Republican Losers Conceding, Not Rioting

A low bar has been cleared.

WaPo (“Key election deniers concede defeat after disputing Trump’s 2020 loss“):

Voters in several battleground states have rebuked state-level candidates who echoed former president Donald Trump’s false claim that the 2020 presidential race was rigged, keeping election deniers in those places from positions with power over the certification of future presidential election results.

In a number of cases, the losing candidates conceded their races Wednesday, opting not to follow a precedent that Trump had set and that scholars had feared could become a troubling new norm of American democracy.

But even as those candidates bowed to reality, dozens of others who denied or questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 vote were celebrating projected wins in congressional races.

At least 145 Republican election deniers running for the House had won their races as of Wednesday afternoon, ticking past the 139 House Republicans who objected to the counting of electoral votes following the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol.

And while Democrats are projected to prevail in gubernatorial contests in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, several high-profile races remained too close to call Wednesday — notably in Arizona, where Republican Kari Lake has made denying the 2020 election results a central theme in her campaign for governor.

“Just like yesterday I wasn’t prepared to say that democracy was dead, I’m not prepared to say this morning that the threat from election denialism is completely vanquished,” said Edward B. Foley, a law professor at Ohio State University who studies U.S. elections. “I don’t think we are ‘out of the woods’ yet by any means.”

Two years after Trump prematurely declared he had won a second term and falsely claimed widespread election fraud, the relative normalcy of the 2022 election and its immediate aftermath was striking. Several high-profile election deniers — who had repeatedly questioned or disputed Trump’s 2020 loss — urged their supporters to be patient until all votes were counted. Others conceded defeat even before the results were finalized.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) said she choked up with relief when Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon conceded Wednesday morning. The act, Benson said, reinforced a democratic norm of acknowledging election results that Trump had undermined. Dixon, a former right-wing commentator, had parroted the former president’s false claims, insisting he won Michigan in 2020.

“One of the most significant markers of a successful, smooth election is when the losing candidate graciously concedes defeat,” Benson wrote in a text message. “So to see candidates who previously denied the accurate results in 2020’s election now graciously concede defeat in their own high-profile races tells me we’ve truly succeeded in running a smooth and successful election in Michigan.”

[…]

Experts said the concession, mundane as it may seem, is a vital ingredient to the health of any democracy.

“Accepting defeat means acknowledging that facts matter, that the will of voters matters, that reality-based thinking can prevail,” said Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a history professor at New York University who studies fascism and is the author of “Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present.”

WaPo (“Trump called a protest. No one showed. Why GOP efforts to cry foul fizzled this time.“)

As voters cast ballots largely without incident on Tuesday afternoon, former president Donald Trump took to social media to declare that a minor, already rectified problem with absentee balloting in Detroit was “REALLY BAD.”

“Protest, protest, protest,” he wrotejust before 2:30 p.m.

Unlike in 2020, when similar cries from the then-president drew thousands of supporters into the streets — including to a tabulating facility in Detroit and later to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 — this time, no one showed up.

After two years of promises from Trump and his supporters that they would flood polls and counting stations with partisan watchers to spot alleged fraud, after unprecedented threats lodged against election workers, after calls to ditch machines in favor of hand counting and after postings on internet chat groups called for violent action to stop supposed cheating, a peaceful Election Day drew high turnout and only scattered reports of problems.

Election officials said they believed the relative normalcy resulted from a combination of concerted effort on the part of well-prepared poll workers and voters, as well as the fact that some of Trump’s loudest supporters were less potent than they had claimed. The basic dynamics of a midterm election — which always draw less passion than presidential contests and in which voters do not rally around a single candidate — played a role as well.

Then there was the Trump factor. The 45thpresident no longer held the megaphone of the White House, or even Twitter, to carry his message to supporters in real time. And the election results suggest the number of people inclined to respond to Trump’s exhortationshas continued to fall since he lost the 2020 election.

“Our democracy is more resilient than people have given it credit for,” said Adam Wit, clerk of Michigan’s Harrison Township and president of the state’s association of municipal clerks.

Wit said election workers helped counter suspicion in the community by throwing open their doors before Election Day to explain how the ballot counting system operates, using social media to educate voters and holding public information sessions. “Clerks did a lot to restore confidence,” he said.

Officials also reacted far more quickly than they did in 2020 to disinformation, using social media to snuff out embers of baseless accusations and rumors before they sparked wildfires.

Within an hour of Trump’s post about the alleged problem with absentee ballots, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) responded on Twitter, directing her comment squarely at the former president.

“This isn’t true,” she wrote. “Please don’t spread lies to foment or encourage political violence in our state. Or anywhere. Thanks.”

There are still some close races yet to be decided, so it’s too early to make final pronouncements. Still, given two years of Trump and his supporters chumming the waters—and an actual riot inside the United States Capitol to intimidate elected representatives into stealing the Presidency—a return to basic norms is something to cheer for.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Democracy, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    I’ve been on the knife’s edge between optimism and gloom. Couple months ago I wrote (right here) that I thought/felt/intuited/guessed that the worst was behind us, that the Cult of Trump was losing potency. OTOH, last week I was thinking (facetiously, but also, not) that Democrats needed to buy guns.

    But I do believe the fever has begun to break. Losing in 2020 wasn’t enough because they all bought the Big Lie. It wasn’t a real loss, you see, just an illusion quickly dispelled by Trump’s mystical covfefe. They’re stupid people and trained from childhood in credulity, but January 6, the January 6 hearings, the endless lawsuits and court cases and legal defeats, and Trump’s inability to focus on anything but himself, began to eat away at Orange Jesus’s feet of clay. And now a massive and inexplicable failure has punctured the psychopath’s aura of invincibility.

    And a whole new Jesus Comp has appeared in the form of Ron DeSavior. The Deadheads have discovered Phish.

    Now of course I have to hope that the Orthodox Cult will retain enough life to carry on a real knife fight with the Heretics.

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  2. DK says:

    Speaking ofv losers, thank you Dana Milbank for calling out the “liberal” (pfft) media’s losers:

    Biggest loser of the midterm elections? The media. (Washington Post)

    Political journalists were suckered by a wave of Republican junk polls in the closing weeks of the campaign. They were also swayed by some reputable polling organizations that, burned by past failures to capture MAGA voters, overweighted their polls to account for that in ways that simply didn’t make sense. And reporters fell for Republican feints and misdirection…

    An extraordinary profusion of bad partisan polling flooded the media late in the campaign, coming from GOP outfits such as Trafalgar (which had Blake Masters over Mark Kelly in the Arizona Senate race, Don Bolduc over Maggie Hassan in the New Hampshire Senate race, among others) and Rasmussen…

    …such polling helped skew handicapping websites. RealClearPolitics, for example, moved Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) into “toss-up” status in the closing days of his reelection bid. Bennet beat his Republican opponent by double digits.

    A couple of reputable polls also came up with some suspicious conclusions. Three weeks ago, a New York Times-Siena College poll…showed that women were evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, at 47-47. Had the gender gap disappeared entirely for the first time in modern history?

    …Even though early voting figures were astronomical, Gallup asserted days before the election that “Americans are also markedly less enthusiastic about voting in this year’s elections than they were in 2018.”

    …The news media took the faulty assumption that Republicans would enjoy a red wave and plugged in explanations for the imagined outcome. Democrats blew it because they spoke too much about abortion and democracy, and too little about the economy and crime. (In fact, crime and the economy figured prominently in many Democratic campaigns.)

    “Did Democrats place a losing bet on abortion?” CNN asked.

    Fox News trumpeted: “Biden ridiculed for ‘despicable’ speech on ‘threat’ to democracy: ‘What delusion looks like.’ ”

    Many outlets asserted that “Democrats are losing Latino voters,” as NPR put it.

    And some Democrats started a premature circular firing squad, providing the media with quotes to justify the false narratives. “I think we’re going to have a bad night,” Hilary Rosen said Sunday on CNN. “When voters tell you over and over again that they care mostly about the economy, listen to them. Stop talking about democracy being at stake.”

    The day before the election, Bloomberg News went with this headline: “Inflation-Focused Voters Defy Biden’s Bid to Change the Subject.”

    On Wednesday morning, that same writer tweeted a bit of a corrective: “Biden, despite his low approval rating and relative absence on the campaign trail, will likely be able to claim best midterm performance for an incumbent president’s party in 20 years.”

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  3. drj says:

    a return to basic norms

    I admire your optimism, but none of the conceding candidates has a power base that would allow them to defy the outcome of the election.

    The 1/6 gambit was about pressuring Pence and giving a subsequent veneer of legality to Trump’s attempted coup.

    For a successful coup, you would need the backing, non-intervention, or capture of federal agencies. Otherwise there would just be a repeat of Little Rock 1957.

    Of course, one could simply not concede without a corresponding attempt to capture power, but that would make the losing candidate look weak and, ultimately, irrelevant.

    In this case, conceding is more of a necessity than a sincere adherence to democratic norms, IMO.

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  4. DK says:

    “OnLy iNfLatiOn mAttErs.” The nattering naboobs in the pundit class may be too childish, clueless, and intellectually lazy to focus on more than one issue at a time, but they should stop projecting their mental problems onto voters.

    Anyway, there’s no reason for Republicans to riot atm: looks like McCarthy is getting his gavel. Their fear and upset comes from knowing these weak wins were not because conservative ideas won, but because the GQP gerrymandered and manipulated itself into place. Republicans are still on borrowed time. And they know it.

    If the MAGA right doesn’t riot when youth, women, educated whites, and people of color show up again in 2024 to bury Trumpism — even if it’s Trumpism wearing a DeSantis mask — then I’ll be impressed.

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  5. charon says:

    Still, given two years of Trump and his supporters chumming the waters—and an actual riot inside the United States Capitol to intimidate elected representatives into stealing the Presidency—a return to basic norms is something to cheer for.

    I am not cheering, I live in AZ and Kari Lake is still sounding pretty pugnacious. The AZ Secretary of State race is still not called either, though the (R) has numbers very similar to Blake Masters.

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  6. CSK says:

    Apparently the GOP is desperate to keep Trump out of Georgia for fear he might screw up Walker’s chances in the Dec. 6 run-off.

  7. Michael Cain says:

    @charon:

    I live in AZ

    I admit that I’m rather enjoying telling people from the East Coast that they’ll just have to be patient, this is the normal counting delay for a state with all/mostly vote by mail. The response that seems to stump them after they say, “Look, we manage to count fast,” is “Then why does your Secretary of State not certify the vote until the first week in December, just like my Secretary of State?”

  8. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    They should be careful with that. If you tell baby he can’t go to Georgia, he’ll want to do nothing else.

  9. Michael Cain says:

    @charon:

    I live in AZ

    I admit that I’m rather enjoying telling people from the East Coast that they’ll just have to be patient, this is the normal counting delay for a state with all/mostly vote by mail. The response that seems to stump them after they say, “Look, we manage to count fast,” is “Then why does your Secretary of State certify the vote the first week in December, just like my Secretary of State?”

  10. CSK says:

    @Kathy:

    It must be exhausting having to corral an overgrown toddler 24/7.

  11. steve says:

    I listened to a bit of Kemp’s victory speech in GA. He claimed that there were no long lines. Average wait times very low. If this is true this would be a victory for Dems. Part of the GOP tool chest to keep Dems from voting is to make it difficult to vote and if this is gone it is a positive step.

    Steve

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  12. The recent election of a further divided government simply means that it will become more and more impossible to openly deal with the earth’s major problem . . . climate change.

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  13. just nutha says:

    @CSK: Probably explains why he’s out and about so much.

  14. just nutha says:

    @steve: Or Kemp may be claiming “no long lines” to encourage people elsewhere to believe progress is being made.