President Trump’s nasty campaign to undo the 2020 presidential election and sack President-elect Joe Biden is moving perilously close to inflaming disorder.
Thousands of Trump’s ardent loyalists, some of who belong to paramilitary groups, plan to protest outside the Capitol building and elsewhere in Washington on Wednesday as an admonishment to Republican Senate and House members inside who don’t embrace the president’s futile attempt to stay in office.
It is the duty deigned by the 12th Amendment to the Constitution for a joint session of Congress to count and validate the certificates of electoral votes submitted from the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
That count has already been established by state election officials — Democrat and Republican — and certified by the Electoral College to be 306 electoral votes for Biden, the winner; 232 for Trump, the loser.
Yet the strangely acting incumbent president refuses to concede he lost, claiming widespread voter fraud in a “rigged election” without proof to back up his phony charges. His own attorney general, William Barr, found no pervasive irregularities that would change the election results.
More seriously, Trump has urged his supporters to “be there, will be wild!” in Washington to shout and wave placards affirming his false narrative. Law enforcement is preparing for the worse if the protesters react with unrest to the inevitable announcement from Congress that Biden is the next president.
They will be unmindfully aided and abetted by some 140 House Republicans and a dozen senators who fear the political wrath of Trump and thus will object to Biden’s certified election victory. They are motivated by naked politics — pleasing Trump voters for when they seek re-election in 2022 or, in some cases, run for president in 2024.
It doesn’t matter. The resistance may cause prolonged debate on each objection, followed by a roll call vote that will certify Biden as the nation’s 46th president despite renegade arguments for a different outcome.
It will serve the final blow to Trump’s absurd crusade to remain in the White House, a jihad that included browbeating Republicans at the state and national levels to nullify Biden’s victory.
Trump lost the popular vote by 7 million ballots out of 155 million cast as well as the Electoral College vote by 74 votes. His protestations of a corrupt election were proven baseless in numerous recounts and more than 55 lawsuits, many before federal judges Trump appointed. Twice the U.S. Supreme Court rejected appeals to consider Trump’s accusations.
His unsuccessful persistence in canceling Biden’s election in several crucial states, then bullying members of Congress to reject Biden’s Electoral College victory, is unprecedented in the nation’s 244-year history.
A few Republicans have spoken out against their GOP colleagues who plan to object to the Electoral College result. Sen. Ben Sasse, from conservative Nebraska, called it a “dangerous ploy.” Sen. Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania described it as an effort to “disenfranchise millions of voters in my state and others.”
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, the unsuccessful GOP nominee for president in 2012, put it this way to the Washington Post: “I know what it is like to lose an election. I have people today who say, ‘Hey, you know what, you really won,’ but I didn’t. I lost fair and square.”
And so did Trump.
Yet public opinion polls show Trump’s resistance to defeat is undermining public trust in the nation’s political system and our sense of civic decency. Some 80 percent of Republicans polled said they believe the election was stolen from Trump — who, as a master propagandist, knows that if he says it constantly, his faithful will believe him.
By contrast, Democrats point to then Vice President Al Gore’s respectful concession of his loss to Republican George W. Bush in the contested 2000 presidential election. Gore did so promptly after the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, suspended a manual recount in Florida despite the micro-thin margin that gave the state and thus the presidency to Bush.
There is no question who won the 2020 presidential election. It featured the largest percent of eligible voters (66.7 %) casting ballots in 140 years. Biden’s margin of the popular vote was 51.3 %, receiving 81.2 million votes of the 155 million recorded. Trump also eclipsed the previous record for a presidential candidate with 74.2 million votes or 46.8 % of the total vote.
Throughout the campaign, in the days leading up to the election and in post-election reflection, Trump served as the ringmaster of a three-ring circus of chaos, with the sideshow of extremists sowing conspiracy theories about Democrats and the election.
More worrisome now are groups such as the Proud Boys, a white nationalist group; Oath Keepers, an organization of former military and police, and Eighty Percenters, who claim to represent pro-Trump voters. They are expected to show up in force in Washington on Wednesday.
“See you in Washington, DC, on January 6th,” tweeted Trump to his supporters. “Don’t miss it.”
District of Columbia Police Chief Robert J. Contee III reports the city is preparing with street closings and officer deployments. He’s concerned violence could break out between rival extremist groups such as happened on Dec. 12 when thousands of Trump supporters rallied in the nation’s capital to protest the election results.
Law enforcement is carefully monitoring social media, blogs and other internet channels used by extremists to rally their believers. Contee said officers plan to facilitate peaceful protests, but won’t tolerate violence.
Trump’s unyielding demand that loyalists embrace his unbounded tactics to invalidate Biden’s election could incite the protest crowd after the announcement by Congress that Biden is the next president.
In advance, the president should condemn violence and unrest from occurring. So far, he has not.
Bill Ketter is senior vice president of news for CNHI, LLC. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.