Democracy requires faith. President Trump and his unscrupulous enablers — including most Republican elected officials — are cynically destroying that faith for millions of Americans, and I fear the nation will pay a terrible price.

I'm talking to you, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and most of your caucus. I'm talking to you, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and the great majority of your colleagues. Motivated by a combination of cowardice and ambition, you are refusing to acknowledge Joe Biden's election as president and, in the process, doing grievous harm to the country and the Constitution you swore an oath to serve. Shame on you all.

This is a moment when attention should be focused on the emerging contours of President-elect Biden's White House and Cabinet. Instead, the new administration is too often competing for attention with Trump's histrionic and nonsensical claims about the election somehow having been stolen from him — wild and self-contradictory allegations that are, in every sense of the word, insane.

The MAGA march on D.C. showed Trump supporters are not a monolith, but their dedication to the president is singular. (The Washington Post)

Nobody should take this lunacy seriously. Yet a substantial portion of the GOP base does. Eighty-nine percent of Republicans surveyed in a recent Gallup poll said the election was not conducted well, and 83 percent of those Republicans said that news organizations had inaccurately called the election for Biden. Election officials in swing states that Biden won have faced death threats from fanatical Trump supporters. Dozens of armed and delusional Trumpists gathered at the home of Michigan's secretary of state Saturday night, shouting obscenities as she and her 4-year-old finished putting up their Christmas decorations.

Trump's lies proved too much even for one his most loyal aides, Attorney General William P. Barr, who said forthrightly that the Justice Department has seen no fraud that could possibly change the outcome of the vote. But when The Post attempted to survey all 249 Republican members of Congress about the election's result, only 27 were willing to say truthfully that Biden won. Two bizarrely said that Trump was the winner, while an incredible 220 men and women who sit in the Senate and the House of Representatives either refused to answer the question or claimed the outcome was somehow still unclear.

They are vandalizing our democracy, and we will all have to live with the damage.

The method of Trump and his "legal team" — I know they're real lawyers, but courts have treated them more like a comedy troupe — has been to flood the zone with a torrent of sketchy anecdotes, dark rumors, willfully misinterpreted statistics and convoluted conspiracy theories. Trump has always understood that the way to convince people of a lie is with volume and repetition — say it loud and say it often.

None of this will change the course of events. The electoral college is scheduled to meet Dec. 14, and Biden has more than enough certified electors to win. Biden and Vice-president-elect Kamala D. Harris will be inaugurated Jan. 20, which cannot come fast enough.

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But a substantial portion of Trump voters will see Biden and Harris as illegitimate — maybe not all those who now question whether the election was fair, but a sizable core of true believers. More damagingly, the Republican Party is being conditioned to lose faith in the fundamental act of any successful democracy: voting in a free and fair election. Two of the attorneys lurking around Trumpworld even discouraged Georgia Republicans from casting their ballots in the Jan. 5 Senate runoffs, suggesting voting machines were insecure.

Elections are never perfect. More than 155 million Americans voted last month. If you ask human beings to count 155 million of anything, they will inevitably make mistakes. Those mistakes are not a conspiracy.

To have a democracy we have to believe in the election process. That means we have to believe in one another.

It is good that Republicans charged with running or supervising elections in states such as Georgia and Arizona have defended the integrity of the process and the validity of the outcome. But that is not nearly enough — not when some GOP voters actually expect Trump, not Biden, to be sworn in on Inauguration Day.

Biden says that "more than several" Republican senators have privately called to congratulate him on his victory. But the fact that they will not do so publicly means they are nothing but cowards and weasels. With their silence, they encourage Trump's false claim that the election was "rigged." They are not worthy of the offices they hold if they will not stand up and be counted in defense of democracy.

This disgraceful interregnum indeed will pass. But I fear it will leave behind a crisis of faith that tears at the nation's very soul.

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