Vainglory of the Press
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Of all the claims that have been made in this election, the most astounding is the idea that the proper authority to certify the winner — and dispose of all objections — is the press. That would be the same press that proved to be so inaccurate in respect of what would happen in the past two elections. It is now in high dudgeon over the fact that millions of Americans lack for confidence in its decision to call the race for Mr. Biden.
What vainglory. “Day by day,” the Washington Post editorializes this morning, “President Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of a free and fair election grow more brazen.” Notice the en passant nature of its reference to the election being free and fair. It dasn’t acknowledge even a possibility that determining the freeness and fairness of the blasted election is the point of all the challenges and litigation.
It is not our intention here to take sides in this litigation. We stated our position in the early hours of November 4, after Vice President Biden had declared he was on track to win the election and President Trump had cried “fraud.” It was, we suggested, “a moment to stay calm and take a careful look at the numbers and to stick to the law.” Why would the country be irreparably harmed by waiting for official results as prescribed by law?
We don’t mind saying that it doesn’t look good for Mr. Trump. So far a breakthrough ruling has eluded his camp in any court. The GOP hasn’t been able to get certiorari from the Supreme Court even in the Pennsylvania case that was launched well enough before the election. Never mind that the high bench now has, in theory at least, a six to three conservative majority. There is still litigation pending or threatened.
President Obama, in an interview on MSNBC, asserts that Mr. Trump’s claims of fraud have been “repeatedly rejected by the courts.” If he’s confident that will also be the fate of outstanding claims, then it’s hard to see about what he is worried. It was not a Republican but rather a Democrat, Hillary Clinton, who suggested that if the race turned out to be tight, “Joe Biden should not concede under any circumstances.”
Just for the record, we refrained from criticizing Mrs. Clinton on that head. By our lights, both sides are entitled to wait for the various certifications and electoral procedures. At the moment, according to Mary Astor’s dispatch today in the Times, 19 electoral votes have been certified for Vice President Biden and 63 for President Trump. The winner needs 270. The Times has Mr. Biden down for, eventually, 306.
The certification process has various deadlines set by the states. Not all states are the same. Not one of the key states that the GOP is disputing, though, has yet certified or has yet been supposed to certify, according to Ms. Astor’s table. Georgia’s deadline, which it may meet, is today; Pennsylvania and Michigan are due Monday, Nevada Tuesday. Arizona is November 30, and Wisconsin December 1.
The Times report reckons that a “key part of the G.O.P. strategy has been to delay certification processes in battleground states that Mr. Biden won, in the hopes that, if state officials miss their deadlines, legislators will subvert the popular vote and appoint pro-Trump slates to the Electoral College.” Yet even the Times, which has a policy of dropping objectivity over Mr. Trump, reckons such legislative subversion is “extremely unlikely.”
A “safe harbor” glimmers on December 8. It is set by federal statute. If a state has followed rules it set before the election and certifies the result by December 8, the results are considered “conclusive,” according to an explanatory timeline issued by the Congressional Research Service. On December 14, electors meet in their states to cast their ballots, which in most states must reflect the popular vote in the state.
The votes will not be opened and counted until the new Congress, the 117th, meets on January 6 at Washington. Votes can be challenged then, but discarding any vote must be approved by both houses. The Democratic papers have been suggesting that President Trump’s challenges at the various stages of this process could undermine confidence in a Biden presidency. Where in the world could they have come up with that thought?
Drawing by Elliott Banfield, courtesy of the artist.