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EDITORIAL: Transition delay imperils U.S. security

York Dispatch editorial board
President Donald Trump speaks at the White House, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

An indirect Twitter acknowledgement aside, President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede defeat in this month’s election is hardly surprising. He has insisted, going back to his 2016 campaign, he will accept results only “if I win.”

Nor is it eyebrow-raising that his militant minions likewise are buying into the fairy tale that Trump is the rightful victor of a “rigged” election. Their weekend demonstrations display anew their single-minded loyalty not to country or democracy, but to Trump himself.

What does give pause is the disappointing number of elected Republicans and administration officials who are willing to play along with this chilling and dangerous charade. Chilling because it subverts the very foundations of the democratic principles the nation was founded on. Dangerous because the delay in initiating the transition process not only hinders President-elect Joe Biden and his team from the important work of preparing the incoming administration, it poses very real threats to the general public.

Where to begin?

The selective argument that “the media” has somehow decided the election is as disingenuous as it is transparently silly. Media outlets, it need hardly be pointed out, report election results, i.e., the decisions of voters.

Still, we get poppycock from the likes of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell about how “the projections and commentary of the press” are somehow overriding the rights of citizens. Or this Twitter gem from local Rep. Scott Perry: “Can anyone help us find the Media Declaration Clause in the Constitution? Legal votes will determine who is POTUS, not the news media.”

Please! Neither McConnell nor Perry nor the raft of other GOP lawmakers who have refused to acknowledge Biden’s decisive victory, let alone congratulate him on it, had any problem accepting media declarations that they had won their own races.

And Biden’s win was decisive. With more than 300 electoral votes and a 5.6 million-plus edge in the popular vote, the margin of victory was wider than either of those won by George W. Bush, not to mention races in 1976, 1968 and 1960.

Still, functionaries throughout Trump’s administration are turning their backs on the will of the voting public in deference to a presidential temper tantrum.

Most notably, the administrator of the General Services Administration, Trump appointee Emily Murphy, has refused to sign paperwork needed to formally start the transition process. The usually pro forma declaration provides the transition team access to government officials, office space, equipment and about $10 million for the transition process.

This is not just a show of support for presidential pique, it’s blatant obstruction of a duly elected president and it can have damaging, even life-threatening effects.

With the coronavirus pandemic raging out of control in Pennsylvania and throughout the country, and a checked-out Trump ignoring it along with the rest of his duties, an expedient transition is more vital than ever.

And that’s just one of the concerns, former chiefs of staff Andy Card (President George W. Bush) and John Podesta (President Bill Clinton) write in The Washington Post: “A delayed transition and the absence of cooperation between the outgoing and incoming administrations could hinder economic recovery, slow the distribution of a vaccine and, God forbid, put American lives at risk.”

They’re referring to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which came eight months into Bush’s first term and were attributed partly to the transition delays necessitated by the inconclusive 2000 election.

There’s nothing inconclusive in 2020.

Trump’s followers are welcome to wallow in the make-believe world of a rigged election, and administration and elected officials fearful of their wrath can likewise embrace this reality-averse storyline. But right-thinking Americans neither signed on for nor must be forced to enable in this fantasy.

In the interest of national security, the peaceful transfer of power and simple reality, the Biden administration needs to begin its transition immediately.