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Mangino column: ‘If you count the legal votes, I win’

Matthew T. Mangino
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Miami News Record

Columns share an author's personal perspective.

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“If you count the legal votes, I win.” That is what the President of the United States said at a press conference in the White House, roughly 48 hours after the polls closed.

What are legal votes? The “late” and “illegal” votes from Philadelphia, about which the president complained, were postmarked by Election Day, making them valid. In Pennsylvania, the Republican-led state legislature wouldn’t allow poll workers to start counting mail-in ballots until Election Day. So now, they’re being counted and the president doesn’t like the result.

Trump’s campaign went to court on the afternoon of Nov. 5 asking a federal judge to order election officials to stop counting ballots because election officials in Philadelphia were ignoring a state court order giving election observers a closer view of ballot counting.

U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond denied the request, urging the two sides to work it out. Diamond suggested each party be allowed 60 observers inside a hall at a downtown convention center where the final ballots are being tallied.

According to NPR, Diamond, an appointee of President George W. Bush, chastened the lawyers as both sides bickered about who was following the rules and reminded them they are officers of the court. “Really, can’t we be responsible adults here and reach an agreement?” the judge asked. “The whole thing could (soon) be moot.”

The judge’s crack about responsible adults seems to hit at the heart of the issue. President Donald Trump has demonstrated time and time again that he is anything but a responsible adult.

After the president’s dreadful remarks on the evening of Nov. 5, Tom Ridge the former governor of Pennsylvania, and the first secretary of Homeland Security tweeted, “With his remarks from the White House tonight, the President disrespected every single American who figured out a way to safely vote amid a pandemic that has taken 235,000 lives. Not to mention those who are dutifully counting that vote. Absolutely shameful. Yet so predictable.”

A Group of 19 former Republican-nominated U.S. attorneys spoke out against the president’s unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, saying “Unfounded allegations of fraud and threats to initiate litigation aimed at stopping the vote count are clearly inappropriate and have the potential to undermine the rule of law as it applies to our electoral process.”

The group of former federal prosecutors warned that America’s “very legitimacy as a nation of laws, not men, depends on getting this right.”

As President Trump’s loss becomes apparent, all he can do is offer up a diatribe of half-truths, falsehoods and deceit. There is no legal or constitutional requirement that the loser of a presidential election concede. However, many have with dignity, magnanimity and grace.

The tradition began with a simple telegram William Jennings Bryan sent to William McKinley, two days after the 1896 election. Bryan wrote, “I hasten to extend my congratulations. We have submitted the issue to the American people and their will is law.”

Richard Nixon, who lost an extremely close race to John F. Kennedy in 1960, said after the election, “I have great faith that our people, Republicans, Democrats alike, will unite behind our next president.”

Maybe the most dramatic concession in U.S. history was in 2000, part of a tumultuous post-election struggle that lasted over 35 days. After a remarkably close election, Gore conceded to George W. Bush - only to call him back and retract the concession. Gore contested the election results in Florida and a recount began.

The legal battle ended in the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against Gore. According to Newsweek, on Dec. 13, 2000, Gore conceded a second time saying, "I accept the finality of this outcome ... Tonight, for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession."

In fact, Trump’s opponent four years ago, Hillary Clinton, who won the popular vote and lost in the Electoral College said, “Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power. We don't just respect that. We cherish it.”

Don’t expect the same in 2020.

Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010” was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.