As each day brings another blow to US President Donald Trump’s effort to overturn election results, many Republicans, echoing Trump’s baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud, are sceptical about the announced outcome and do not recognise Joe Biden as the president-elect.
Some, like Jonathan Serrano, an entrepreneur from Chicago, Illinois, believe Trump should wait to admit defeat until all states have formally certified their election results, breaking with a tradition of presidential concessions begun in 1896.
“He should concede when election results are official. Biden is the ‘presumed’ president-elect, not the president-elect. Since the media has declared him the winner, which he may very well end up being, people believe he is the official winner,” Serrano said.
Dylan Martin, communications director of the California College Republicans, said Trump has the right to question the outcome in the courts, and the media do not have the authority to decide who the president-elect is.
But in modern US political history, all previous presidential candidates have taken their cues from the US media as to whether they have won or lost the election, including Trump in 2016, who declared victory shortly after American news networks projected him as the winner on election night.
“We fully support President Trump’s legal challenges. Al Gore got 30-plus days to fight the results in 2000, and Democrats and the media should afford President Trump the same courtesy. Whether his suits change the election results is not the main issue,” Martin said.
In 2000, the dispute hinged on votes in one state – Florida, which Democrat Gore lost to Republican George W Bush by 537 votes after the US Supreme Court halted the vote count. Florida’s 25 Electoral College votes gave Bush the presidency. Trump would need results in at least three states to be overturned to give Trump 38 Electoral College votes and reverse Biden’s win.
“The Trump campaign has produced hundreds of affidavits alleging fraud and impropriety. To not cover the fact that evidence has been unearthed, and even go so far as to claim there is no evidence, is gross misconduct on the part of the press,” Martin said.
No evidence of widespread fraud has turned up, despite Trump’s legal team’s aggressive pursuit of proof.
At least 25 of 36 lawsuits by the Trump campaign had failed as of November 23.
“President Trump deserves a fair, lawful, and orderly election process which we are not seeing,” said Stefanie Mingari, a member of the Northwest Side GOP Club in Chicago, Illinois.
“As the days go by, we are witnessing [voter] fraud and injustice,” she said.
“This election is an embarrassment, and the integrity of the USA is at stake.”
Mingari believes the best path forward is to make sure that every legal ballot, excluding “late” ballots, is counted.
These so-called “late” ballots that arrived after election day are legal in the eyes of various state courts, under each state’s election rules.
In a statement on behalf of her organisation, Betsy Mahan, chair of the Sacramento County Republican Party in California, said the alleged and unproven widespread voter fraud that has occurred cannot be overlooked.
“There are too many voting irregularities to ignore. We are supportive of the legal efforts to determine if there was fraudulent activity in this election, and will accept the outcome after the courts or Congress finalise the winner.”
Gabe Hartwig, president of the Atlanta Young Republicans, recognises Biden as “the probable winner of the Electoral College”. He also believes that Trump’s behaviour is no different from that of Democrats in the 2016 and 2018 elections.
“Donald Trump is following the playbook of our would-be governor of Georgia, Stacey Abrams, who has not yet conceded her 2018 electoral trouncing at the hands of Governor Brian Kemp. It is nice to see Democrats get a taste of their own medicine.”
Democrat Abrams never publicly conceded, however, Trump’s 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, delivered a concession speech the day after the election and called for unity.
Hartwig said Trump has “earned the right to present whatever evidence of election fraud his legal team has found in court”. If no credible evidence arises, he believes that the results of the Electoral College should be upheld.
Jack Patton, a New York City resident and chair of the University of Southern California GOP, recognises Biden as the president-elect and hopes that both political parties can begin to work together again.
“[Trump] can allege whatever he wants but until it is proven, which it probably will not be, then Joe Biden is the winner of the election and living in a constitutional republic means accepting the winners of elections. It’s just the way that it works. It’s the way that elections work whether your candidate wins or loses you have to accept the results of the election.”
With Trump “running out of options now as Michigan, Pennsylvania, [and] Georgia have all certified their votes”, Patton believes that Trump should finally concede.
“I think it’s the right move for the sanctity of the country, the sanity of the collective citizenry and also for, you know, just the preservation of the peaceful transfer of power which we’ve done successfully for almost 250 years.”
With the formal presidential transition process officially under way, Trump’s supporters are also divided over what to expect after Biden is sworn in on January 20.
Serrano is hoping to see a peaceful transition of power or, if his wishes were to come true, “peaceful acceptance” of another Trump term.
For Patton, Biden is the next president and he stated that he would “love to see more reaching across the aisle from both parties”.
Hartwig sees a silver lining in the 2020 election results.
“Presidential race aside, the November 3 elections were great for Republicans. We expanded our coalition among Black and Hispanic voters, regained several seats in the House of Representatives, took back state legislatures, and likely kept the Senate.”
That will depend on the results of two runoff Senate races set to take place in Georgia on January 5. If the Republicans win just one of them they will retain their Senate majority.
Meanwhile, Mingari remains optimistic that Trump will find a way back to victory.
“I am hoping [that] President Trump is re-elected and that all involved who are trying to destroy our election process through voter fraud and deceit are held accountable.”