With President Donald Trump on his way out, some Republicans are beginning to cautiously voice their dissent, while others hold back still – not yet ready to risk Trump’s wrath and the attacks on their reputation that would surely follow.
In a tweet Monday night, almost three weeks after Election Day in the United States, President Donald Trump declared that he was finally allowing the transition to a Biden administration to begin.
Nevertheless, Trump still refused to concede, saying “Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail!”
Trump’s weekslong refusal to allow the transition process to begin has been seen by many on both sides of the aisle as a serious break from precedent, as every previous losing presidential candidate in recent history has conceded soon after their opponent was declared the winner.
Split Republican reaction
In the weeks following the election, Republicans have been divided as to what Trump’s course of action should be.
Some Republicans have called for Trump to accept the results of the election – which showed former Vice President Joe Biden to be the winner – and start the transition process. Many Republicans have already pledged to work with President-elect Biden.
“I am raising my hand and committing to working with President-elect Biden and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in Congress,” tweeted Republican Representative Fred Upton of Michigan.
A group of 30 former Republican representatives in the House signed a statement calling for Trump to concede. This group is largely composed of congressmen and women who are either retiring or who lost their seats in congress and, in effect, have little to lose.
A second group of Republicans has called for the Trump campaign’s legal efforts to be allowed to play out before a winner is declared.
“The President is within his rights to request recounts, to call for investigation of alleged voting irregularities where evidence exists, and to exhaust legal remedies,” Senator Mitt Romney tweeted on November 6, adding, “He is wrong to say that the election was rigged, corrupt and stolen.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tweeted, “Every legal vote should be counted. Any illegally-submitted ballots must not.”
A third group of Republicans has stood steadfast in echoing the Trump campaign’s claims of voter fraud.
Senator Ted Cruz accused Pennsylvania’s voting system of, “breaking the law, ignoring court orders, counting ballots in secret & threatening to steal the presidency.”
These Republicans have also been outspoken in their support of the legal battles being waged by the Trump campaign in a number of states, with some even encouraging their supporters to donate to legal funds created by the campaign.
Why it matters
During this process, many have argued that Trump’s denial of the election results has had a detrimental effect on the transition process.
“I think [these tactics] are enormously corrosive to the foundation of our society,” said Tim Lau, a writer and editor at the Brennan Center for Justice. “The damage to our standing in the world and to the confidence Americans can have in their government could be substantial.”
“A peaceful transfer of power – particularly from one political party to another – is, in my mind, the ultimate expression of the rule of law and of a society governed by the law, not by individual rulers,” said Lau. “The ritual of one president preparing to cede power to another signifies that we are a law-abiding society in which the will of the voters governs.”
In addition to the symbolic nature of the peaceful transfer, there is also a practical one. The process of preparing for office includes organizing staff and putting together administrative goals. These decisions are made before the president-elect is inaugurated so that they are able to govern effectively from day one. The earlier the loser of the race concedes the more time the winning candidate has to prepare.
Without an adequate and timely transition, the new president could enter office on their first day ill-prepared. With case numbers of the COVID-19 pandemic currently surging within the country, such ill-preparedness could end up costing American lives.
That so many in the Republican Party have stood behind Trump’s refusal to concede is likely a sign of just how tight Trump’s grip on the party has become. The Trump administration has publicly condemned Republicans who have openly disagreed with the president, which has resulted in very few of them actually doing so. Now, with Trump leaving, some Republicans are beginning to cautiously voice their dissent, while others hold back still – not yet ready to risk Trump’s wrath and the attacks on their reputation that would surely follow.
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