Some 100 million Americans voted early, with many states learning for the first time to handle mail-in votes. Thousands of conscientious state and local officials worked tirelessly — and without any evidence of fraud — to count votes. The major networks, with special kudos to MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki and CNN’s John King, provided accurate and precise information for days on end. Many networks even managed to cut away when President Trump falsely claimed that the election was being stolen. The mainstream media (TV, print and online) went to extraordinary lengths to debunk conspiracy theories, explain the mechanics of voting and call races only when the outcome was certain.
Private groups such as the National Task Force on Election Crises, Protect Democracy, the Voter Protection Program, Democracy Docket and the Center for Election Innovation and Research, as well as academics, voting experts and former officials, worked on a bipartisan basis to educate the public and election officials, anticipate and shut down attempts to intimidate voters, beat back a raft of specious legal claims from the Trump team and defend the sanctity of elections. Judges in multiple states issued timely and precise opinions rejecting efforts to stop voting or to overthrow results.
For all the conspiracy theorists on the right, there were plenty of responsible voices debunking Trump’s attempts to invalidate the election. Conservative commentator David A. French wrote, “There are votes still to count — and nothing is certain yet — but the emerging reality is that Joe Biden is set to beat Trump by a more significant vote margin than that by which Trump beat Hillary Clinton. . . . That’s not theft. It’s defeat.”
Yes, far too many Republicans were silent or eager to encourage Trump’s anti-democratic impulses. Predictable panderers to the far right, including Sens. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) fanned baseless claims. That said, we saw some Republicans (e.g., Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri, Mitt Romney of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska; former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum; Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan; and Reps. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Denver Riggleman of Virginia) push back on false accusations of fraud and call on all Americans to respect the results.
Certainly, Trump tried to delegitimize the election, but he succeeded only in proving the arguments of Democrats and #NeverTrumpers that he is unfit, congenitally dishonest and anti-democratic. Come Jan. 21, 2021, we will swear in a new president and vice president. Democracy can be messy, imperfect, confusing and contentious, but there is little evidence Americans have given up on it. There will be much caterwauling from losing Republicans (some of whom have thrown away careers in service to Trumpian lies), but the will of the people will be respected.
For all that Americans have done in defense of democratic elections, we can say, well done. Now, keep it up.