Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s long delay in recognizing President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the Nov. 3 election will have significant negative consequences for the country, said journalist John Dickerson.
Dickerson, a correspondent for “60 Minutes,” wrote a book on the presidency this year, titled “The Hardest Job in the World,” which looks at the history of and expectations for the office. Dickerson said America’s process for picking presidents is badly broken.
And on the day that McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader, finally recognized Biden’s win, Dickerson told Yahoo News that the weeks of waiting for one of the most powerful figures in the GOP to do so has inflicted “real damage.”
“Allowing something that is not true to soak in for five weeks has an irrevocable cost. You can’t unwind that,” Dickerson said on “The Long Game,” a Yahoo News podcast. “Mitch McConnell saying that Joe Biden is the president-elect … does not shorten the distance that the horse … got out of the barn.
“It’s just not going to undo the millions of people who now think the election was stolen,” he said. “And that undermines democracy going forward; it puts a lot of negative and dangerous energy in the political system, and it makes Donald Trump a constant player because he will be the wronged party. … It creates and embeds a distraction in the system going forward, and that doesn’t help anybody.”
Dickerson’s book argues that American voters, and the media, have come to expect too much from whomever is president, and that the way we pick presidents rewards the exact opposite of the behaviors needed to do the job well.
“We encourage impulsive, winner-take-all displays of momentary flash to win a job that requires restraint, deliberation and cooperation,” he wrote.
Americans, he added, have gone too far in seeking always to send an outsider to Washington to disrupt the status quo. “Our presidential candidates go through no apprenticeship process to test whether they have governing qualities. … We’re not simply judging a book by its cover, we’re judging a bomb-defusing manual by its cover.”
In the updated epilogue that Dickerson is writing for the paperback edition, he is grappling with the ways that Trump’s anti-democratic attempts to overturn the election results have amplified the spread of disinformation and conspiracy theories, which has become one of America’s greatest challenges.
“Elections are supposed to fix a lot of what we saw over the year 2020, which was the ideas of facts, reason and tradition were kind of all up for grabs. And the election is basically supposed to say: ‘We’ve got clarity — the American people, for whatever reason, picked this one person over that one person, and you can’t dispute it.’
“So if that’s up for grabs and everything is up for grabs, then how do you build common consensus to go forward?” Dickerson said.
“That is the big challenge for the presidency: How do you operate in such an environment, and how do you build back the power of ideas that will keep people from doing what’s in their narrow immediate self-interest?”
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