Daniel DePetris

Who cares whether Trump accepts that Biden won?

Who cares whether Trump accepts that Biden won?
Donald Trump (photo: Getty)
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Three days after statisticians called the 2020 US presidential election for Joe Biden, the loser of that contest continues to sulk in the White House like a spoiled eight-year-old kid and is brooding about the result. Trump’s campaign may still be holding meetings and convincing themselves that the race isn’t over – Trump’s political advisers are reportedly discussing a series of television ads and rallies to sow doubt about Biden’s victory – but back on planet earth, the math is the math: whether or not you liked the result, Biden will be the 46th president of the United States. Even some of Trump’s own family members, including his wife, Melania, are trying to talk sense into him.

One reason American democracy is held in such esteem is because the US government continues to operate, regardless of which candidate wins or loses an election. American students are taught at an early age that America is a nation where a peaceful transfer of power between administrations is a principle to be cherished. Every president in US history who has been denied a second term nonetheless accepted the will of the American electorate, handed over the reins of government to the victor, and joined the inauguration ceremonies on January 20. It may be emotionally painful for many of them, but admitting defeat is a big part of the system. George H.W. Bush didn’t plan on losing to Bill Clinton, but that disappointment didn’t stop him from leaving a cordial note on top of the Resolute desk for the incoming commander-in-chief, wishing and praying for his success.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Donald Trump is not George H.W. Bush. The latter was the consummate gentleman. The former is a sore loser whose default strategy is to conjure up the most ridiculous and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories in order to psychologically distance himself from a loss. Hours before the first ballots were counted, Trump admitted in a roomful of campaign workers and reporters that losing is far harder for him than winning. Of course, the easiest way for Trump to avoid losing is by creating an alternative version of reality – one where he is both the true victor as well as the victim.

There won’t be any formal concession speech to the nation or a hand-written letter to president-elect Joe Biden. Those who still believe Trump will exhibit a smidge of grace are either clinging to hope or are totally ignorant of the way he has conducted himself over the last five years as a public figure.

Fortunately for Joe Biden, he doesn’t need Trump’s concession to start governing. There is nothing in the Constitution that states the loser of a presidential election must formally bow his or her head to the victor. Although Trump’s political appointees could make the transition process far harder than it needs to be, Biden will place his hand on the Bible and deliver the oath of office on January 20 – and there is nothing Trump, his son-in-law, the delusional Rudy Giuliani, or his campaign lawyers can do about it. Even the majority of Republican lawmakers who have yet to congratulate Biden recognise that Trump’s legal strategy is a desperate, harried, uncoordinated mess with no prospect of success.

Less than a week after gobbling the most votes of any candidate in US presidential election history, Biden is already preparing for his role as chief executive. On Monday, he appointed a task-force of senior scientists and public health officials to advise him on the Covid-19 crisis he will be inheriting. His aides are drawing up a list of executive actions he can sign on his first day. His team is also in the process of nominating cabinet members and filling out the White House staff.

President Trump can put on his big-boy pants and concede like every other defeated incumbent in the history of the country. Or he could take his fury with him as he goes back to Trump Tower. Whatever he chooses to do is irrelevant.