Conceding and Losing

Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks

Our betters in the media are telling us that President Trump’s refusal to concede defeat in the election against Joe Biden is a threat to democracy.  They will rewrite history- some of it recent (2000…Al Gore)- and say no candidate has ever refused to concede.

The simple facts are that “concessions” are an informal part of the electoral process.  William Jennings Bryan was the first to publicly acknowledge his defeat at the hands of William McKinley in 1896 first through a speech and then through a personal telegram to McKinley.  Political “experts” will tell you that this informal aspect of the process signals to the electorate the loser’s faith in the democratic process and the orderly and peaceful transfer of power.

There is another fact that bears mentioning: neither the Associated Press, Fox News, NBC or even RedState declares a Presidential victor.  The media does not call elections; voters do.  They express their will through the Electoral College.  Those slate of electors are not even legally bound to cast their vote for the person who won their state.  So-called “faithless electors” have cast votes for other candidates in the past, but never enough to overturn an election.

With Trump’s legal challenges falling by the wayside in Arizona, Michigan, Georgia and Pennsylvania- all states that “chose” Biden and went for Trump in 2016- it appears more and more likely that there will be a President Biden come January 20, 2021.  Regarding those legal challenges, courts have an aversion in weighing in on the electoral process as one nears an election.  The closer one is to Election Day, the less likely a court will entertain a case.  It appears this aversion to weighing in on possibly legitimate claims of fraud now extend past Election Day.

According to most dictionaries, “concede” is a verb to “admit something is true or valid after first denying or resisting it.”  According to another dictionary (Merriam-Webster): “…to accept as true, valid, or accurate.”  So, let’s break down that latter definition into its three parts: true, valid, and accurate.

The truthfulness of the votes and their accuracy, as determined by state officials tasked with certifying votes, is simple bean-counting.  In Georgia, a recount discovered additional votes for Trump but not enough to overcome the lead Biden had.  According to the recount, Georgia officials were obliged under their state law to certify the results by 5:00 PM on November 20th, 2020, and did so.  Thus, Biden received their 16 electoral votes.

Another fact of the electoral process is that recounts rarely find more than 1,000 votes for the “loser” and in even more rare cases overturn an election result.  The most famous one was the Al Franken “victory” in Minnesota.

But is and was Trump’s claim really about the counts per se?  To this writer, for something to be “true” and “accurate,” they must first be valid.  Here, many states failed to reach that first threshold given the hodgepodge of adjustments to established state election laws using the Wuhan flu pandemic as an excuse.  These pages have documented how ballots in Nevada and California were sent to dead people, lost, or to others who moved out of state.  Late arriving and counted ballots in other states defy every law of electoral statistics showing large anomalies in favor of Biden.  In some areas, turnout exceeded 100%.

Trump, therefore, is absolutely correct to challenge the validity of the votes in many states that “decided” this election.  Unfortunately, the only way to win that challenge is to conduct a time-consuming and costly forensic audit of each and every vote in the contested states.  It appears that is not going to happen.  There is no “do-over” in elections except in the rarest of occasions and one doubts this is such an instance (although it might be nice under strict scrutiny of ballots and the counting process).

This writer has no doubts that there were likely some Trump 2016 voters who may have crossed over and voted for Biden for a variety of reasons- the perceptions around his handling of the coronavirus, “Trump fatigue,” whatever.  Some results in some states show Republican down ballot candidates receiving more votes in the aggregate than the man at the top.  We assume straight-ticket voting when that may not have been the case in this election.

By the same token, this writer has no doubts that many Democrats may have crossed over and voted for Trump.  The WalkAway movement was very real and Trump’s inroads with minority voters (black and Hispanic males) prove this.  The gains made by Republicans in the House likewise prove it.  Perhaps it was a case that the voters liked the Republican America First message- especially at the granular closer-to-the people House level- but maybe not the messenger at the top.  Later polling may give clues, but for now we are left with speculation.

In sports, there is a winning team- the one with more points.  However, it does not take into account how they got more points.  In some cases, it was a bad call by a referee or a misinterpretation of the rules.  Sports now has replays.  In hockey, every game is reviewed after-the fact to determine the severity of fouls and the accuracy of the calls by officials.  They do not overturn the final result of a game, but they are used to mete out punishments and educate officials.  Losing teams do not necessarily concede defeat, but neither does it take the number out of the “loss” column.  It does, however, shine a light on the reason for the loss and in politics, as in sports, the “losing team” has an opportunity for revenge the next time they meet.

For Donald Trump to concede defeat would, under the definition of that word, give his stamp of approval to the whole process.  If he “concedes,” then the biggest loser is not Donald Trump; it is American democracy.