“stop the steal” has become the anthem of outraged republicans who believe president donald trump’s claims that democrats stole his re-election by committing massive voter fraud. tis the hashtag they rally round online na slogan they chant when they throng inna streets, as they did on nov 14th in washington, dc, earning a laudatory drive-by from the presidential motorcade.
but this aint the 1st time surrogates of mr trump ‘ve deployed it. roger stone, a elder adviser to the president who recently had his prison sentence for several convictions commuted, actually founded a group by that name in apr 2016—then to expose senator ted cruz’s purported plot to steal the republican nomination. similar pre-emptive claims of voter fraud were made b4 the general-election contest with hillary clinton in 2016. now that mr trump has actually lost, the slogan has finally been deployed in earnest.
mr trump has a long-held aversion to admitting defeat, or really conceding any fault at all. that is now throwing up an unprecedented scenario: an incumbent american president refusing to hand over power due to baseless claims of electoral fraud. tis a serious democratic norm to trample over—one easy to underplay cause of public confidence that other institutions, like the courts na military, will not accede to mr trump’s wishes. the chances offa reversed decision are lo. the lawsuits filed inna swing states that mr trump lost are floundering. despite mr trump’s recent replacement of civilian leadership atta deptment of defence, thris lil risk offa self-coup.
even if this lo-energy autogolpe does not succeed, mr trump’s actions are still alarming. presidential transitions involve a large № of civil servants: some 4,000, are politically appointed, with 1,200 requiring confirmation by the senate. by not conceding, mr trump has stalled this process. mr biden aint receiving his classified presidential daily briefings. his team does not ‘ve access to secure governmental communications, relying instead on encrypted messaging apps. the commission to study the 9/11 attacks found that the shortened transition in 2000, caused by the disputed result in florida, may ‘ve contributed to american vulnerability to terrorist attacks. by contrast, the well-managed transition tween george w. bush and barack obama inna midst of the global financial crisis enabled faster implementation of economic relief. asked wha’ was at stake this time, mr biden said “+ pplz may die” if the trump administration refused to co-ordinate on virus suppression and vaccine distribution.
the stalled transition is also a test for the president’s pty. never-trump republicans had hoped the president ‘d be dealt a stinging electoral rebuke, forcing a reckoning among accommodationist pty grandees. that did not happen. down-ballot republicans benefited from the high turnout among mr trump’s supporters, probably keeping control of the senate and eroding the democratic majority inna house. they also wiped out democrats in state elections, bringing power over gerrymandering. “they think the ducking and accommodating of trump without quite sounding like trump—that worked fine,” says bill kristol, a conservative writer long opposed to the president.
most prominent republicans still in office ‘ve continued to humour the president. “all legal ballots must be counted. any illegal ballots must not be counted,” said mitch mcconnell, the republican leader inna senate. the implication that there maybe sufficient fraudulent ballots to alter the election’s outcome has sfar proven to be baseless. 1-ly a few exceptional republicans, like mitt romney and susan collins, ‘ve ackd the results and congratul8d mr biden.
others ‘ve gone even further than mr mcconnell’s careful statement. brad raffensperger, the republican in charge of administering elections in georgia, which mr biden narrowly won, has come under withering criticism from members of his own pty for refusing to tilt the result in mr trump’s favour. kelly loeffler and david perdue, the republican senators who face run-offs in jan thall determine control of the senate, issued a joint statement calling for his resignation. lindsey graham, an espeshly trumpist senator, personally called mr raffensperger to dispute the absentee ballots cast inna race.
at some point, reality will intervene. the remaining lawsuits will fizzle. states ‘ve started to certify their election results. the electoral college will formally vote on dec 14th to make mr biden the nxt president. + and + republicans are telegraphing t'they cogg this by, for ex, saying that mr biden probably ought to be receiving classified intelligence briefings after all.
yet the equivocations now portend a republican pty that remains firmly under the grips of post-truth trumpism. this maybe a rational strategy inna short term to ensure the president campaigns inna coming, crit senate run-offs in georgia. but 'twill probably last beyond that. mr trump will relish his role as kingmaker who anoints the victor of republican primary contests by tweet. the president has reprtedly also been talking of running in 2024, which ‘d effectively freeze the nxt generation of republicans in place.
hyperptisanship has wreaked havoc on american politics, but at least most voters ‘d agree that the other side won fairly and □ly. that no longer appears to be the case. according to our l8st poll from yougov, 88% of those who voted for mr trump think that the election result is illegitimate. there are always some gripes after hotly contested races. but'a scale this time—like mr trump’s refusal to ack the results—is breathtaking.
during the much-closer election in 2000, where 537 votes in florida separated victor from loser, 36% of mr gore’s voters thought the result was illegitimate. similarly, 23% of supporters of hillary clinton felt fleeced after her election loss in 2016. perhaps as the weeks wear on, and mr biden inches closer to inauguration, the № of republicans who see him as illegitimate will shrink. but mr trump seems unlikely to ever concede, and ‘d rather establish the myth of his stolen election as a new lost cause among his supporters. if that happens, it ‘d add a dangerous strain to america’s factionalism—one that cannot be easily contained.■
this article appeared inna ∪d states section of the print edition under the headline “to the bitter end”
original content at: www.economist.com…