If there was a time when the Republican Party put country before party it is fading rapidly into history. The years of the Trump administration have been all about seeking political gain and this continues with the president and his party’s groundless claims of election fraud and the stalling of the transition to the administration of President-elect Joe Biden.
Happily there is an exception in Republican Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, who at a State House news conference earlier this week said the president’s obstinate behavior is threatening the welfare of the nation when it needs to be focused on the raging COVID-19 pandemic. He also called out the usual Republican enablers in Congress for not speaking truth to power whether out of political spite or fear of the wrath of the president and his base.
“I’m dismayed to hear the baseless claims coming from the president, from his team, and from many other elected Republican officials in Washington” said the governor in reference to conspiracy theories about election fraud. “Continuing to make these claims erodes trust in the system when in fact the election system is working exactly as it was designed to do.”
Upon his re-election in Kentucky, Senate President Mitch McConnell piously urged unity in the nation, and then immediately fanned the flames of turmoil by supporting the president’s reckless behavior. When cornered by reporters, Republican officials in Washington tie themselves in rhetorical knots, as they have for four years, pretending to defend the democratic process while being careful to not anger the president or his “base.” (See Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican, for prime examples of statements mangled into incomprehensibility.)
In contrast, Gov. Baker spoke clearly about the dangers to the nation posed by the White House. A smooth transition is needed to not only address the COVID pandemic but to prepare the new administration for a variety of domestic and foreign challenges. For 200 years the peaceful transition of power from a president of one party to that of another has defined American democracy and differentiated us from the many Third World nations where elections are a sham.
Four years ago, President Obama welcomed President-elect Trump to the White House to begin the transition. The president had supported Hillary Clinton, and not only that was welcoming a man who had spent eight years flogging the racist lie that President Obama was not truly an American. Still, for the benefit of the country, the president sought to assure a smooth transition.
It is sad that few people expected President Trump to demonstrate the same grace and class as did President Obama, or put the nation’s interests before his own. But President Trump must at least stop undermining faith in the nation’s election system and get out of the way of the transition process. We urge our Republican neighbors to add their voices to the Governor’s with the hope such action might help other officials stiffen their spines.