In the sweep of American politics, no one alive today has witnessed what the country is now experiencing. After a hard-fought and contentious presidential election, one marked by the oddities of running for office during a pandemic, the result was close, but produced a clear winner. Nonetheless, the campaign goes on as one candidate — a sitting president — continues on as if there were credible grounds for contesting the election results as they are known today.

Now it is true that no one is empowered by the Constitution to call the election before votes are certified at the state level, and that the presidential election isn’t officially over until the Electoral College has spoken. But it is also true that the ballots have been tallied across the country, and the results of those tallies have produced three striking facts:

• The Democratic candidate for president will win enough Electoral College votes to be the next president of the United States.

• No systemic or widespread incidents of voter fraud have been discovered to cast the election results into doubt, which is why no real claims are advancing in federal court.

• The results gave down-ballot Republicans election victories in the House (where they picked up seats) and the Senate (where they are tantalizing close to retaining control).

So to believe there was widespread fraud is to disbelieve the results of one race (the presidential election) while accepting the results of other races on the same ballots cast across the country.


In fact, it’s fair to assume a dynamic very different from widespread fraud is now playing out. After four years in office, Donald Trump is now waging a new kind of campaign after having narrowly lost his bid for a second term. He’s laying the groundwork for a rematch in 2024 or to maintain a base of political power as he decides his options in the coming year.

Elections have consequences, and having won the presidency four years ago, Donald Trump has the ability and the power to wage such a campaign today. But in our system, his position isn’t the only one of power and influence. Nor is it the only one that will now shape the political landscape for the runoff elections in Georgia that will determine control of the Senate this coming year, for congressional elections in two years, or for the presidential election four short years from now. In other words, if the elections of 2016 have consequences, so do the elections of 2020. And here, what will shape the landscape more than a concession speech from the current occupant of the Oval Office is the actions elected officials will take in the weeks and months ahead.

Those who work to undermine the legitimacy of the very institution of government they seek to lead may earn outsider status, but they also erode their own chances at electoral legitimacy. Claiming fraud where it isn’t being found and questioning results that are clear only undermine efforts to protect ballot integrity and serve to reveal who is willing to disengage from reality for immediate political gain. We doubt voters will likely show a willingness to support such disengagement. Sen. Ted Cruz can cry wolf, but it doesn’t mean voters will believe in him if he again seeks the highest office in the land.

So where is all of this headed? We foresee two directions. Some politicians will opt to continue to sow division, and questioning election results seems to be one place where that will start. But to us, that seems like a dead end. On Jan. 20, a new president will take the oath of office, and he’s already offering a different leadership style than the man who lost his bid for four more years. Like it or not, the wheels of government will turn and those willing to govern will be the ones turning them.

And that brings us to the second direction. Other elected officials will opt to govern, to make hard policy choices that address pressing national problems. Republicans have again been entrusted to lead Texas. They’ve also gained seats in state legislatures across the country and may control half of Congress. That’s enough of a perch to show how the party will govern if entrusted with greater power two or four years from now. Similarly, Democrats have a hold on power — the White House and the other half of Congress for starters — and will therefore have the opportunity to put their own governing ideas into concrete policy proposals.

We happen to believe that many of the ideas the Democrats talked about during the campaign were rejected by voters. Talk of packing the U.S. Supreme Court likely rebounded to Trump’s benefit. So too did talk of abolishing the Electoral College, which by the way is in the process of showing its worth now in making the results of this election exceedingly clear for anyone willing to sort through the details. But the reverse will also be true for Republicans who decide not to abide by the will of voters as expressed in vote tallies.

Our advice to Democrats is to reject ideas from the far left, something this country has a tendency to vote down. And our advice to Republicans is not to indulge the fiction that the election was stolen. To do so is to squander something that can never be taken from you without your consent, and that is your integrity.

Editorial by The Dallas Morning News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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