But the fight is over. So close was the outcome in numerous states that no reasonable person could deny Trump time to wait until all votes were counted and examine various allegations of fraud. That time has come and gone.
It is irresponsible to dismiss suspicions of fraud out of hand, as too many have done, including in Pennsylvania. Chris Matthews, formerly of MSNBC and a Philadelphia native, used to brag regularly about the old-school tactics used in his hometown. On his show “Hardball,” just days before the 2016 election, Matthews described the last meeting before every election of the Democratic City Committee of Philadelphia where “in a close campaign . . . it’s the street campaign backed by street money that turns out the vote and wins the big elections.”
“Street money” or “walking-around money,” as it’s sometimes called, was — and maybe still is — a campaign staple in countless states. The 2006 book, “Don’t Buy Another Vote, I Won’t Pay for a Landslide” tells the story of decades-long corruption in West Virginia, where cash and favors flowed freely. The title is a quote that John F. Kennedy jokingly attributed to his father, Joseph Kennedy, in connection with JFK’s victory over Hubert Humphrey in the 1960 West Virginia primary. Not everyone took it as a joke.
Reforms have cleaned up politics to some degree, but human dishonesty can never be entirely eliminated. Story after story in recent weeks has claimed “no evidence” of voter fraud, which is not true. Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s lead attorney, has scampered down one too many rabbit holes, the deepest on Thursday, but he is right when he says that sworn statements testifying to firsthand knowledge are evidence. They might eventually be dismissed or disproved, but they are evidence.
But while there are undoubtedly legitimate instances of mistakes, election workers deserve appreciation and praise, barring proven allegations of wrongdoing. The claims about how far Trump was ahead early in key states on election night, only to see Biden roar back and mysteriously take the lead are nonsense — and showcase a problem in how we report elections. Early in the evening in Ohio, networks reported that Biden “led” by as many as a half-million votes. When the counting ended, Trump had won by nearly as many. Should Biden claim chicanery in the Buckeye State?
There are gloating critics who claim that Trump is unable to accept being the thing he hates most — a loser. A loser? In 2016, Trump was an amateur politician who bested the Republican establishment and a crowded field of experienced GOP opponents. He was given no chance against a formidable Democratic Party establishment candidate, but celebrated one of the greatest upsets in presidential election history — in part by putting into play states long believed lost to the GOP, but now up for grabs for years to come.
He kept campaign promises in the face of overwhelming resistance that began even before he was sworn in, outlasted politically driven investigations and an impeachment, crafted a judiciary largely in his image and nearly pulled off another upset against the predictions of pollsters who forecast a Biden blowout. If that’s the definition of a loser, we should all sign up.
But now, Trump must do that which he abhors — the traditional and the expected. He must acknowledge that Biden is the president-elect, begin cooperating in the transition, host the Bidens at the White House, and stand quietly and respectfully to the side on Jan. 20 to demonstrate to the world that even the Great Disrupter respects the United States’ tradition of a peaceful transfer of power.
Failing this, Trump forfeits his right to wield influence or reengage in our political process, either as candidate or kingmaker. He squanders the deep reserve of political capital he has earned courtesy of the unparalleled devotion of nearly 74 million supporters, a new generation of swamp-fighting Trumpian candidates and officeholders in his image, and the remaking of a Republican Party from a haven for country-club blue bloods to the populist home of blue-collar Americans.
It is said that Trump brought millions into the political process who were never before involved. They have learned what they know of politics from him. His final lesson to them as president should be how to effectively embark on the first chapter of a new journey — the Art of the Comeback, Part Two.
But to come back, you must first leave. Mr. President, it’s time to pack.