Trump’s tantrum could do real harm

Early Returns

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President Donald Trump is currently harming the United States by way of an extended tantrum over losing the election. It's really that simple.

For the details, read Melody Barnes and Kathryn Dunn Tenpas at the Washington Post. As they explain, thanks to Trump's refusal to accept that he lost, Emily Murphy at the General Services Administration is still refusing to sign the paperwork that would allow the transition process to begin:

Murphy's reluctance denies Biden's incoming White House aides critical resources: additional funding to pay for transition expenses (e.g., salaries, supplies, travel), the acquisition of additional office space, advancing the vetting of potential nominees through the FBI and, perhaps most important, access to the civil servants who have prepared extensive reports in preparation for this very moment. The ability to interview outgoing appointees as well as civil servants is fundamental to the successful transfer of power.

The delayed transition, especially if it goes on any longer, will cause all sorts of problems. But the most serious situation right now is the pandemic, with the incoming Biden team unable so far to even make contact with the outgoing Trump people. Make no mistake: This could cost lives.

A week ago, Trump's reluctance to admit he had lost was unfortunate, but a few days wasn't going to make much difference. It's been nine days now since media outlets declared that Joe Biden was president-elect, and more than that since it was obvious to everyone that he had won. By now, the media declarations are irrelevant; while there are still a lot of votes to be counted in some areas, there aren't many in the close states — not nearly enough to change the results even if every remaining ballot went for Trump. Nor do the president's lawsuits have any realistic chance of eliminating Biden's lead, and not just because they're more frivolous than serious; the truth is that even if he won in court he simply isn't challenging enough votes to give him a second term.

Nor should we take seriously Trump's wild accusations of fraud and other misconduct, which his lawyers aren't willing to repeat in the court room — and which no one on the Trump team can provide any evidence for, mainly because none exists. Or his implausible claim that the real lawsuits are the ones he's about to file, presumably just after we get his tax returns and his health-care plan. Whether Trump wants to admit it or not, he lost. End of story.

Here's the thing: No one is telling Trump to stop filing lawsuits. He's also within his rights to refuse to concede. But refusing to allow the transition to proceed is neither a legal strategy — he would forfeit none of his rights if the GSA moved ahead — nor a political one, given that most people will have no idea that the transition has moved to the next stage. Even if Trump's challenges were suddenly successful in enough states to flip the outcome (they won't be, but just for argument's sake), then the transition could be cancelled and no harm will have been done. In other words, this isn't a strategy; it's a tantrum. One that puts the nation in danger.

1. William Adler on Trump and Grover Cleveland.

2. Matthew Green and Douglas Harris at Mischiefs of Faction on the House Democratic leadership.

3. Norm Ornstein offers suggestions for Biden's first days in office.

4. Scott Lemieux on Justice Samuel Alito.

5. Jon Ralston on Trump's attempts to overturn what Nevada's voters decided.

6. Michelle Goldberg on the obstacles to Trump's continuing political relevance.

7. Harry Enten on the House elections.

8. And my Bloomberg Opinion colleague Virginia Postrel on Trumpism.

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