IN AN ordinary time, none of these comments from Republican officials would be noteworthy. “I expect Joe Biden to be the next president of the United States,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Sunday. President Trump has every right to challenge the results in court, said Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, but “Joe Biden is the president-elect.” In Michigan, state Sen. Ruth Johnson said that “I don’t believe that enough votes are in question in Michigan to change the outcome, so I think we need to move forward.” In Georgia, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said, “People are just going to have to accept the results. . . . I’m a Republican. I believe in fair and secure elections.”

Unfortunately, the Republican Party’s national leadership now stands squarely against fair and secure elections — or accepting results, for that matter. Both Georgia GOP senators competing in runoff elections Jan. 5 called for Mr. Raffensperger’s resignation, while offering absolutely no evidence of misconduct. Mr. Trump called him a “RINO” (Republican in Name Only) — because he competently oversaw an election that Mr. Trump lost. Mr. Trump also threatened Mr. DeWine on Monday, suggesting he would stymie the governor’s 2022 reelection.

Republican so-called leaders in Congress continue to quail before this bullying, indulging Mr. Trump’s toxic lies about a stolen election. Privately they speak of the president as though he were a petulant toddler who can’t face the hard truth all at once; or they argue that so many voters are suspicious of the results that Mr. Trump should have time to challenge them, unsuccessfully, in court. But why are so many people suspicious in the first place? Because Mr. Trump has been sowing doubt about the nation’s democratic institutions since before the election, and his enablers excuse and amplify his lies. As Mr. Trump has lost case after case in court since Election Day, his claims that the vote was rigged have only gotten more brazen.

Every day that Republicans dignify Mr. Trump’s sore-loser tantrum, the notion that the election was stolen gets further entrenched among his supporters. The only plausible outcome, as they well understand, is that a large portion of the electorate will view President-elect Joe Biden — and the nation’s electoral system — as illegitimate.

One more lame defense you hear from Republicans: Democrats did this to Mr. Trump. But that’s false, too. Democrats did indeed focus on Russia’s assistance to Mr. Trump’s election campaign. But they did not claim that he wasn’t president. Hillary Clinton immediately conceded. President Barack Obama invited Mr. Trump to the White House and attended the inauguration. Yes, there were more mail-in ballots this year than in years past. But neither Mr. Trump nor any of his Republican allies have presented any evidence showing any kind of impropriety that could have realistically affected the outcome of the vote.

The person primarily responsible for the erosion of trust that will follow is, of course, Mr. Trump. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been counting votes a long time. He knows Mr. Trump lost, as do his colleagues. The longer they cower, the longer they fail the most basic test that some officials at the state level at least are passing, the more American democracy will be damaged.

The Post's Ashley Parker explains why some Republicans followed President Trump's lead in denying the reality of the election and the danger they're posing. (The Washington Post)

Read more: