As Biden closes in, Trump's party belatedly starts siding with democracy instead
As Joe Biden arrived at the precipice of the presidency, President Trump on Friday continued to rail without evidence against the routine and methodical counting of the close contest.
And more and more fellow Republicans condemned or ignored his last-gasp campaign of lies and misinformation.
Day Four of Election Week was taking on a different tone. It suggested much of the GOP establishment was ready to unify behind sticking up for the bedrock norms of American electoral democracy, and collectively rebuffing the president's pleadings — just as soon as it became mathematically certain he had lost.
That may be as soon as sometime Friday, as the former Democratic vice president's narrow leads held fast in Georgia, Arizona and Nevada and kept growing in Pennsylvania — which by itself would put Biden past the 270 electoral votes needed to win. He planned to address the nation in the evening.
"I ask everyone to stay calm. The process is working," Biden said Thursday. "It is the will of the voters. No one, not anyone else who chooses the president."
Trump remained holed up in the White House after a middle-of-the-night tweet summarizing his fact-free view of his predicament:
"I easily WIN the Presidency of the United States with LEGAL VOTES CAST. The OBSERVERS were not allowed, in any way, shape, or form, to do their job and therefore, votes accepted during this period must be determined to be ILLEGAL VOTES. U.S. Supreme Court should decide!"
In fact, hundreds of partisan observers from both parties have been permitted to watch the tabulating of tens of millions of valid ballots across the country, although what they can do and even where they can stand varies from state to state. Judges in Georgia and Michigan on Thursday dismissed Trump campaign lawsuits demanding more access to the counting rooms.
The Twitter burst followed another one of Trump's corrosive diatribes from a White House podium Thursday night, this one supplementing his unsupported accusations of voter fraud with false claims that he was being robbed of a second term.
"This is a case when they are trying to steal an election, they are trying to rig an election," he declared.
No sitting president has ever worked so hard to sow doubt about the essential core of the democratic process. His campaign began months ago. First, he started declaring that mail-in voting was so cursed by fraud that he could not win if it was widely permitted. Then he refused to commit to the peaceful transfer of power.
He's now following through on that rhetoric when it matters most, confronting powerful and ambitious Republicans with a likely final option to break with him in the name of democracy or curry favor with millions of his ardent fans.
The drumbeat from the GOP high command has grown louder and more consistent in the past day.
- "Here's how this must work in our great country: Every legal vote should be counted," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tweeted.
- "The president should turn this discussion over to his lawyers. And if they have a case to make, there's a process," Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, a key player in the leadership, told reporters, adding: "I also don't think it's unreasonable for Vice President Biden to accept the unofficial result and do whatever he thinks he should do. Part of the obligation of leadership is you should always have in your mind: 'How do I leave?'"
- "He is wrong to say that the election was rigged, corrupt and stolen," Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, the party's 2012 nominee, tweeted. "Doing so damages the cause of freedom here and around the world, weakens the institutions that lie at the foundation of the Republic, and recklessly inflames destructive and dangerous passions.
- "There is no defense for the president's comments tonight undermining our Democratic process," said Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, a potential 2024 candidate. "America is counting the votes, and we must respect the results as we always have before."
- "There's simply no evidence anyone has shown me of any widespread corruption or fraud," said Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who's not seeking re-election in two years. "I endorsed President Trump. I want the next president to be the person who legitimately wins the Electoral College and I will accept whoever that is."
- "Taking days to count legally cast votes is NOT fraud. And court challenges to votes cast after the legal voting deadline is NOT suppression." tweeted Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who is up for re-election in two years.
- "We should respect that process and ensure that all ballots cast in accordance with state laws are counted. It's that simple," said Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who also faces the voters in 2022.
- "It is critical that we give election officials time to complete their jobs, and that we ensure all lawfully cast ballots are allowed and counted,″ said Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who is also up for reelection next time.
- "If the president's legal team has real evidence, they need to present it immediately to both the public and the courts. In the meantime, all legal votes need to be counted," said Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska.
Taking the other tack were some of Trump's most reliable GOP supporters. "President Trump won this election," House Minority Leader McCarthy of California falsely said on Fox News. "So everyone who is listening, do not be silent about this. We cannot allow this to happen before our very eyes."
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said he would donate $500,000 to the president's "legal defense fund," which does not exist. (He could still donate to the reelection campaign, which is paying for the legal challenges.)
Two governors thinking about running for president in four years took Trump's side. "Fight on, exhaust all options," Ron DeSantis of Florida urged Trump. Kristi Noem of South Dakota encouraged him to keep fighting "rigged election systems."
And a likely aspirant in four years, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, tweeted: "If last 24 hours have made anything clear, it's that we need new election integrity laws NOW."
Those voices were not enough for the Trump family.
"The total lack of action from virtually all of the '2024 GOP hopefuls' is pretty amazing," Donald Trump Jr. wrote on Twitter. "They have a perfect platform to show that they're willing & able to fight but they will cower to the media mob instead."
"Where are Republicans!" Eric Trump added about an hour and a half later. "Have some backbone. Fight against this fraud. Our voters will never forget you if your sheep!"
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