A depressing number of top Republicans have echoed Mr. Trump in casting doubt on orderly, legal, fully witnessed vote-counting, particularly in Philadelphia, where no credible evidence of substantial irregularities has been found. “Philadelphia elections are crooked as a snake,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said Thursday. “Why are they shutting people out?” (Philadelphia officials have allowed observers throughout the vote-counting and live-streamed the process.) Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) said “that’s exactly right” when Fox News host Sean Hannity asked him whether Pennsylvania should conduct a “do-over” election. “Republicans will not be silenced,” tweeted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.). “We demand transparency. We demand accuracy. And we demand that the legal votes be protected.”
Some Republicans pushed back. “There is no defense for the President’s comments tonight undermining our Democratic process. America is counting the votes, and we must respect the results as we always have before,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan responded Thursday. “The president’s speech last night was very disturbing to me because he made very, very serious allegations without any evidence to support it,” Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (Pa.) said Friday. “He is wrong to say that the election was rigged, corrupt and stolen — doing so damages the cause of freedom here and around the world, weakens the institutions that lie at the foundation of the Republic, and recklessly inflames destructive and dangerous passions,” Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah) tweeted Friday.
And many Republicans, such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), tried to hedge their bets, neither repeating nor disputing Mr. Trump’s lies. “Every legal vote should be counted,” he tweeted Friday, a seemingly neutral statement nevertheless designed to imply that late-counted Biden votes might not be legitimate. “All sides must get to observe the process,” he continued, dignifying a bogus Trump complaint about election observers in Philadelphia. This wink-and-nod approach is not good enough. It is time for everyone in a position of responsibility to declare that the president’s allegations are false and that no fraud is occurring, just as Mr. Hogan and Mr. Toomey did.
Philadelphia police detained two armed men Thursday who had driven to the city’s vote-counting center from another state. Continued instigation from the president and his allies could provoke serious violence. It would also sap the confidence and trust without which no democracy can flourish. There can be no excusing the politicians who cynically amplify Mr. Trump’s baseless, inflammatory conspiracy theories, nor those who cower in what they imagine to be a middle ground. There is no middle ground between the truth and Mr. Trump’s lies.