WASHINGTON – In backing President Donald Trump's baseless claims of election fraud, Republicans risk leaving millions of Americans with the false impression that the results of the 2020 race are illegitimate.
And that may be the point.
None of Trump's legal challenges and assertions of voting irregularities has revealed any substantive issues with the election that would overturn the results. And some GOP lawmakers and party officials privately acknowledge that Trump has no choice but to step aside by Jan. 20 and cede power to President-elect Joe Biden.
But Trump is doing nothing to make that road to Inauguration Day easier for Biden. In fact, he's trying to block it, littering the path with misinformation and falsehoods about the election. As a result, Biden will almost certainly be viewed as an illegitimate president by some voters, potentially denying him that period of goodwill that typically greets a new president.
The stakes for Biden are even greater, especially if the Senate remains in Republican control, as he advances an agenda to arrest the spiraling coronavirus pandemic and faltering economy.
“Their intent is to delegitimize this election and thereby delegitimize President-elect Biden’s presidency,” said Valerie Jarrett, who was a White House senior adviser to President Barack Obama. “It is damaging to the democracy. Once again they’re putting their short-term political interests ahead of the interests of the country.”
The GOP strategy has echoes of the Republican approach to Obama’s 2008 victory when he won by 9.5 million votes and with 365 Electoral College votes. Republicans largely allowed lies about Obama’s citizenship to flourish, leaving millions of Americans with the impression that the nation’s first Black president might not be eligible to serve.
The chief proponent of the “birtherism” lie was, of course, Trump.