History tells us there are times to stand up for what’s right before incalculable damage is done.
This election is one of the times. We let another day pass at our peril.
With one voice, business and civic leaders, Republicans of every stripe, right-wing news media and the mega-donors who fuel elections — yes, all those with a prominent voice — need to stand up for democracy. Let’s hear them shout from the rooftops that the election is over, Joe Biden is the president-elect and that no one will look the other way or play along with Donald Trump’s efforts to thwart the people’s will and subvert our cherished tradition of peaceful transfers of power.
If massive flooding threatened the very foundations of Chicago, so much so that the city might never recover, we would be outraged if those in positions of influence let it get out of hand just to humor an outgoing political leader.
But that’s what too many people are doing now. They remain silent or even propagate Donald Trump’s lies as he seeks to dismantle our trust in democracy and voting. Their actions — or inactions — have consequences. Already, about 88% of people who voted for Trump believe Biden won only because of widespread vote fraud, a poll by The Economist and YouGov found. A Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 52% of Republicans thought Trump “rightfully won” the election. Those are stunning numbers. Social media is full of people claiming substantial election fraud occurred. What will make those people believe in the integrity of a future vote that does not go their way?
This year, huge numbers of people turned out to vote. In the future, what will encourage people to brave hours-long lines at the polls if they don’t believe their votes will be counted? What will encourage election workers to tirelessly do their jobs if they believe their work won’t matter?
What’s happening here should be obvious. Long before the election, Trump vociferously vowed to do everything he could to subvert it if it did not go his way. He made no secret of it. He has never stopped telling us he would try to cling to the presidency no matter how Americans voted.
For anyone paying attention, all the outrageously phony claims of rigged voting machines with enigmatic algorithms, communist money, unexplained vote surges, flipped votes, lack of access for poll watchers, votes by dead people and burned or stolen ballots should be greeted with universal disbelief. Instead those fraudulent claims are resonating. Only a concerted, united effort by all of those in the public eye can hope to start rebuilding trust.
Yes, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said the Nov. 3 election, which Joe Biden won by nearly 6 million votes, was “the most secure in American history.” Yes, U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, has called Trump’s efforts “undemocratic.” Yes, retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., has encouraged Trump to get going on the transition. And, yes, some others in the GOP have spoken out to some degree, and some business groups have said intentionally dragging out the election will hurt the economy. But more voices — a swelling, deafening, resounding chorus of voices — need to join them.
We have been swamped under a cascade of mistruths. As soon as one is debunked, another is posited. The corrosive effect on democracy cannot be overstated. Who will go into future elections with the confidence that losers won’t try to manipulate the system to their benefit? What will discourage losers from attempting to do so? Lies hurt all of us. The truth not only sets us free, it is also what keeps us free.
In the short term, who can say how much damage the Trump administration’s refusal to cooperate with the transition will do to the nation? In the long run, how much will America’s beacon of democracy be dimmed and tarnished? If people can’t trust their votes will count, what happens to our system of government and those of nascent democracies around the world that look to us?
Stand up while it matters. Let your voices be heard. America and the world need you.
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