It has been 17 days since the presidential election. With basically all the votes counted, Joe Biden has a lead of 306-232 in the Electoral College (the exact same margin gained by President Donald Trump in 2016). In addition, Biden has a lead of nearly 5.9 million in the popular vote count, and his vote percentage of nearly 51% is the biggest share of the vote earned by any challenger since 1932, an even larger share than Ronald Reagan’s in 1980. And while President Trump impressively garnered over 73 million votes, Biden received over 79 million votes, the most in history. Biden won.
And yet, as I write this column, President Trump refuses to concede, and not one member of Wyoming’s federal congressional delegation has even acknowledged Biden’s victory or his status as president-elect. Same goes for our governor. Just as amazingly, no one in Wyoming media seems to have even directly asked!
Our elected officials are public servants — they serve us, the public. We pay their salary. They have a duty to, at the very least, uphold the laws and norms of our country. Refusing to acknowledge the winner of a properly conducted election is, frankly, political cowardice and anti-democracy. Yes, those are strong words, but make no mistake, every single elected official who continues to remain silent while Trump tweets lies about fraud or a rigged election is complicit in the degradation of our democracy.
For those who don’t pay close attention, it is in no way normal for a candidate to turn to the courts to overturn presidential (or any) election results. Yes, this happened in 2000 when the Supreme Court inserted itself into the election process (a process which, by the way, is very clearly delegated to the states in the Constitution). Otherwise, it just doesn’t happen in modern post-war history.
To this, the president and his supporters still say, “Let the courts decide.”
So, with a barrage of lawsuits around the country, what have the courts ruled so far? As of Nov. 17, the Trump campaign and its allies have filed more than 30 lawsuits in six states; they’ve lost 28 and won one. And the lone success did not change a single vote.
In fact, none of the lawsuits post-election have changed a vote. These lawsuits, however, have revealed another interesting phenomenon. See, when lawyers get into court, they can’t lie or make assertions that are not based on evidence and facts, or they may face sanctions, lose their licenses to practice or even face criminal penalties. So, what’s happened in the Trump election lawsuits? While the president repeatedly lies on Twitter, when questioned by judges, his own lawyers assert in court case after case that there was no organized or massive fraud. And they’re still losing the lawsuits and being admonished for lack of candor and evidence.
The rallying cry has become “let the process play out.” It already has; the process was the election, the votes have been counted and simply put, Biden won more votes and Electoral College delegates than Trump.
Others argue that the Democrats didn’t accept Trump’s victory in 2016. Please recall that Hillary Clinton congratulated Donald Trump within 24 hours of election day. Even Al Gore congratulated George W. Bush within 24 hours of that 2000 Supreme Court decision that effectively nullified voters in Florida. Both must have been deeply disappointed and deflated by their losses (believe me, I know what that feels like. I lost to Barbara Cubin by 1,000 votes here in 2006 and, yes, conceded even thought there were voting issues). Yet they (and I) did the right thing for the country, because they knew what public service means and how important orderly election transitions are to our democracy.
In all my time on the campaign trail across Wyoming, I’ve told everyone I meet that democracy is hard. Roughly half the time at the federal level, we are governed by people we don’t agree with and didn’t vote for. The answer is not to work to invalidate elections and nullify the will of the voters; it is to work harder to elect candidates in the future who share your beliefs and policy ideas.
Let’s be clear: This election was not especially close in the scheme of U.S. presidential elections. In 2016, Trump White House counselor Kellyanne Conway tweeted, “306. :Landslide. Blowout. Historic”. Well, Biden got the exact same number in the Electoral College in 2020: 306.
In 2016, Trump was put over the top by three traditionally blue states — Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. He won them by a combined 77, 744 votes. Joe Biden won those three states in 2020 by more than 241,000 votes, better than three times Trump’s 2016 margin. Biden also won Arizona and Georgia, traditionally red states.
I ran for U.S. Senate in 2018 on “Country Before Party.” Frankly, it is a disgrace that our elected officials are willing to put our democracy at risk by enabling and shielding the loser of a presidential election, whether due to fear of their political base and/or for short-term political gain. I have no problem with policy disagreements that we as Americans work to implement through our democratic process. We should all have a problem with not accepting the will of the voters and nullifying election results. Down that path lies darkness and the destruction of our 244-year-old experiment in self-governance.
It’s time for our Wyoming electeds to pick a side — democracy or party fealty and autocracy.