The Trump administration has, at last, formally allowed the start of the transition of power to President-elect Joe Biden. This eases the dangers to national security and pandemic response that were looming because of President Donald Trump’s intransigence. But there’s another element that, while not required by law, is crucial to the health of democracy: Trump must acknowledge that Biden legitimately won this election. He must concede, as every major defeated presidential candidate in modern American history has done. Without that, the nation could face years of the same kind of turmoil seen these past three weeks.
Since George Washington handed the presidency over to John Adams in 1797, the peaceful transfer of power has been an American hallmark, though the process hasn’t always been seamless. For example, it was postponed for weeks in 2000 by the contentious Florida recount in that razor-thin election. But even that showdown was part of a good-faith process that ultimately, peacefully handed power to the winner.
This isn’t 2000. This year’s election wasn’t close — Biden won by 6 million votes and a solid Electoral College majority. Unlike the genuine ballot issues of 2000 (remember “hanging chads”?), Trump’s claims of mass voter fraud were whole-cloth fabrications, dangerous slander against America’s entire electoral system. After Trump’s attempt in plain view to pressure local election officials to simply ignore the will of the voters and hand him states he didn’t come close to winning, the words “good faith” now ring hollow.