Should Trump Concede? Yes | Opinion

Republicans, including the president, should be focused on opposing Democratic radicalism and winning future elections—not half-baked conspiracy theories.

It's not a question of being a good loser. And President Donald Trump and his supporters are entitled to sore feelings about the way Democrats, the mainstream media, social media oligarchs and the nation's political and intelligence establishment have all treated him for the last four years, as they did their best to undermine and sabotage his presidency.

But Trump and his supporters should be thinking about the future, not the past.

That's why he should concede the 2020 presidential election and allow the country to get on with the business of transitioning to a new administration.

It doesn't mean he shouldn't allow challenges to the results, where his representatives can bring forward proof, rather than just loose talk or assertions of widespread or massive election fraud, to continue. Nor does it mean that his legal team—whose rambling and bizarre 90-minute presser on November 19 did more to alienate those who might be persuaded to think the election results might not be entirely legitimate than to persuade them—must give up their investigations, such as they are.

But it does mean that if Donald Trump is serious about remaining the head of the Republican Party or to run again in 2024, he must not allow the GOP to be dragged down a conspiratorial rabbit hole. The Republican Party is still Trump's to command. But if, due to his anger and bitterness over his loss, he uses that power to distract the GOP from its true priorities in the coming weeks, it will be disastrous.

Republicans are right to worry about what a President Joe Biden will do, as he is pushed leftward by a Democratic Party whose grassroots activists and whose most popular figures are radical ideologues. But despite the apocalyptic rhetoric thrown about by many conservatives in the campaign, history won't end on January 21. Republicans may have conceived of the vote as another "Flight 93" moment, in which, as in 2016, the consequences of defeat would be an unthinkable disaster. But the struggle to save the country from the Left won't end in a flaming crash that will consume us all on the day that Trump leaves office.

To the contrary, that struggle will go on. And, despite hard feelings about the way Trump has been treated and the insufferable hypocrisy of the Democrats and their media cheering section, the war isn't yet lost.

The GOP needs to be concentrating right now on something more important than venting resentment: for example, holding the Senate by prevailing in two eminently winnable Georgia runoffs against flawed Democratic opponents.

If they do—and a fully present Donald Trump campaigning hard for Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler is an essential part of that scenario—that will ensure that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will be able to prevent Biden's party from enacting any of their nightmare scenario of far-left "reforms." Right now, stopping them from ending the filibuster, packing the Supreme Court with liberals, adding states to the union to create more Democratic senators or enacting any of the myriad far-left "progressive" legislation Democrats now routinely float, is the ball that Republicans must keep their eyes fixed upon.

They also need to prepare to use their gains in the House of Representatives to make Speaker Nancy Pelosi's life miserable and to put themselves in position to take back the lower body in 2022, when an electorate that will have soured on Biden and the Democrats is prepared to mete out the usual midterm punishment to incumbent administrations.

But if, instead, the GOP is focused entirely on pretending, in the words of his attorney Rudy Giuliani, that Trump won the election by a landslide and that Biden's Electoral College victory, or his nearly six million popular vote advantage is the result of the most massive conspiracy against American democracy since Vladimir Putin stole the presidency from Hillary Clinton, none of that will happen.

Of course, Putin didn't steal the 2016 election. And given the complicity of so many Democrats and their media lapdogs—as well as the Obama administration, which sought to hobble Trump as it left office with baseless investigations about collusion—in perpetuating that canard and plunging the country into three years of lies about conspiracy theories, many Republicans think they are now entitled to try to delegitimize Biden's victory the same way Democrats did for Trump.

The Democrats are lying when they pretend that there is no such thing as voting fraud or cheating. But asking Americans to believe that the entire election—including the many notable down-ballot GOP victories—was a diabolical foreign plot that turned a Trump "landslide" into a decisive Biden victory is not credible.

President Donald Trump at the White House
President Donald Trump at the White House Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

That Giuliani's talk at the November 19 presser of searching for the "truth" was turned into a parody by the ironic spectacle of his hair dye running down the sides of his face is not the issue. The issue is that the protestations of Giuliani, Jenna Ellis and the since-disavowed Sidney Powell, that proof will be forthcoming to prove the most amazing crime in American history sounds very much like the sort of nonsense we heard from Rep. Adam Schiff and countless others on CNN and MSNBC, as they endlessly promised that evidence would soon prove the preposterous notion that Trump was a clandestine Russian agent. Republicans ought to know that the damage done by teasing the public with those kinds of baseless allegations is deeply irresponsible.

Giuliani's embarrassing act appealed to those in the GOP base who are ready to swallow any tall tale if it wishes away the fact that a majority of Americans so disliked Trump, or were so tired of him, that they voted for an unimpressive alternative in Biden.

Yet if Trump's mission is to continue fighting for the issues and the citizens he championed in office, he needs to put the country out of its misery and prepare to move on in order to give himself and the GOP a chance to succeed in the future.

The Democrats' Russia collusion myths undermined the norms of democracy, as well as national security, by casting a shadow over Trump's foreign policy agenda. But stalling on concession is now doing much the same thing.

As conservative legal experts like Andrew McCarthy have made clear, none of the avenues the Trump team is pursuing will change the outcome of the election. That's incredibly frustrating to the nearly 74 million Americans who voted for Trump. Moreover, a change of only 45,000 votes in Wisconsin, Georgia and Arizona would have given all three of those states to Trump and created a 269 to 269 Electoral College tie—which may well have led to a vote by the House of Representatives to re-elect the president. But his legal team's loose talk of a vast conspiracy to flip millions of votes to Biden from Trump by a software company won't make that happen.

Giving up on 2020 isn't a betrayal of Trump voters. Nor would it be a case of Republicans once again being conned into behaving like docile losers, in the spirit of John McCain and Mitt Romney's all-too-gentlemanly campaigns.

To the contrary, it would merely be the first step on the road back to power for Republicans, who can look forward to taking advantage of Biden's inevitable left-wing follies. By not conceding and thereby giving the Democrats an excuse about sabotaging their presidential transition, Trump and the GOP will stand accused of violating democratic norms and undermining the country's stability and national security (as the similar delay in 2000 demonstrated). That will not merely hurt them in the crucial Georgia Senate runoffs, but it will also make Giuliani's ongoing conspiracy-mongering, rather than the likely stumbles of a Biden administration, the main story of 2021.

In order to win victories down the road that will help preserve the values Republicans cherish, Trump must acknowledge reality. Doing so could lay the foundation for a highly effective stance in which he can be his party's—and his voters'—tribune, calling Biden to account for his blunders and preparing the way for a Grover Cleveland-style return to the White House in 2024.

But such a reversal of fortune could be derailed if Trump drags the country through the mud over the next two months, as his defenders are forced to fall back on increasingly desperate scenarios to explain their refusal to accept the fact that, like it or not, Biden won.

Trump knows that were it not for the coronavirus pandemic, he likely would have won. That ought to encourage him to look ahead, rather than behind. A newly populist Republican Party that has been transformed and invigorated by Trump's ability to mobilize working-class voters should be doing the same. But the longer both the president and his party remain trapped in a conspiracy scenario, the more likely they are to paint themselves into a corner from which there is no escape.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS.org, a columnist for the New York Post and a senior contributor for The Federalist. Follow him on Twitter: @jonathans_tobin.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.