Following the announcement Saturday that Joe Biden will become the 46th president of the United States, President Donald Trump ought to concede and leave office with more dignity than he has shown as commander-in-chief.
This moment is not about Trump’s politics, policies or record: It’s about respecting the democratic process, honoring the will of the American people, and preserving what’s left of their unity.
Nothing in Trump’s history, however, suggests he will act honorably in defeat. By raising false claims about the election’s legitimacy, prematurely declaring victory, and attempting to halt the election process this week, Trump spun a conspiracy narrative and put his own lust for power above the welfare of a bitterly divided nation.
Over the last several days, the president has acted more like a spoiled, entitled brat than the leader of the world’s most powerful nation.
Trump did not create this country’s historical divisions, including the fault lines of race and class, but he has exacerbated and exploited them with a moral turpitude practically unmatched by any previous president.
In refusing to accept defeat, the president is playing with fire. Trump’s closest friends and advisers had better talk some sense into him before he barricades himself in the White House and has to be removed by force.
Given the growing risks, it’s discouraging that Republican Congressman Mike Kelly, a close ally of Trump’s who represents Mercer County, Pennsylvania, issued a statement Saturday suggesting the election’s outcome remains in doubt.
That’s nonsense. Further legal challenges by Trump are futile, and they will put a weary nation more at-risk. There is not a shred of hard evidence that fraud, malfeasance, or incompetence affected the count in Pennsylvania or any other state. Democratic and Republican governors and U.S. senators, including Republican U.S. Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, have vouched for their states’ election’s integrity.
As Trump continues to hold out, the nation is entering uncharted territory. A small minority of the president's hard-core supporters have shown a penchant for violence, as well as an almost pathological zeal to believe anything Trump says. Trump should not continue to encourage them to oppose the election’s legitimate outcome, by any means necessary.
To their credit, they have not. In fact, many of Trump’s supporters have always acknowledged his character flaws.
Despite the pandemic, a record 160 million Americans voted in this election. The electoral vote was close, but Trump lost the popular vote by 4 million.
When the Associated Press, the unofficial arbiter of presidential elections, announced Trump’s defeat Saturday morning, most of the nation sighed with relief — not that Americans had elected Biden as president, but that Trump’s raw and rancorous tenure was ending.
The people have spoken. Whether they can preserve the union in the coming years, and work together for the benefit of all, is a question generations of Americans will confront. For Trump to not accept the results of a legitimate election, however, would make that daunting task even more formidable.
This guest editorial was authored by Jeffrey Gerritt, editor of the Sharon Herald and New Castle News in Pennsylvania. Gerritt won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing.