Speaking of election denialism…
Most of us remember youthful ball games with the whiny little kid who responded to losing by taking his ball and bat and going home. Most of us also remember parental lectures on what “good sportsmanship” means, and why fair play and graciousness in losing is so important.
It appears that the GOP has jettisoned those values, along with the precepts formerly associated with genuine Christianity. (Evidently, none of those ethical principles are consistent with the party’s growing devotion to QAnon…)
The Washington Post recently questioned a number of current GOP candidates for public office, and reported that at least a dozen Republican candidates running for governor and Senate simply refused to say whether they would accept negative results of their contests.
In a survey by The Washington Post of 19 of the most closely watched statewide races in the country, the contrast between Republican and Democratic candidates was stark. While seven GOP nominees committed to accepting the outcomes in their contests, 12 either refused to commit or declined to respond. On the Democratic side, 18 said they would accept the outcome and one did not respond to The Post’s survey.
Trump, of course, has continued to claim– without a scintilla of evidence– that his loss to Joe Biden in 2020 was rigged. Since he attacks fellow Republicans unwilling to agree, the article notes that he has made election denialism the price of admission in many GOP primaries, with the result that more than half of all Republican nominees for federal and statewide offices that administer elections “have embraced unproven claims that fraud tainted Biden’s win, according to a Washington Post tally.”
As I’ve repeatedly noted, one of them is running for Secretary of State here in Indiana.
In competitive races for governor or Senate in Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas, GOP candidates declined to say that they would accept this year’s result. All but two — incumbent senators Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Marco Rubio of Florida — have publicly embraced Trump’s false claims about 2020, according to a Post analysis.
Seven Republicans did pledge to accept the results. One of them was Colorado Senate contender Joe O’Dea.
O’Dea, who is behind in the polls as he attempts to unseat incumbent Colorado Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D), did not reference Trump by name, but used his response to offer notably sharp criticism of candidates who refuse to concede when they lose.
“There’s no polite way to put it. We have become a nation of poor sports and cry babies,” said O’Dea. “We’ll keep a close eye on things, but after the process is done and the votes are counted, I’ll absolutely accept the outcome. If the Senator is up for it, we can certify it over a beer. It’s time for America’s leaders to start acting like adults again. Loser buys.”
This growing unwillingness to accept the results of an election is no small thing.
Elections have been defined as a substitute for armed conflict–rather than taking to the streets, democratic polities choose “champions” (aka candidates) who take their arguments to the people. The people vote, and the loser accepts their verdict (usually biding his or her time until the next election cycle). Violence averted, governance continued.
That, of course, is the ideal. And there are plenty of reasons to criticize America’s current conduct of elections– gerrymandering, the greater weight given to rural votes, social media campaigns sowing disinformation, the outsized influence of money, and the widespread lack of civic literacy among the voting population. I do not mean to minimize the significance of those factors, or their ability to affect the results of electoral contests.
We definitely need to address the multiple defects in our electoral processes. We need to streamline registration and minimize state-level game-playing, and we clearly need to make it easier rather than harder to vote.
But none of those defects means that the result of a given election contest is “rigged.”
“If I win, it was a fair election. If I lose, it was rigged.” Heads I win, tails you lose is, as O’Dea put it, the position of a cry baby–the modern iteration of the poor sport who responded to a loss by taking his ball and bat and going home. It is also a position absolutely incompatible with a functioning democracy.
Those of us who support a candidate who loses can point to lots of reasons why voters supported the “wrong” candidate. But in the continued absence of provable fraud, our civic obligation is to suck it up and concede.
The Republican candidates who are telling us they will refuse to abide by results they don’t like are telling us who and what they are. Believe them.