By the time this is published, Joe Biden may be president-elect of the United States. While election authorities are still counting ballots in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia and a few other states, the most likely outcomes appear to favor the former vice president.
What is also most likely – and indeed has already begun – is a tantrum of monumental magnitude by President Donald Trump and his fellow sore losers in the Republican Party. For months and years, Trump has sought to discredit any and every vote that might ever be cast against him.
Four years ago, he said that Hillary Clinton owed her substantive popular-vote lead to “illegal” ballots, a fantastic claim for which he offered not a scrap of proof. This year, his new and equally ridiculous charge is that mail-in ballots have appeared from nowhere to deprive him of victory, again without any evidence at all.
The reason that Republicans have no evidence is the same reason that Republicans have never produced any evidence of significant voter fraud. It almost never occurs, despite their years of mythmaking on the subject, and it isn’t happening now.
Public officials are counting votes, many cast legitimately by mail, as Americans have done since the Civil War, when soldiers first voted while far from home. Their mailed-in ballots are legal and, in some states, counted even if they arrive long after Election Day.
Depicting those votes as “fraudulent” is deeply unpatriotic.
Trump’s supporters out on the streets – as well as on talk radio, Fox News and Facebook – need no evidence that the election is being stolen. They don’t even need basic logic, as they simultaneously shriek, “Count the votes!” in one state while screaming, “Stop the count!” somewhere else.
All they need is a command from the preening autocrat in the White House and they bark on cue. Some of them will even show up with guns.
On Election Day, Trump’s manic minions went over the line in their zeal to intimidate voters who might not support their dear leader. They invaded polling places with honking trucks and obscene signs; they blocked streets and thronged buildings; and, in a few cases, they threatened their fellow citizens with assault weapons. They displayed no respect for their fellow Americans or the democratic process that is central to our constitutional order. They behaved like fascist thugs.
In this egregious misconduct, of course, the Trump gangs were merely imitating their boss – whose constant encouragement of violence and chaos has made a dark joke of Republican “law and order” rhetoric. For the duration of this election cycle, the Trump strategy has relied on threats of bloody “civil war” occurring if he loses.
As we have seen over these four years, a fraction of his followers is sufficiently sick to carry out such threats. The white nationalists inspired and unleashed by Trump are now correctly categorized by federal law enforcement as the prime domestic terror threat.
Peaceful elections, peaceful counting of ballots and a peaceful transition of power are the hallmarks of American democracy, and every offense against those traditions is an attack on our country. It may not be “treason,” a term abused relentlessly by Trump in his vicious tweets, but it is surely a betrayal of this nation’s values and of the oath taken by the president and every other officeholder.
Sooner, rather than later, all the votes will be counted. Neither Trump nor his mobs can stop the completion of that democratic work, even if they cause difficulty and delay. Neither can his lawyers, at least not so far, although they will surely try.
And when that work is done, a few important things will be clear. Despite all the noise and intimidation, Americans stepped forward in unprecedented numbers to express their democratic will. We have not seen such a large share of the electorate vote for almost a century, and we have never seen sheer numbers of this magnitude, now expected to exceed 150 million. It is true – and, frankly, dismaying – that the corrupt and inept Trump has gotten more votes than he won in 2016.
But regardless of the threats, intimidation and suppression, Joe Biden is on course to achieve a popular-vote mandate of historic proportions. While that majority won’t make Biden president in our distorted system, he seems destined to win the Electoral College as well. Either way, however, the enormous turnout represents a robust confidence in democracy and a powerful repudiation of Trump.
That ought to be enough to save America.