When President George W. Bush narrowly won the 2000 election, many Democrats found it difficult to accept that he was a legitimate president. Despite a brief period of national unity following 9/11, the divisions over the Iraq War further polarized the country.
Although the 2004, 2008, and 2012 presidential elections were won by decisive margins, the shadow of the Florida recount made politics nastier with each passing election cycle.
When President Donald Trump defeated Secretary Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, many Democrats once again refused to accept the outcome of the race.
Even though the much-anticipated Mueller Report failed to find any collusion in the 2016 election between the Trump campaign and Russia, it didn’t matter.
After the Mueller Report was released, New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote:
"It’s clear that many Democrats made grievous accusations against the president that are not supported by the evidence. It’s clear that people like Beto O’Rourke and John Brennan owe Donald Trump a public apology. If you call someone a traitor and it turns out you lacked the evidence for that charge, then the only decent thing to do is apologize."
Of course, there were no public apologies from elected officials or media pundits who called Trump a traitor. There has been no accountability with regard to intelligence community members who abused the FISA court and spied on Americans without probable cause.
That said, I think it is now clear that President Trump has lost the 2020 election and it's time for him to concede. Even if President Trump’s team can discover enough voter fraud to flip one or two states, it is highly unlikely that he can reach 270 electoral votes at this point.
Even in the extremely remote possibility that President Trump’s lawyers could prevail in the courts, the country would end up being further divided, leaving Trump no capacity to govern.
In this time of extreme division, we cannot solve our problems with a president who will be seen as illegitimate by a majority of the country.
At the 1968 Republican National Convention, with riots all over the country, the Republican nominee Richard Nixon said: "If we are to have respect for law in America, we must have laws that deserve respect. Just as we cannot have progress without order, we cannot have order without progress, and so, as we commit to order tonight, let us commit to progress."
Along with laws that deserve respect, we must have institutions and presidents that are viewed as broadly legitimate in the eyes of the public. Either the perception of illegitimacy will grow and eventually break the country apart, or moderates in both parties will have to find ways to work together to heal this country.
In 1838, Abraham Lincoln told an audience that the United States could only be destroyed from within. Lincoln warned:
"At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide."
While I do not believe that the United States is close to a civil war, I do think we are much closer now than we were in 2000. Patriotism must always come before party. I think most Democrats and Republicans do not want to live a country that is this divided forever.
While I haven’t lost relationships with any family members or close friends due to political differences, I have seen many examples in the past few years of people severing ties with friends, relatives and even spouses over politics.
This is madness.
In 2020, the Republicans must do what the Democrats could not do in 2000 or 2016: accept the results of a close election.
For every hour that Republicans focus on recounts, we lose valuable time and resources that can be spent on efforts to preserve a Republican majority in the Senate.
There are two Georgia Senate seats that will go to a runoff on Jan. 5, 2021.
If Republicans can win those two seats, they can prevent the Democrats from ending the filibuster process and packing the Supreme Court for at least two years.
Joe Biden has promised to govern toward the center.
A Republican majority in the Senate is the best way to make sure he will have to keep that promise.
President Trump deserves credit for several years of a strong economy, appointing originalist judges, and brokering meaningful peace deals in the Mideast.
He is arguably the most pro-Israel president in American history.
Even Bill Gates, who criticized most of the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus, admits that the government did a good job expediting the process of developing a vaccine through Operation Warp Speed.
To finally get out of the shadow of the 2000 Florida recount, President-elect Biden should not only encourage his followers to treat Trump voters with some respect as presidential power is transitioned, but he should also stand up for the right of conservatives to peacefully yet vehemently dissent on matters of policy.
There are many conservatives in this country who live in justified fear that they will lose their jobs and become unemployable if their political views were known.
As attorney Clarence Darrow once said, "You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man’s freedom. You can only be free if I am free."
Robert Zapesochny is a researcher and writer whose work focuses on foreign affairs, national security and presidential history. His work has appeared in a range of publications, including The American Spectator, the Washington Times, and The American Conservative. For several years Robert worked closely with Peter Hannaford, a senior aide to Ronald Reagan, as the primary researcher on four books and numerous columns. Robert has also worked on multiple presidential, national and statewide campaigns, including as a field office staffer for the Bush-Cheney campaign. Due to his own Russian-Jewish heritage, Robert has a keen interest in the history of U.S.-Soviet relations. In 2017 he was the co-organizer of an effort that erected commemorative statue of Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow. Robert graduated with a major in Political Science from the University at Buffalo, and received his Master's in Public Administration, with a focus in healthcare, from the State University of New York College at Brockport. When he's not writing, Robert works for a medical research company in Rochester, New York. Read Robert Zapesochny's Reports — More Here.
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