Mitch McConnell doesn’t think Donald Trump needs to concede the 2020 election – even days after the race has been called for former Vice President Joe Biden.
“In the United States of America, all legal ballots must be counted. Any illegal ballots must not be counted. The process must be transparent or observable by all sides, and the courts are here to work through concerns,” McConnell said on the Senate floor on Monday. “Our institutions are actually built for this. We have the system in place to consider concerns, and President Trump is 100% within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options.”
Which is an interesting take – especially given that McConnell is perhaps the biggest institutionalist in the Senate, a believer in the “way things are supposed to work” and mindful of the ways in which precedents are set, met and heeded.
So why is McConnell defending Trump’s right to hold out on admitting defeat despite the total and complete lack of evidence of any sort of widespread voter fraud? Well, politics.
See, what McConnell is solely focused on at this point are the two Senate runoffs in Georgia set for January 5. Those two races – one between Sen. David Perdue (R) and Jon Ossoff (D), the other between Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) and Raphael Warnock (D) – will almost certainly decide control of the Senate majority in the coming Congress.
Democrats appear to have netted a single seat in the 2020 election – far below the predictions from most independent political observers. That means that in order to retake the Senate majority, they need to win both Georgia seats. Which isn’t entirely out of the realm of possibility, given that Biden currently leads in the state.
McConnell, who is the preeminent political strategist in his party, knows all of this. He knows that these races won’t be walkovers – and that Georgia has fundamentally changed in terms of its politics over the past decade or so. (Remember that even before Biden’s seeming victory in Georgia, Democrat Stacey Abrams came within a hairsbreadth of beating Republican Brian Kemp in the 2018 Georgia governor’s race.)
What McConnell also knows is that the runoffs in Georgia are very likely to be a) significantly lower turnout affairs than the November presidential election and, therefore b) won by the party better able to turn out its base.
And in Georgia, the Republican base is as pro-Trump as you can get. Kemp was elected governor in 2018 as a sort of Trump acolyte – and even during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, he took his cues from the President about how to handle (and not) the spreading virus. The 2020 election saw the rise of Marjorie Taylor Greene, the now-Congresswoman-elect from Georgia’s 14th district. Greene made a national name for herself by publicly supporting the QAnon conspiracy movement as well as making a series of xenophobic, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic comments.
Rather than being shunned by Georgia’s elected officials for her views, Greene became a cause célèbre. Loeffler, who was fighting with Rep. Doug Collins for Republican votes in the lead-up to the all-party primary last Tuesday, touted an endorsement from Greene in the final days of the race: “I’m so proud to have this strong, conservative fighter on Team Kelly!” the senator tweeted, accompanied by a picture of the two women together.
Loeffler also said that she could think of nothing on which she disagreed with President Donald Trump. Pressed about whether that meant she agreed with lewd and misogynistic comments Trump made on an “Access Hollywood” video that was released just prior to the 2016 election, Loeffler responded: “I’m sorry. I’m not familiar with that.” Which, uh, no.
The point here is that there is simply no way to be too pro-Trump for the Republican base in Georgia. And that includes supporting the President’s ongoing attempts to suggest that he actually won the election – disproven by a little something called “fact” – and that Democrats and the media are, somehow, cheating him out of that victory.
McConnell, then, isn’t going to go anywhere near the idea of whether Trump should concede. He knows that the Trump base thinks that the President should fight and fight and fight – and he isn’t going to allow there to be ANY space between the President and Senate Republicans. Because that might cut into the base’s enthusiasm to turn out and vote for Loeffler and Perdue. And any diminution in that base enthusiasm could mean defeats. And that would mean that McConnell isn’t the Senate majority leader anymore.
It’s actually all pretty simple. And all about raw political calculation.