The fact that President Trump is continuing to explore any and all legal options before conceding defeat in last week’s election has clearly gotten under the skin of the media. This fact was in evidence on the Sunday shows yesterday, where hosts were trotting out Democrats and NeverTrump Republicans to chime in on how awful the situation is. That included a “special” edition of Meet the Press, where Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) was invited to weigh in. To his credit, Romney didn’t just blurt out something about how Donald Trump should immediately concede and slink out of the Oval Office in disgrace. But the host did open the door for Mitt to issue some dire warnings. His main point was that by questioning the results of the election, Trump might “encourage authoritarians” around the globe to similarly discredit their nations’ own voting processes. (NBC News)
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, on Sunday warned President Donald Trump to be “careful” as he continues to challenge the results of the 2020 election and not to push America toward an “course in history which would be very, very unfortunate.”
“The people in the past, like myself, who lost elections, have gone on in a way that said, ‘look, I know the eyes of the world are on us. The eyes of our own people are on the institutions that we have. The eyes of history are on us,’” Romney said Sunday on a special edition of “Meet the Press.”
“In a setting like this, we want to preserve something which is far more important than our self or even our party — and that is preserve the cause of freedom and democracy here and around the world.”
I presume Romney was selected because of the rapid fashion in which he conceded the election on November 6th, 2012. Perhaps NBC News thought this might make a good counterpoint to the court challenges and recounts currently in the works. But that was an almost entirely different world eight years ago. Every network called that race shortly after the polls started closing on the west coast at 11 pm eastern. By that time, Romney had already lost Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. He was on his way to what could really only be described as a “landslide” loss in modern terms. (Obama eventually went on to beat him 332-206 in the electoral college and swept the popular vote as well.) If Mitt hadn’t conceded quickly, he would have appeared foolish.
But the Obama-Romney battle wasn’t taking place in the middle of a pandemic. There weren’t tens of millions of mail-in ballots lurking in the background, continuing to show up for days after the actual election. And the states hadn’t begun fiddling with their election laws at the eleventh hour to allow even more bags of ballots to keep showing up. It was more of a “normal” election and the pollsters had miraculously come fairly close to pegging the state of the race in the final week or two. 2020 is a different kettle of fish, as it is with most any other topic you could name.
It’s not that I don’t get where Mitt is coming from, by the way. There are clear concerns over the prospect of people questioning not just the outcome of the race, but the security and reliability of the underlying process. There are actual authoritarians out there who frequently brush electoral questions under the rug despite significant evidence that they’ve cooked the books. (Look no further than Venezuela for an example of that phenomenon.) That doesn’t mean that legitimate questions don’t exist about how this count is taking place, though. We have a legal system where such questions can and will be addressed.
I tend to agree with Karen’s assessment, posted when the hypothetical “what if Trump refuses to leave office” question was being bandied about yet again. The lack of transparency involved in the counting in some of the swing states is off-putting at a minimum. The massive numbers of mail-in ballots have produced some worrying signs of potential tampering. Questions have been raised that deserve answers and that’s why we have courts to handle such issues. If those cases are quickly resolved and it’s found that Joe Biden was the legitimate winner, I have no doubt that Donald Trump will concede the election and get on with the transition. But until then, Trump is going to be Trump, holding rallies and firing up his base. To expect otherwise is a sign that you really haven’t been paying attention during his presidency or either of his campaigns.