Jim Scofield | Conceding the election | Columns

Jim Scofield | Conceding the election | Columns

Are Donald Trump and up to half the Republican party going to concede the 2020 election result? Our whole system has been based on losers conceding, and in every election I can remember, and I think in the others historically, presidential elections have finished peacefully. The unproven cries of fraud that Trump and his most fervid followers have charged have been disproven by election boards and the courts.

Our system won’t work if the presidential loser and half his party won’t acknowledge the collected electoral counts from all the states, not to mention the popular vote count.

The refusal to admit that Democrat Joe Biden is the winner represents problems for future elections. Our system won’t function if voters don’t believe the results.

Certainly, Trump has initiated this tactic. Even in 2016, he refused to say before the election that he would concede, but he eventually won.

In 2020, he called the presidential election fraudulent well before the vote itself. Will we believe it’s worth voting if our votes might not mean anything?

A big percentage of the Republican congress still continues to not respect the outcome, along with many Republicans across the party.

Although more elected Republicans have now acknowledged the result, their initial unwillingness to do so for a month or more, including then Senate leader Mitch McConnell, misled and instigated many to believe, and continue to believe, without evidence, the lies about the election.

Worse, Trump’s Jan. 6 speech near the White House asked his followers to attack Congress and prevent the electors vote count at the Capitol.

Certainly, this was part of his attempt to remain president and not give up the office. It resulted in an unthinkable and outrageous physical attack on the American Congress, then in the process of certifying the election. In his speech, he had promised to lead the attack, but dropped out himself.

After provoking it and seeing how violent it had become, he refused to call it off, and in many accounts sat back in the White House favoring it, until hours later when he lamely told his followers to leave.

His followers violently broke into the nation’s Capitol, past the police guarding it, destroying much of what they found, and with apparent effort by some to hunt down congressional Democrats and even Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the electoral vote count, and whom Trump had publically called to account in order to have him invalidate the vote, and whom you would think that Trump would want to save and protect, if only because he was his running mate.

How can the president, the defeated candidate, so openly call for an attack that might overturn the election and keep him in office, and not at least be charged with sedition or even treason? If there is no legal punishment for a crime that so violently attacks the electoral system, what else would be permissible?

The two parties are too evenly balanced in the congress to allow conviction, although the House of Representatives did vote impeachment. Republicans refused to convict Trump in the Senate. After all, he had unfailingly supported their agenda.

Is the system too weak to act against this then? What else can Trump and leaders like him get away with? Can we allow a mob rule to overturn – or attempt to overturn – our system, where a president can stay in office with lies countering his defeat, with the help of violence against the seat of government?

Trump asked the Georgia secretary of state to “find” enough votes to declare him the winner in that state. He also summoned members of the Michigan legislature to the White House to ask them to appoint electoral college members who would vote for him, replacing the legitimate electors who were Democrats. Aren’t these punishable offences?

Trump bragged in the past at a news conference (2019), that he has “the police, the military, and Trump bikers on my side, … I have tough people – until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.” Luckily, that did not turn out to be true, but the statement shows his willingness to use physical force on his behalf.

Are we potentially turning into some third-world country with no real rules as to who governs? Although it didn’t work this time, despite Trump’s and some Republicans’ efforts, it still bodes badly for possible futures.

Congress is too evenly balanced and too many Republicans subscribe to the idea, along with Trump, despite the evidence, that the election was a fraud. There is really no punishment for sedition, apparently. Doesn’t it weaken our democracy if it isn’t punished?

Jim Scofield is an associate professor emeritus at Pitt-Johnstown.

Jim Scofield is an associate professor emeritus at Pitt-Johnstown.

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