Trump has repeatedly refused to signal that he will respect the election results. On Wednesday, his press secretary said, “The president has always said he’ll see what happens and make a determination in the aftermath.” This is the talk of a dictator, someone willing to incite violence and shred the Constitution to stay in office. That alone is a violation of his oath. Biden needs to call Trump out and demand he knock this off. A president who cannot support the peaceful transfer of power is unfit. If Trump cannot do even this, he is unworthy of any American’s support.
Biden would also do well to speak to Senate and House Republicans, Republican governors and Republican state officials. You have all taken an oath to uphold the Constitution. You are honor-bound to support free and fair elections and to recognize the results thereof. For the sake of democracy you must reject this talk and take a simple pledge to recognize and respect the outcome of the 2020 elections, regardless of who wins. Follow established rules. Do not engage in frivolous lawsuits. Certify the results.
Biden might even raise his hand and repeat the oath of office that all members of Congress and executive branch officials take, urging men and women around the country to join him:
I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.
Setting this standard now, and enlisting even some Republicans to do the bare minimum by pledging to accept the peaceful transfer of power, may stave off a disaster in a few months. And honestly, any Republican who survives in November and witnesses a Biden victory will have zero interest in perpetuating chaos and destroying whatever credibility he or she still has.
I am under no illusion that Trump or many Republicans would publicly accept Biden’s invitation. These are the people who rationalized every betrayal of America, willingly subverted any institution, told any lie and ignored any fact to remain in power. Forcing voters to comprehend the enormity of these Republicans’ anti-American and anti-democratic conduct may, at the very least, remind voters of the urgency of the moment. They must turn out to vote and undercut the willingness of Trump allies, both in office and the media, to follow Trump and his allies into political oblivion.
It is frightful and pathetic that honoring the election result is even an issue. Given that it is, however, it must be confronted head-on — and right now. In November, it will be too late to summon the better angels of Biden’s opponents.