President Dwight Eisenhower did not like President-elect John F. Kennedy, mainly because Kennedy beat Eisenhower’s lapdog of a vice president, Richard Nixon, in the 1960 election. Eisenhower at 70, also thought Kennedy at 43 was too inexperienced and just a child. As the story goes, during their traditional trip from the White House to the U.S. Capitol for the swearing in, when the outgoing and incoming president shared a ride, Eisenhower famously didn’t say a word to Kennedy. I always thought that Eisenhower was the childish one.
What we are seeing now, with Donald Trump’s inability — and failure — to concede the election to President-elect Joe Biden is beyond the childish character of Trump. It is grotesquely dangerous and threatening to the most sacred institution in the United States — the American people’s right to vote, and a peaceful, cohesive transition in power. We have spoken loudly and clearly. We elected a new president. Why is now any different than it’s been for over 220 years?
What we witnessed last Thursday night by the president in the White House briefing room, and then again on election night in the East Room — where some of the most solemn and important events in American history have taken place — were appalling, absolutely disgusting attacks on American democracy and our voting system. All by a duly democratically-elected president, who for all intents and purposes is the worst enemy of democracy. And it is continuing, as Trump tries even harder to delegitimize the election after his loss. He refuses to concede, when all others before him have done so. And despicably, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Attorney General Bill Barr support Trump’s defiance of an American tradition.
The vile and vociferous statements exuding out of Trump’s filthy mouth after the election, as well as lies from Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany (even Fox News cut away from her press conference on Monday, with Neil Cavuto claiming she was making an explosive charge of election fraud), Donald Trump, Jr., Senator Ted Cruz, and Rudy Giuliani, among others, goes beyond attacking our country’s most sacred treasure, the act of voting. Their vocalizing is also blatantly racist and riddled with atrocious falsehoods and unfounded accusations about non-existent voter fraud. Trump, with McConnell and the Republican’s consent, has destroyed so many of our foundations, but what Trump is doing now is the most deceitful act by any president in our history.
Trump warned us that he would stoop to the lowest common denominator in order to destroy the presidency and our republic all in a selfish effort to save only himself if he lost. He is viciously attacking the record number of Americans who used their voices to vote this year. He is demeaning the hard-working men and women in counties, cities, and states across this nation who worked (and some are still working) feverishly to make sure that the nearly 150 million people who voted have their ballots counted. He is aiming to corrupt a legal, fair, and free election.
Trump specifically lies about so-called voting irregularities in Detroit, Atlanta, and Philadelphia, singling them out because of the Black vote that turned out in droves to end the flagrant racism and corruption they saw springing from the White House. Trump detests Black people, and now more so because African-Americans are the ones who gave Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Georgia to President-elect Biden. Trump continues to file lawsuits, and they have been resoundingly rejected. As of this writing he is 0-10 in having his pleas rejected by state judges.
To watch this horrid behavior is to see a desperate and deranged man desiring to be a dictatorial despot. So, since state judges won’t be complicit, Trump has turned to a more devious ally. Attorney General Barr is giving the green light to federal prosecutors to investigate voter fraud — remember there is none — an unimaginable and unprecedented act in our nation’s history that forced the resignation of one of the Justice Department's top election attorneys. All of this is unfathomable for anyone who cares about this country, whether that be our allies, Democrats, Independents, or Republicans.
Where in the hell are the Republicans? Where are they? Why hasn’t anyone called Joe Biden to congratulate him? No calls from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Minority Whip Steve Scalise, or from McConnell, and Senate Majority Whip John Thune. This silence by the Republican leadership is inexcusable. Why is this soon to be former president getting a pass? Former President George W. Bush called Biden, because he knows that’s the right thing to do, and the act of reaching out is one of the bedrock traditions of democracy in the United States.
The Republicans are pacifying Trump, keeping their mouths shut, and they’ve been silent all along. Trump, the wrecking ball to freedom, barked repeatedly that if he lost the election, it would mean that it was rigged. He shouted it at his rallies, wrote it all-caps on Twitter, and used the solemnity of the Coronavirus Task Force briefings to further his assault on our most basic right. And, what have Republicans done? Where were they then? Where are they now? They provide mealy-mouthed answers about Trump’s right to litigate, or more to their characters, run from reporters, make no comment, and feign ignorance. Look at where all their pacifism and denial has gotten us?
If Republicans don’t speak up, if they do not come to the rescue of our country, if they do not defend our vote, our process, and our freedom to elect who we want, and the necessity of the losing presidential candidate to concede, then they will have failed Lady Liberty in a way that could be irreparable. This damage that Trump is inflicting on us now and in the days and weeks ahead will ferment, while he loudly and wrongly seeks to overturn an election, browbeating over 70 million of his supporters with “rigging” and “illegal,” all while soliciting donations from them to pay off his debts. He will continue to tear this country further apart. His savagery will only be compounded by the silence of pathetic Republicans.
The world is watching all of this and shaking their collective heads. The American voting system has always been a shining example for other countries. Former President Jimmy Carter spent most of his life helping emerging democracies replicate our free and fair elections. President Carter, also a one-term president, conceded graciously to Ronald Reagan. How, the world wonders, has America allowed all of this to happen? Why, they ask, isn’t Joe Biden be accorded a concession like all the past president-elects have received? Why is Trump being treated differently?
What we have seen during the last four years was a warm-up to what Trump will do during these last three months. But you know what? He’s not going to get away with it. Our democracy is stronger than he is. On January 20, 2021, Joe Biden will be sworn in as our 46th president, and if I were him, I’d request a solo ride to the U.S. Capitol.
John Casey is editor at large of The Advocate.