Yet instead of expressing his frustration, Mr. Biden this week has promoted calm. At a Tuesday news conference, he reached out to Trump voters, insisting that they, too, want to unite the country. He expressed hope that he would soon speak with President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and he declined to condemn Mr. McConnell for holding out on recognizing the results of the election. He underlined the urgency of Democratic and Republican lawmakers working together to pass an economic rescue package as covid-19 spikes. And he reiterated that he will be able to work with Republicans after he is sworn in. At times, he stopped to calibrate his words, explaining he wanted to keep his statements “tactful.”
Mr. Biden also confirmed this week that he intends to staff his administration with capable people who care about the federal government’s various missions. His coronavirus task force, revealed Monday, is packed with prominent public health experts. On Tuesday, he released an impressive list of some 500 transition advisers. The group brings deep substantive knowledge and experience — in some cases, decades of it — working with the agencies on which they will counsel the president-elect. Importantly, it is quite diverse. In short, Mr. Biden’s behavior should remind Americans of what competent, dignified leadership looks like.
Republicans, on the other hand, continue to show why this is so sorely needed. Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) said Tuesday that some GOP colleagues have asked him to convey their best wishes to Mr. Biden, secretly. How about publicly?
The problem is not merely shameless opportunists, such as Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who have actively embraced the lie that there was massive fraud. It is also those Republicans who have tried to have it both ways, such as Mr. McConnell or Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), who in a Tuesday video defended Republicans’ hesitation to recognize Mr. Biden’s win, saying that Mr. Trump should have the chance to prove in court his allegations of widespread irregularities. This would promote rather than undermine faith in the results, he argued. That is unlikely. Because of the spineless reticence of Mr. Rubio and others, Mr. Trump will get more time and space to entrench the notion that the election was rigged against him, and a few court rulings will not change that impression.
Many Republicans are seeking a third way between denying the legitimate result of a fair election and incurring a backlash from Mr. Trump or his base for failing to do so. They are fooling themselves. The president will continue bullying them after the courts reject the notion that the election was stolen — indeed, as long as they allow him to push them around.