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Biden’s challenge: Will Americans continue the concept of ‘the loyal opposition’?

Our country is watching a historic drama play out in the wake of the uber-contentious 2020 presidential election. The nation has heard Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden declare victory, but incumbent Republican President Donald Trump has as yet declined to answer that declaration with a concession.

Those two distinct acts — declaring a presidential campaign victory and a concomitant concession of a loss in the campaign has in the modern era of presidential politics been the familiar political dance that the nation’s voters expect.

Moreover, those acts are deeply ingrained in America’s political psyche during a peaceful transfer of presidential parties between individual candidates, between political parties, and between the citizen voters who align with the candidates during presidential campaigns that last entirely too long.

That conflict — and the accompanying social media conspiracy theories spawned by it — has created a national unease ranging from mild annoyance to deep anger. Part of that unease stems from simply not understanding the process and part from intertwined partisan distrust and suspicion.

Ultimately, the process wins out — as it should and must. The votes will be counted. The legal challenges will be argued, tried, and exhausted. All legal disputes, recounts, and challenges face a Dec. 8 deadline. On Dec. 14, the Electoral College electors face a deadline to cast their ballots.

Yes, so-called “faithless electors” may vote against how they are pledged to vote, but that they are sufficient in number to change the election is historically pretty far-fetched.

On Jan. 6, 2021, a joint session of Congress will officially count the electoral votes. If neither Biden nor Trump reach the 270-vote threshold, the majority-Democratic U.S. House of Representatives will decide the election. Then, on Jan. 20, 2021, the current presidential term ends at noon, and either a second Trump term or a first Biden term will begin along with the ceremonial niceties.

But which candidate has a plausible path to victory? Ultimately, politics is math.

To prevail, President Trump needs the legal means to challenge tens of thousands of ballots in multiple states successfully. Those challenges must establish broad-based, verifiable, and systemic fraud based on current elections law statutes in the various states.

That is, legal scholars and political experts agree, an extremely tall, if not insurmountable order. Turnout analyses verify that Trump outperformed his 2016 totals in the preponderance of venues, and the race was far closer than predicted.

Based on the available information and based on the initial Trump pleadings in challenges in places like Pennsylvania, the Trump challenges are unlikely to prevail. Politics is math, and the electoral math is decidedly and overwhelmingly on Biden’s side.

For the sake of the division in the country today, those challenges should go forward within the time left in the process. But Trump Administration interference with the Biden efforts for an orderly and peaceful transition is inappropriate and frankly dangerous for the country.

Democracy, capitalism and retail politics are all inexorably tied to winning and losing. The foundations of our nation depend on the abilities of Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, and other groups in contention to function as Americans who lost an election but remain committed to America as part of “the loyal opposition.”

In writing about “The Principle of Loyal Opposition” in 2012 for the New York University School of Law Journal, Jeremy Waldron said: “Politics exist because not one person, but (many) people inhabit the world — people in all their diversity with all their disagreements. Even if the objective truth about justice or the common good is singular, still here on Earth, there are many of us with many views, and ways must be found to accommodate us all in a political system.”

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at sidsalter@sidsalter.com.

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