The GOP proudly calls itself the party of Lincoln, in tribute to the first president elected on the Republican ticket. Abraham Lincoln demonstrated an enduring faith in the importance of free elections and democratic political institutions. Today, however, the Republican Party is led by a man who has repudiated the legitimacy of the electoral process. Donald Trump may be Lincoln’s successor, but his behavior mocks Lincoln’s efforts to preserve the republic.
During his campaign, Trump asserted that Democrats would steal the White House through widespread manipulation of mail-in ballots. He even floated the idea of delaying the election, which he claimed would “be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history.” Following the November 3 contest, Trump called on officials in key swing states to rescind “hundreds of thousands of [allegedly fraudulent] votes.” He also asserted that Dominion voting machines—products of an alleged international conspiracy—had erased millions of Trump votes.
The Trump campaign and its affiliated legal teams have filed scores of lawsuits to overturn the election’s results. To remedy what they consider a duplicitous election, the president’s political allies have also endorsed martial law and a suspension of the Constitution; petitioned the Supreme Court to block the electoral results in four swing states; proposed the secession of “law-abiding states”; and put forth alternative Electoral College ballots that favor Trump, in defiance of states that legally certified Joe Biden’s election. In a blatant transgression of democratic norms and executive authority, Trump also pressured Georgia’s secretary of state to “find” extra votes to nullify Biden’s slender majority in the state. When Congress convenes tomorrow, at least 10 Trump-loyal Republican senators have suggested that they will vote against the certification of Biden’s Electoral College triumph. All presidential elections evoke what Alexis de Tocqueville once labeled the “ardor of faction,” but even so, this is a remarkable, unsettling record.