“I WON THE ELECTION!” President Trump lied on Twitter on Sunday — as he has done over and over again since Joe Biden was declared the winner this month.
Voters gave Mr. Biden the highest margin of victory in a two-person race against a sitting president since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932. He is on track to win 306 electoral votes and to win the popular vote by around seven million ballots.
“What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time?” a senior Republican official asked The Washington Post last week, referring to Mr. Trump. “No one seriously thinks the results will change.”
Lies have a long half-life, and Mr. Trump’s misinformation campaign will undermine the democratic legitimacy of the Biden administration. About half of all Republicans surveyed by a new Reuters/Ipsos poll said they believed that Mr. Trump had rightfully won the election. A poll from Monmouth University released Wednesday found that 77 percent of Mr. Trump’s supporters believe Mr. Biden won through fraud.
Mr. Trump is doing this with the help of nearly all of the national Republican leaders, who continue to show loyalty to the president at the expense of the nation. It is a pathetic display of cowardice to stand aside and watch as a sitting president salts American soil. Their actions stand in contrast to that of many Republicans at the state level, including the Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, who have shown their courage and patriotism in the conduct of their official election duties.
If you can’t see the con, the saying goes, you’re the mark: In this case, those who donate to Mr. Trump’s legal effort to overturn the election only to have the money go to paying off his outstanding debts, while Mr. Trump’s lawsuits are either dropped or laughed out of court.
The president’s raging against reality also is putting American lives at risk. The nation is in the grips of a generational economic collapse and shot through with a pandemic that has already killed more than a quarter million Americans and is on track to fell another 70,000 by Inauguration Day. Mr. Trump is refusing to allow the Biden transition team to gain access to national security briefings or details on the government’s pandemic response.
That refusal amounts to gross negligence with American lives, piled atop the gross negligence of the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic. Dr. Scott Atlas, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, on Sunday called for Michigan residents to “rise up” against public health measures. The president reportedly hasn’t attended a meeting of that task force in several months.
The greatest damage of Mr. Trump’s recent actions, however, may come in future election seasons. Mr. Trump is establishing a vocabulary of denial to election results. He is training politicians to try to overturn outcomes they don’t like — to actively sabotage democracy.
Perhaps that sounds alarmist, but it is not. Consider what happened this week in Michigan, according to reporting by The Associated Press and The Washington Post. Two Republican canvassers in Wayne County (which includes Detroit), having already certified the count, signed affidavits on Wednesday saying they believe the county vote “should not be certified.” One had spoken with Mr. Trump on Tuesday night. The Times reported that the president offered to fly Republican state lawmakers to the White House on Friday in an attempt to overturn the vote in their state.
When Mr. Trump said the election was rigged, it apparently meant that he was trying to rig it by suppressing votes, preventing them from being counted and now trying to overturn the counts in court. An analysis from The Washington Post found that Mr. Trump and his allies have sought to throw out nearly one in 10 votes cast in states that decided the election. It is all too easy to imagine similar tactics becoming standard fare in future national, state and local elections.
Mr. Trump already has persuaded millions of people to disregard the dangers of the coronavirus and has made refusing to wear masks a point of pride for his supporters. Imagine what will happen when more Americans share his contempt for democracy.