Since all major news outlets declared Joe Biden the president-elect of the U.S. on Nov. 7, just a handful of congressional Republicans, such as Senators Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Susan Collins (R-Maine.), have acknowledged Biden’s victory. Most, along with much of the GOP’s base, have instead chosen to stand behind President Trump and encourage his unfounded claims of electoral irregularities. Their refusal to accept the results of a free and fair election is unforgivable and risks both American lives and the very foundations of our democracy.
Trump’s claims of election fraud have led nearly 70% of Trump supporters to believe that Biden fraudulently won the election. These mistaken beliefs manifested on Nov. 15, when thousands of Trump supporters, many of whom brought their children to see a monumental day where patriots “took back America,” swarmed Washington to join the “Million MAGA March.” Violence erupted between them and counterprotesters within hours. Trump, by refusing to concede defeat, and congressional Republicans, by prioritizing their loyalty to Trump over the well-being of the American people, are directly to blame for the turmoil.
The GOP’s support for Trump’s lies risks American lives at the height of the country’s COVID-19 outbreak. Normally, the transition to a new administration begins when the head of the General Services Administration (GSA) ascertains the president-elect’s victory, often within 24 hours of Election Day. Emily Murphy, whom Trump appointed to run the GSA, waited until this week to do so. Meaning Biden just received access to the government funding, information and officials that he needs to build an administration that is ready on day one. Many public officials say that the long delay could impact the Biden team’s ability to assess national security threats and craft a suitable pandemic response. The delay is simply unacceptable, especially considering the prompt access the Trump team received in 2016.
Unfounded GOP attacks on the integrity of the election also harm local and state officials who conduct elections. In the swing states which Trump lost, the election officials, whose utmost duty it is to carry out safe, secure elections, have been threatened with death and other menacing messages.
Notably, a crowd of Trump supporters chanted “We are watching you” outside of the home of Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs as the deadline to certify election results drew near in her state. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger received a message stating, “You better not botch this recount. Your life depends on it,” while another message to his wife read, “Your husband deserves to face a firing squad.” Let’s be clear: no matter their party, our elected officials do not deserve to have their lives threatened for doing their jobs. Especially if it’s because the president refuses to accept the election results and promotes aggression among his supporters.
On top of the threats that Trump and other Republicans have incited against our elections officials, a few have actively tried to help Trump subvert the electoral process. Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) have both claimed unsubstantiated voter fraud to overturn Biden’s victory in Georgia. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) attempted to convince Raffensperger to toss out legal mail-in ballots in counties with higher frequencies of mismatched signatures. Perdue, Loeffler and Graham’s dangerous actions have actively undermined the integrity of the electoral process and convinced much of the public that it has lost credibility. Trusting the process is the only reason why this republic works.
Trump’s baseless allegations of electoral fraud could embolden future, more capable politicians to do the same. Such a precedent is dangerous — if losing candidates feel able to question their contests’ legitimacy without evidence, democratic elections become irrelevant. This should terrify you.
Many authoritarian leaders, such as Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary and Russian President Vladimir Putin, have both risen to and maintained power by discrediting democratic institutions, consolidating power in their positions and slandering political opponents. If we do not remain vigilant, Trump’s baseless claims could allow the same to happen here. By toeing the line with Trump, Republicans have shown that they either don’t care about the risks of authoritarianism or are open to embracing Trump’s rhetoric out of rank political self-interest.
Trump is a sinking ship. He lost the general election, his attempts to steal the presidency have failed and his days left in the White House are numbered. Yet the GOP — redefined by Trumpism — is determined to follow him in word and deed, even at the cost of our lives and our democratic tradition. In exchange, we, as voters, must remember their names and vote them out for their complicity in supporting Trump’s authoritarian actions. We need to spread awareness on social media about why these actions are unacceptable and actively combat misinformation that harms our democracy.
The above editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s Editorial Board. The Editorial Board is composed of Sahar Al-Gazzali, Brammhi Balarajan, Viviana Barreto, Rachel Broun, Kemal Budak, Jake Busch, Sara Khan, Demetrios Mammas, Meredith McKelvey, Sara Perez, Ben Thomas, Leah Woldai and Lynnea Zhang.