Almost 20 years to the day after it settled one tumultuous presidential election, the Supreme Court did it again.
In 2000, a closely divided high court took action, stopping a recount in Florida and effectively awarding the White House to George W. Bush. In 2020 – just one day short of the Dec. 12 anniversary of the Bush v. Gore decision – a more united court refused to take action, rejecting a lawsuit by Texas aimed at throwing out the election results in four battleground states.
With that, efforts to deny Joe Biden’s election were essentially vanquished. Monday, electors meeting in state capitols are poised to affirm that.
But in this case, unlike two decades ago, the losing candidate and his supporters vow defiance rather than acceptance. Pro-Trump protesters marched on the streets of Washington Saturday, chanting, “Four more years!” One GOP official suggested more drastic action.
Election challenges continue: Trump continues election attack, but without risks to him, experts say
The refusal to acknowledge the election’s outcome will create additional hurdles for Biden when he is inaugurated Jan. 20, already a president assuming office at a time of crises. Besides a pandemic and a roiled economy, Biden will have to deal with this: One-third of Americans in a new Quinnipiac University poll say he didn’t legitimately win the Oval Office, including a stunning 70% of Republicans.
A majority of GOP lawmakers in the House of Representatives signed on to the Texas lawsuit, though even conservative legal scholars called it an outlandish effort to overturn a democratic election because the litigants didn’t like the outcome.
The Democratic majority in the House has been cut to single digits, so those are legislators whose support the Biden administration may well need.
The willingness to dispute the clear results of an election, and the attacks on the election process itself as fraudulent, could undermine the nation’s fundamental faith in the democratic process and the peaceful transfer of power. Some scholars likened the threat to that seen in other countries that embraced authoritarian leaders.
These countries quietly slid into authoritarianism: Should the US be concerned under Trump?
That isn’t to say the 2000 election was a golden moment of national comity. Disgruntled Democrats noted that George W. Bush’s father had appointed two of the Supreme Court justices who ruled on his son’s case and that his brother happened to be governor of Florida, the state in dispute. Al Gore indisputably carried the popular vote.
Even so, 80% of Americans, including 61% of Gore supporters, said in a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll taken the day after the court decision that they would accept Bush as the legitimate president.
Hours after that decisive Supreme Court ruling, Gore conceded the election. “I say to President-elect Bush that what remains of partisan rancor must now be put aside, and may God bless his stewardship of this country,” he said.
That was not Trump’s reaction to this year’s court decision. He cheered on the protesters gathered a few blocks from the White House on Saturday. “Wow!” he tweeted. “Thousands of people forming in Washington (D.C.) for Stop the Steal.” In an interview broadcast Sunday on “Fox & Friends,” he repeated claims of widespread voter fraud that have been unsupported by evidence. “I worry about the country having an illegitimate president, that’s what I worry about,” he said.
“It’s not over,” he said.
Trump refused to say whether he would attend his successor’s inauguration, as is traditional. He has discussed the possibility of holding a campaign-style rally on the day Biden takes the oath of office, NBC News reported. That bit of political counterprogramming could mark the launch of his 2024 campaign.
To be clear, that doesn’t mean he is ready to concede the 2020 election, though none of the dozens of lawsuits he and his allies filed in eight states charging election malfeasance has gotten legal traction. After the Supreme Court rebuke, Texas Republican chair Allen West had another idea. “Perhaps law-abiding states should bond together and form a union of states that will abide by the Constitution,” he said.
In other words, secession.
Sunday, Al Gore called on Trump and his supporters to recognize that the election is over.
“There is no intermediate step between a final Supreme Court decision on a matter of this sort and violent revolution,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And those who talk about continuing the fight after it is over are being disrespectful of American democracy, which is, in Lincoln’s phrase, the last best hope of humankind.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump’s rejection of election diverges from Bush v. Gore path in 2000