By MARSHA MERCER
As Democrats on Capitol Hill argue over what message voters sent in Tuesday’s earthquake election, it’s worth considering what voters and politicians in Virginia aren’t saying.
Nobody claims the Virginia election was rigged.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe set the tone for civility when he promptly conceded the election.
“While last night we came up short, I am proud that we spent this campaign fighting for the values we so deeply believe in,” he said in a statement Wednesday morning.
He congratulated Republican Glenn Youngkin on his victory, calling him Governor-elect, and said, “I hope Virginians will join me in wishing the best to him and his family.”
That’s the classy way disappointed candidates are supposed to act.
Losing candidates in this country traditionally rise to the occasion. They accept election results, are grateful to their supporters and gracious to the victors.
They don’t spew malice toward voting machines, hard-working state election officials or our electoral system. And they certainly don’t make wild claims about being robbed.
And yet, for more than a year, faith in American elections has been sorely challenged by the Big Lie, the falsehood spawned in Donald Trump’s brain that he actually won the last presidential election.
During his 2016 campaign, Trump claimed the only way he could lose the White House was if the election was rigged. In victory, he griped he would have won by a bigger margin but for irregularities that didn’t exist.
After Trump lost in 2020, numerous recounts and court cases revealed no widespread fraud that would have changed the election outcome. Trump persisted in his delusions, and too many Republicans bought into the Big Lie, leading to the Stop the Steal movement and the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, one of the darkest days in our country’s history.
A majority of Americans believe Trump says he lost because he “doesn’t like the outcome,” according to a Marist Poll taken for NPR last month. Sadly, 75% of Republicans still say Trump has a legitimate claim that there were “real cases of fraud that changed the results.”
Many Republican-controlled states have passed laws since the 2020 election making it harder for their citizens to exercise their right to vote. Fortunately, Virginia, under Democratic control, moved in the opposite direction, passing much-needed reforms, including no-excuse early voting.
After a tough campaign season with scathing charges and countercharges, turnout in Virginia was higher than in any gubernatorial race since 1997.
A few days before the election, some Youngkin allies tried to float the idea the gubernatorial election was about to be stolen. Asked for proof, they provided none.
Since Republicans captured the top three state elected offices and appeared to win a majority in the House of Delegates, we have not heard a peep from Trump or his followers about election fraud.
Could it be questions of “election integrity” only arise when Republicans lose? Surely not.
Youngkin walked a fine line during his campaign, repeatedly saying he believed President Joe Biden won the election, which he called “certifiably fair.” But Youngkin also called for “audits” of voting machines in the state, even though a statewide audit in March overwhelmingly verified Biden’s 2020 win.
He reportedly talked frequently on the phone with Trump, while keeping the former president at arm’s length. This brilliant strategy kept Trump from attacking Youngkin, which likely would have torpedoed his candidacy.
Now, as all eyes turn to next year’s congressional races, there’s hope voters will trust that election. Asked if they’d trust the results if their candidate did not win, 71% of Americans said they would – 88% of Democrats, 77% of Independents and 53% of Republicans, Marist reported.
A majority of Americans overall also say they will trust the results of the 2024 election even if the candidate they support loses. But the party divide is stark. While 82% of Democrats and 68% of Independents they will trust the result if the other guy wins, and only 33% of Republicans say they will.
The same Virginia electoral system that delivered victories for Democrats in the last four presidential contests has now elected Republicans as governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general and likely has given the GOP control of the House of Delegates.
That should convince the deepest skeptic Virginia’s electoral system does work. Fair elections in the Old Dominion give all voters something to celebrate, regardless of the results.
Bye-bye, Big Lie.
(C) Marsha Mercer 2021. All rights reserved.