My new one at Slate: What Happens If Trump Won’t Concede? (How Republicans are using the Matt Bevin strategy)

I have written this piece for Slate. It begins:

President Donald J. Trump hasn’t conceded the presidential race to his Democratic challenger Joe Biden yet—something that would be a normal step in the peaceful transition of power. Instead, Trump has continued to make unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud and to threaten new lawsuits that he says will expose the fraud and lead to his victory. (They won’t.)

Given Trump’s norm breaking throughout his presidency, his failure to concede early is hardly a surprise. The question is whether we should worry about it, and whether his failure threatens that peaceful transition. So far, the signs are hopeful that we will make it through this period, but all is not rosy. Responsible Republican congressional leaders are not yet on board but likely will be soon. On Sunday, all Republican House Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy would say was that the nation had to wait for the process to play itself out, while former President George W. Bush called Biden “President-elect” and acknowledged Trump could pursue his legal remedies: “The American people can have confidence that this election was fundamentally fair, its integrity will be upheld, and its outcome is clear.” Irresponsible voices, though, are trying to delegitimize the Biden presidency from the beginning….

The one group that has not spoken up yet, and that is crucially important for acceptance of election results, is the rest of the Republican congressional leadership, beyond McCarthy. For example, on Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to weigh in on Biden’s election, pointing to an earlier statement about letting the vote counting and legal process play out. Other senators have taken different tacks: Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski congratulated Biden, and some 2024 aspirants such as Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley ridiculously mimicked Trump’s unsupported voter fraud claims.

Perhaps most important was the message coming from Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, considered a leading adult voice among Republicans in the Senate. Speaking on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, Blunt refused to acknowledge Biden’s victory at this moment, but signaled that it is put-up-or-shut-up time for the president’s legal claims: “It’s time for the president’s lawyers to present the facts, and it’s time for those facts to speak for themselves.” Blunt said that the process of choosing the president was nearing the conclusion, and suggested as head of the Inauguration Committee that he looked forward to working on a Biden transition.

This is exactly the playbook that Republicans used when Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin sought to get the Kentucky Legislature to take away his Democratic opponent Andy Beshear’s victory in the 2018 governor’s race. Bevin alleged fraud without providing proof. Republican leaders in the Kentucky Legislature gave Bevin a few days to come up with the proof. When he produced nothing, they got impatient, and Bevin eventually conceded, blaming the “urban vote” on his way out the door.

The same thing is likely to happen with Trump. Biden has a wide enough Electoral College lead, and a wide lead in enough states, that it is impossible to see Trump litigating his way to reversing a Biden victory unless facts come to light about a major failure in vote counting across multiple states. Trump has plenty of claims he can bring and every right to bring them. But the claims will not amount to anything substantial. He can ask for a recount in Wisconsin, for example, but the chances of overcoming a 20,000 vote deficit are practically impossible when the average statewide recount moves numbers by about 300 votes.

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