Congratulations are in order for Vice President Biden on the decision of the big news agencies and broadcast networks to declare him president-elect — and on his vow to be president of all Americans. Yet if his heart is really in that vow, it strikes us as a mistake to embrace the honorific of president-elect before a concession by Mr. Trump or even a single state certification of the vote. Particularly since the vote’s integrity is being challenged.
The better way for Mr. Biden to have handled this situation, however awkward, would have been to thank the networks for their support and for calling the election for him — but then to remind them, and the American people, that the result has yet to be certified. And to say that out of respect for both the president and the presidency, he’d prefer to wait until the electoral college and the courts have disposed of any challenges.
That would have been the sort of unifying gesture that we would have expected from a man confident of his victory. And of a leader genuinely committed, as Mr. Biden claims he is, to healing the country. It’s an enormous thing that Mr. Biden has won the largest popular vote in history. Why try, then, to preempt the electoral due process for, in President Trump, the winner of the second largest popular vote in our history?
In the country that Mr. Biden insists he wants to unify, after all, Mr. Trump’s voters represent nearly half the population. It was Secretary Clinton’s politically fatal blunder to have failed to recognize that if one maligns an adversary one maligns his followers. That’s as true in respect of Mr. Trump as, say, George Washington. A failure to grasp the point cost Mrs. Clinton the presidency.
Then again, too, Mr. Biden and Senator Harris have their own party to unify. That may require the same moves as any outreach they plan to Mr. Trump’s followers. It’s also unlikely to be any walk in the park. The Democrats have had their margin cut in the House, and they are — for good reason — taking it out on Speaker Pelosi, a fact made clear by an astonishingly bitter leaked phone call among the Democratic caucus.
The star of that phone call, Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat of Virginia, is quoted by the press association as saying, “If we are classifying Tuesday as a success from a congressional standpoint, we will get [expletive] torn apart in 2022.” She is quoted as saying on the call that the number one concern she’s heard in her district was “defunding the police."
“And,” she says at one point, “we need to not ever use the words ‘socialist’ or ‘socialism’ ever again.”
The point here is not to reprise the Democratic Party’s leadership void. It’s merely to mark that Mr. Biden has his work cut out for him if his aim is to unify the country. At the moment he stands at the head of a disunited party. The Democrats and the party press spent the last four years trying to destroy a presidency. They’re not going to heal those wounds by giving Mr. Trump the bum’s rush before the official count is certified.