President Trump should graciously acknowledge defeat, release funding for a Biden/Harris transition, and invite the Biden team into planning for the coronavirus response and foreign affairs. Why wouldn't he do that in the interest of American democracy? Well, a few considerations:
1. The transition from the Obama administration to the Trump administration was among the ugliest in the nation's history. The FBI and the national security establishment, with the knowledge of the Obama White House, illegally monitored the Trump campaign, leading to two years of fruitless Mueller investigations. House Democrats gleefully boycotted the innauguration. The Washington Post called for impeachment on Day 1. Later the House pursued a sham impeachment, and the Speaker tore up Trump's 2020 State of the Union speech on the House dias. Those calling for civility have a small credibility problem.
2. Trump has a few agenda item to complete: reduction of prescription drug pricing; withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq; appointment of a few more federal judges; normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia; perhaps privatization of mortgage managers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; perhaps issuance of the Durham report on FBI malfeasance in the 2016 election; perhaps drilling on Alaska's north slope. The duck will be a little more lame after the President admits defeat.
Most importantly, Trump wants control of Operation Wharp Speed which has delivered therapeutics and at least three vaccines in breathtaking time despite mountains of skepticism from Biden's Democrats, the liberal media, and some in the federal medical bureaucracy. The basics of the distribution plan are in place, but Biden's coronavirus team wants a hand on the helm - to share the credit, and perhaps to direct scarce dosages to their political constituencies. For those who remember the Obama administration's roll out of the Obamacare web site, this does not instill confidence. In the fullness of time, Trump's triumph of science over the disease is likely to be among his greatest legacies.
Biden hands are also eager to take hold of foreign relations where they seek to reverse Trump's "America First" posture. In a below the radar episode, Biden called Boris Johnson to emphasize that a post-Brexit trade deal with the United States would be conditioned upon resolving contentious negotiations between the UK, the European Union, and Ireland in a way that Biden approved. (One remembers that Michael Flynn was sentenced for talking to the Russian ambassador during the Obama-Trump transition, and that Vice President Biden claimed that he had violated the Logan Act.)
3. The election itself should not just be filed in the dusty archives. (Spoiler Alert: Trump lost)
Our robust and credible democracy has a set of challenge and certification steps designed to ensure that all legitimate votes are counted, that illegitimate votes are not, and that a set of responsible people are in place to resolve disagreements and make final, timely decisions. The system is decentralized and legally defined, minimizing the risk of manipulation. Oversight is bipartisan. Certitude takes time and legal fees. (That said, the theatrics of Rudy Giuliani and others detract from the serious work that needs to be done.)
This presidential election highlights two "improvement opportunities", one demanding success, the other likely to fail.
- With the coronavirus, many states loosened their requirements for mail-in voting, and Nancy Pelosi has made legal expansion of "the California system" a central goal of her term as Speaker, and of her proposed virus relief legislation. At the extreme, this involves mailing ballots to everybody on the (poorly maintained) voter rolls, gathering completed ballots by campaign operatives, and limited efforts to verify voter signatures on the ballots. Over 100 million of the 154 million votes cast were done early, largely by mail. A thorough understanding of the risks and "best practices" is required despite the Left's screams of "voter suppression".
- The big city Democratic machines - Chicago; Philadelphia; Detroit - present a major challenge in that there are few trained Republican monitors to oversee the process which frequently yields 90%+ Democratic majorities, carrying key states. Some of the lawsuits will add flavor, but solutions are not likely.
The Georgia recount provides a dry run for the critical runoff Senate elections on January 5. There can be no more missing vote boxes and unverified signatures.
4. Trump has reason to be concerned with legal retributon, with the New York Attorney General combing through his tax records, media voices on the Left calling for retribution, and some members of Congress threatening prosecution for illegally enriching himself, violating innumerable laws, and endangering national security. It would be helpful for Biden and his chosen Attorney General to strike a path forward. Biden seems to be so inclined, perhaps in exchange for dropping any legal actions related to Comey's FBI or Hunter Biden.
This Thursday we can be thankful that this presidential election did not come down to a few votes in a few key states. From a statistical perspective, this election was good enough for government work. Done; move on.
Bill Bowen - 11/23/20