Accustomed to a world of kings and tyrants, the Founding Fathers openly worried that there might be one major flaw in their experiment in democracy: would anyone with power volunteer to give it up even if they had been voted out? Amazingly, no one who held the office of Presidency only to lose reelection wanted to be that guy. No one, until it very well seems, Donald Trump. While no major news organization has officially made the call, by all accounts when all the votes are tabulated it seems very likely that Trump will be only the fourth President denied a second term in the past 100 years.
Yet, in a fiery public address yesterday, the President laid out the broad outline of a defense strategy alleging electoral fraud and other shady shenanigans (his legal team is pursuing the matter, but, tellingly, to little success so far).
Trump’s defense rests largely on narrative, one he seems to have been preparing for months now, and not actual fact. Picking on anything to support his claims, the President is claiming that some unprecedented funny business is afoot that effects him and him alone, when in fact what’s happening now was both widely expected, and, in the broader terms of how votes are counted, not unprecedented.
1. Votes Are Still Being Counted in Several States, Not Just The Ones That Are Undecided
From just glancing at the news, you might get the impression that only Pennsylvania, Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona and Nevada are still counting votes. That’s simply not true. They’re just the only the states still counting votes where the winner of the presidential race remains unclear.
Alaska has only reported 47 percent of its ballots and remains technically uncalled, though no one really expects for it to turn blue.
According to CNN’s data, California has only actually counted 77 percent of its votes. Mississippi is at 80 percent. New York taking its sweet time at 81 percent. Several other states still have single-digit percents left. Yet, you don’t hear outrage that New York’s counting should suddenly be stopped, do you?
While the pandemic has complicated things for sure, this isn’t particularly historically unusual either. Even in normal years, it’s not unusual for it to take days to get a call in some Governors races, House and Senate races. It’s not even unusual on the local level either where there are much fewer votes to count.
2. The Presidency Is Far From The Only Race Left To Be Called
Trump may have his followers believe there’s something shady plan afoot directed solely at his campaign, but in fact there are tons of races at all levels and all across the country still waiting for an official call.
A significant 31 House races haven’t been called (including significant races in California, New York, Iowa, and New Jersey.)
5 Senate races are still uncalled.
Who knows how many state legislative seats, county commission seats, and city counsel members are still sweating out the wait for results in this country?
There are no signs that Trump’s legal challenges seriously take the rest of the mechanisms of democracy into account.
3. You Can’t Ask The Count To Be Stopped in Some Places, But Continued In Others
Trump supporters have rallied around the idea of stopping the count in Pennsylvania and Georgia (where the President once had a slim lead in counted votes, but has now fallen behind) while letting it continue in Arizona (where there’s still some hope Trump could edge ahead when all is said and done). It just doesn’t hang together as a legal strategy, and certainly undercuts the imagined narrative of massive fraud or shady business.
4. We Knew This Drawn Out Count Was Going To Happen, and Part of It Is Republicans’ Fault
Not a single person familiar with politics, nor either campaign, should be shocked that the race has come down to counting mail-in ballots. Given the dynamics of both the pandemic and the close nature of a handful of swing states, this exact situation wasn’t guaranteed but was widely expected as a possibility.
Trump himself signaled to his base not to trust mail-in ballots, explaining, in part, why they’ve tended to come in more blue than red. There’s plenty of reporting to flesh-out the idea that Trump had been laying the groundwork to call fraud all along.
It’s also worth noting that by law, Pennsylvania’s county elections departments were forbidden from getting a head start on counting mail-in ballots early, well before election day (as is the case in several other states), but ultimately the Republican-led legislature stalled on actually passing a law allowing them do so.
5. Republicans, Increasingly, Are Not Buying Trump’s Defense
Fox News journalists have been skeptical of Trump’s claims. The conservative (and Rupert Murdoch-owned) New York Post (which very well could have birthed Trump as a public figure thanks to its Page Six column) isn’t buying it either. “Downcast Trump makes baseless election fraud claims in White House address,” read their rather blunt headline. Only a small handful of elected Republican leaders particularly loyal to Trump (and, possibly, hoping to claim his base for themselves in the 2024 primary) are echoing his charges, but several others have accepted the reality and are quietly preparing for a transition. Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has called for every vote to be counted. McConnell is not a man who had problem stretching the norms of democracy before, but even this is too far for him.