“Count all the votes. This shouldn’t be a remotely controversial proposition in a representative democracy,” said The New York Times. But in what was “one of the lowest, most disgraceful moments” of his four ignoble years in power, President Trump demanded that the counting stop. In the middle of election night last week, as his lead began to disappear, Trump asserted in a “rambling” speech that the election was being stolen, and that no more votes should be counted (except in states where he seemed to be catching up with Joe Biden). For years, the president has “fanned the flames of rage among his supporters and flooded American society with disinformation”. In his final act as president, he risks doing terrible damage to US democracy. Yet senior Republicans seem to back him up, said Julian Borger in The Guardian. The likes of Senate leader Mitch McConnell support his plan to challenge the result in the courts – though his team has presented no significant evidence, and nowhere, across America, did voting officials report any substantial voting irregularities.
“America is owed a legal examination of the election irregularities alleged by the Trump campaign,” said Miranda Devine in the New York Post. “It’s not crazy to say this.” The result of the election comes down to 130,000 votes out of more than 150 million cast – which seem to have tipped Biden into the lead in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada and Georgia. It is quite possible that at least some of those counts “may be wrong”; the votes at issue are largely postal ballots, which are more vulnerable to manipulation. True, said The Economist. But “to push a promising post-election lawsuit”, a candidate needs a state where he has hopes of closing a small margin to vault over the threshold of 270 electoral votes – as Al Gore tried to do in Florida in 2000. “He also needs an argument.” President Trump “lacks both”. Instead, his last-ditch effort to hold on to the White House is grounded in sheer volume: “nearly a dozen ill-conceived lawsuits in battleground states”.
“To call this an uphill battle understates the matter,” said Andrew C. McCarthy in the National Review. Trump needs to flip Pennsylvania, where Biden leads by 47,000 votes, plus two other states. In Pennsylvania, Trump’s team claims that Republican observers weren’t allowed close enough to the count, and that this puts at least 300,000 votes in doubt. If this tenuous suit fails, it will be “time to concede”. Trump will never accept defeat, said Anne Applebaum in The Atlantic. “Ever.” This is not just a “temper tantrum”; it’s a strategy. Even if his attempt to stay in the White House is “drowned out by the reality of the vote count”, Trump will never admit the election was fair. The claim will be used “to discredit and demean Biden’s presidency”. Above all, it will be used “to prop up Trump’s own fragile ego”. Unable to cope with the loss of the presidency, he will pretend “it didn’t happen”.