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The Death of Journalism: Biden’s not President-Elect

Millions of Americans who voted for Donald Trump remain completely stunned, saddened, and frightened thinking about the prospects of a nation under a Joe Biden presidency. I’m not one of them. Many of them simply cannot accept the possibility that Biden won the election fair and square and swear that it must have been rigged. I don’t agree with that either. Finally, many will do what sore losers do in nearly every election nowadays: refuse to respect and acknowledge the winner, and adopt some childish, petulant “he’s not my president” nonsense (sound familiar?). I’ll do no such thing. Once all investigations, challenges, and legal remedies are exhausted and the election is certified, I will acknowledge the person who is sworn in on January 20 and wish him all the luck in the world.

However, none of that diminishes the alarming problem that makes most – yes, most – of the American media not only an embarrassment nowadays, but a true threat to the very essence of this nation, and certainly the biggest impediment to any of the political harmony that Biden described in his ‘victory’ speech. You see, as of this writing, Joe Biden is most certainly not, as most of the press has dubbed him, the president-elect, and that premature proclamation makes a mockery of our electoral process.

First of all, the popular vote is virtually meaningless. Many people (I’d bet most) don’t even realize that for the first few presidential elections (for George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, etc.), the people didn’t even cast a vote at all. Electors were appointed and they did all of the work. Today, however, well over 100 million Americans cast their vote for president and think that when the networks put a checkmark next to a particular candidate, it’s all said and done.

But here are the facts: before a new president (or reelected president) takes the oath on January 20, Congress has to count the electoral votes officially, on January 6. The votes must arrive to all of Congress by January 3. The Senate’s archivist is responsible for transferring those votes to Congress, and the president of the Senate (the incumbent vice president) must receive them from the states by December 23. December 14 is a particularly crucial day: that’s when the electors meet to cast their vote for president. Typically, all controversies are to be resolved at the state level by December 8. As of this writing, none of that has yet happened.

Also, Trump is contesting the election on various grounds in the following seven states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. If hand recounts or irregularities overturn various combinations of four of those states, Trump would then have the necessary 270 votes to win. Granted, overturning the count in even one state is a tall order, let alone four. But that’s not Trump’s only path to victory. Another is to create enough doubt in the minds of three of those states’ legislatures that do not bind their electors to vote according to that state’s popular vote, namely: Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. If all three allow their electors to vote their conscience, and they decide to vote for Trump, then Trump would only need one of the four remaining states to be overturned by recounts in order to win. Again, it’s an improbable task, but not impossible.

Moreover, there is yet another avenue that may allow Trump to remain president: if there is enough skepticism about the reliability of the election results, U.S. House Members would choose the next president. In our nation’s history, that’s only happened twice – in 1800 and 1824 – so it would not be unprecedented, albeit not very likely. But here’s the twist: although the House is still in Democratic hands, only one House Member per state would be eligible to vote, and because the majority of state delegations are Republican, Trump would probably be the winner in such a scenario.

To those who popped open the champagne bottles when the networks ‘declared’ Biden the winner, you probably don’t have much to worry about: Trump’s several paths to reverse the conventional wisdom are several, but each is a steep uphill battle.

The real point is that it is unbelievably irresponsible for anyone at this point to deem Biden ‘president-elect.’

On Election Night in the year 2000, the networks projected that George W. Bush had won the election, and his main rival, Al Gore, called him to concede. As Bush prepared to deliver his victory speech, Gore called him back and retracted the concession, because in the deciding state, Florida, Bush was up by only a few hundred votes. But those votes were enough to put Bush over the 270 mark. Once Gore retracted his concession and requested recounts, however, the newspapers, TV stations, and politicians themselves did not refer to Bush as president-elect. The nation waited over a month until the final results were official.

Many in the media, including ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in a November 8 interview with South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, rationalized that Gore was only down by a few hundred votes in one state, thereby suggesting that Trump’s claim is far less plausible. That may be so, but where do we draw the line? If you’re down by less than 1000 votes it’s ok to wait before we can call your opponent president-elect? Or 5000, or 10000?  Also, Stephanopoulos is one of several in the press who says there is no evidence of widespread fraud, as if that’s the only criterion for an inaccurate vote count (for example, there are presumably innocent but widespread computer glitches).

As Gov. Noem aptly concluded, if Biden truly wants to unite the nation, he should wait until the process is complete, at which point his victory would be questioned by far fewer voters. And if that happens, I’ll be the first to say: “Congratulations, Mr. President-Elect!” Meanwhile, I say: “Media, shame on you!”

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