared the winner after cutting a deal to secure electoral votes in three Southern states in exchange for effectively ending Reconstruction.

That election, unlike this one, did not involve an incumbent trying to cling to power. Nor did others that loom large in more recent history.

In 1960, Democrat John F. Kennedy defeated Republican Richard Nixon by only about 112,000 votes out of more than 68 million cast, though Kennedy held a decided advantage in the Electoral College. Nixon felt cheated and considered challenging the outcome but declined, conceding the morning after the election.

Al Gore, the Democratic nominee in 2000, won the popular vote by about 540,000 votes out of 100 million cast. But he conceded twice — at first prematurely on election night, then again weeks later when a decision by the Supreme Court handed Florida, and an Electoral College majority, 271-266, to Republican George W. Bush.

Bush had turned to the high court with a legal case based not on fraud but on his claim that voters were denied equal protection because Florida did not have proper standards for recounts.

In 2016, Trump won Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania by a combined 77,000 votes; Democrat Hillary Clinton called him on election night and publicly conceded the next day. Her advantage in the popular vote of nearly 3 million has animated the grievances of her supporters to this day, but the Electoral College arithmetic was inexorable and not to be challenged.

Obama then welcomed Trump to the White House in a display to the world of the rituals of an American democratic transition.

In 2008, Obama had been the beneficiary of similar graciousness. That's when Republican rival John McCain conceded before a crowd of supporters, converting their boos at the mention of Obama's name to cheers and applause for the Democrat, for the process and for the historic achievement of the first Black American to win the presidency.

“I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president,” McCain said.

© Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.


13 Comments
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“I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president,”

45 is psychologically incapable of such words.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

John McCain was a man of honor and an undeniable war hero, even though I never agreed with his politics. Trump mocked him in life and, even worse, in death.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Trump mocked McCain in life and death. He lost Arizona. He bad mouthed Pennsylvania. He lost Pennsylvania. According to Trump, Biden won a landslide victories with 306 EC votes.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

In 2008, Obama had been the beneficiary of similar graciousness. That's when Republican rival John McCain conceded before a crowd of supporters, converting their boos at the mention of Obama's name to cheers and applause for the Democrat, for the process and for the historic achievement of the first Black American to win the presidency.

“I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president,” McCain said.

And even tho McCain and Obama argued, clashed and haggled in government issues, they were also friends. They ran the 2008 election against each other in a civilized way and McCain conceded to Obama. McCain with his Naval Academy maturity and discipline was an 'officer and gentleman', even when he lost.

Obama gave a eulogy at McCain's funeral. And see who was explicitly banned from attending.

GaijinjlandToday  09:20 am JST

John McCain was a man of honor and an undeniable war hero, even though I never agreed with his politics. Trump mocked him in life and, even worse, in death.

Trump wouldn't put the WH flag at half mast when McCain died. And when he visited Japan the name 'U.S.S. McCain' was hidden from his hateful glance so he didn't have to see it.

Trump is hateful, jealous, evil, unmanly, rotten to the core, dirty to the atom.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Trump mocked McCain in life and death. 

There is a great meme going around with a picture of McCain with the caption ‘I like people who don’t lose Arizona’

7 ( +7 / -0 )

The best I can say about Trump is that he could be worse.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Does Trump even understand what democracy is?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Some so-called 'leaders' in the Republican party really need to show some backbone and distance themselves as far as possible from the cancer called Trump. Because that's what he is - a cancer - and like all cancers, he's spreading a terrible illness across his country. Sadly, those who support him don't understand the sickness with which they've been afflicted. Dumb people die, every day. Let COVID-19 take as many as possible. A cruel thing to say? Yes. Definitely. But someone, or something, has to cull the crowd. I only hope both sides don't pick up their guns and start shooting each other.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I predict Trump won't be at the inauguration. He'll resign in December so Pence will have to go.

Pence (president for a month or so) can pardon Trump, since he can't pardon himself.

Wouldn't it be cool if Pence said he'd pardon him, then not do it! Angry Trump would be screaming and Pence would say, "Pardon? I don't remember talking about a pardon..."

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Some so-called 'leaders' in the Republican party really need to show some backbone and distance themselves as far as possible from the cancer called Trump. Because that's what he is - a cancer - and like all cancers, he's spreading a terrible illness across his country. Sadly, those who support him don't understand the sickness with which they've been afflicted. Dumb people die, every day. Let COVID-19 take as many as possible. A cruel thing to say? Yes. Definitely. But someone, or something, has to cull the crowd. I only hope both sides don't pick up their guns and start shooting each other.

As my dear deceased mother would have said, "wish in one hand and poo (she used an earthier term) in the other and see which one fills up the fastest". This is the natural evolution of the Republican Party and it has been apparent since the 1990s. Review the history of the Republican Party in California and you will see how they managed to alienate pretty much everyone but a minority of low income rural whites and a few big business types. Prop 187 with their breathless "and they keep coming" TV ads, Pete Wilson's race baiting, the annual budget standoffs leading to annual month long government shutdowns, all of it. Eventually Californian's grew tired of their nonsense and now there are solid Democratic supermajorities in both houses and not even one Republican holds a statewide office. The last Republican to do so was Cousin Arnold and his election was a bit of a fluke, the result of a free for all recall election. Also find out how electrical energy deregulation, another signature Pete Wilson bodge, led to the manipulation of the energy market by Enron and others. Californians remember these Republican, cough cough, "accomplishments" and aren't going to be fooled again by Republican empty promises or fall for their race baiting. Californians work with, live next door to, shop at stores owned by, hire and have friends who are immigrants. If anyone knows the qualities and benefits of immigrants it is Californians. Eventually more Americans will learn the lessons California learned over a decade ago. The Republicans went off the deep end in California and lost the state. Now they are doing it on a national level. What always makes scratch my head is that Pete Wilson seemed like a decent man when he was the Mayor of San Diego. But as soon as he became Governor he changed for the worse and the raw bigotry came out.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I predict Trump won't be at the inauguration.

I fully expect he will be defiantly camped out in the Oval Office with his family and maybe a couple of his hardest core advisors refusing to leave. How that works out is anybodies guess.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

45 is psychologically incapable of such words.

The boos from the crowd of his supporters as Mr. McCain said those words are an indication of the deep well of anger and frustration Mr. Trump has tapped. It is nothing new in Republican ranks. I have heard it all my life, low whispers from neighbors about "the coming race war" and all the other rumors, conspiracies and pent up anger as whites fulminated at the idea of non-whites making as much or more money than they made. At least through Mr. McCain most Republican leaders after Richard Nixon were too classy to openly indulge the racist tendencies of much the Republican base, but it was always there. Mr. Trump just says openly what was previously only said in a low voice behind closed doors among other whites. Many liberals seem to be stunned by it but when you are yourself older and white, people make assumptions about your world view and say things they might not say to others. So I hear it all and it is sad to hear it said by a President of the US but none of the ideas are a surprise unless you haven't been exposed to it for decades as I have.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Peter NeilNov. 16  04:19 am JST

I predict Trump won't be at the inauguration.

He doesn't have the manhood or maturity to go to it. That would mean facing the music and realizing that he lost. He can't handle it. He keeps telling himself he won big time. He is grossly IMMATURE.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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