Accept the Results, Joe, and Save Us from Chaos, Amen
Joe, I’m writing to ask a favor. Don’t be a bum, a palooka. If you lose the election, lose it graciously. Don’t drag a damaged America through a long fight designed to cripple the next Trump term, the way Democrats did in 2016. Those same voices are gonna want you to never concede, to “sue ’til it’s Blue” but you gotta do the right thing. Don’t be the guy to wreck America.
While two months can change a lot, it doesn’t look like November 3 is gonna be your night, kid. So far you got nothing to offer but you’re Not Trump, and because I know you play some poker, that’s stretching a pair of twos too far. Pennsylvania new voter registrations added 150,000 more Republicans than Democrats. Trump is beating you on Latino outreach, Joe, and owns the Cuban vote (as well the formidable Jewish vote) in crucial Florida. A pollster on our podcast believes the “shy Trump voter” effect is even stronger today than in 2016.
I’ve seen it myself. I know the way many Trader Joe Americans noodle around when they want to see if it’s OK to talk about Trump. They’ve done well in the economy. They’ve noticed the wars have tapered down. Once they open up, they say they’re afraid you’ll lose control to the progressives nipping at the party’s heals. When Elizabeth Warren childishly sneaks in a pro-BLM message during your convention, they don’t see the justice they titularly support, they see chaos. And the looting they roll their eyes over happening in New York is now in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Swing states, Joe, on literal fire under Democratic gubernatorial leadership.
I know you are counting on the left behind, out of work Americans without 401ks as your people, but Joe, they aren’t. Those folks are Trump’s base. They don’t blame him, they think he fights for them. You and I can have a lo-carb beer alongside a little Maalox, or maybe just some nice Jell-O, after you retire and try to make sense of that, but you can’t say it ain’t so, Joe.
So whattaya got? Your party cried wolf more times than Mrs. Blitzer. Russiagate was a lie built on falsified FISA documents, sleazy CIA-aligned operatives, and paid-for propaganda. Impeachment failed. None of that screams “trust me.” Large numbers of voters don’t blame Trump for COVID, and statistics show the worst economic damage to individual wallets has been done by Democratic governors willing to act against their own citizens to politically damage Trump. A Democratic governor keeps kids from school and you want the parents to blame Trump? Your party Goebbels’ are down to whimpering about violations of the Hatch Act most non-Beltway American know nothing of and care less about, and the Post Office.
The Post Office, Joe? That’s your big talking point two months out? You sound like Jan Brady trying to snitch on her brothers. Seriously, enough with the post office. The USPS handles 472.1 million mailpieces a day. There are only 153 million registered voters in the U.S., and typically only about 60 percent of them even bother to vote. You still get your paper Lands End catalog; handling the ballots is nothing.
You aren’t the only candidate using the Not Trump strategy. Your real opponent is Stay Home; that’s where a lot of the Never Trumpers may end up. Last election 42 percent of eligible voters stayed home and likely cost Hillary the election; registered voters who didn’t vote were more Democratic-leaning than the registered voters who turned out. In 2020 most of your younger “Democrats” aren’t. They hate Trump more than they hate you, but they’re not part of your party. They’d really like a third party, for change, but until then they’ve made it pretty clear they won’t vote for crappy candidates like you (or Hillary) just because Rachel Maddow scolds them. They told you all, twice, they wanted Bernie and the party stiffed them.
More? You didn’t get any post-convention bounce, not even with both Obamas. Nice try with Kamala, by the way, but the only people who vote based on the VP choice want you dead, Joe. And talk about a plan backfiring, research suggests the more Democrats message democracy is dead and Trump is going to win by cheating no matter what, the lower Democratic turnout will be. That’s on top of recent polls suggesting voter enthusiasm (which drives turnout) for you lags Trump in key battleground states. And you have to privately admit, Trump’s theme about you — Joe sent your jobs to China and your sons to war — cuts pretty deep across those all-important Midwestern states.
And that brings me to the favor I’m asking for. If you really lose, concede. Thank everyone, promise Kamala will be back fighting in 2024, and affirm the system worked. Don’t gin up a Konstitutional Krisis. If you really really really have unambiguous proof of fraud, lay it all out in one splash, no weeks of leaks and hearings, and make sure it is clear enough all but the most committed ideologues have to admit you are right. You will save America. Because if the message is “burn it down” people just might.
Everybody sees instead what those around you are planning. Even you warned Trump will steal the election. Rep. James Clyburn said he believes the president “plans to install himself in some kind of emergency way to continue to hold onto office.” Hillary dictated you should not concede under any circumstances because “eventually I do believe he will win.” Her strategy for you is a lengthy legal battle after the election, Sue ’Til Blue which envisions November 3 as only an opening act, followed by lengthy counts and recounts of mail-in ballots, followed by court challenges, all in hope of shifting public opinion toward not accepting the election.
Hillary made a good run at that four years ago, convincing a fair number of people her popular vote win meant the Electoral College didn’t count. But in the end she failed, Trump took office, and America slipped deeper into division. You’ve sat with Hils after a couple of glasses of white wine, Joe. She really believes she won, doesn’t she? But you and I know that’s some Third World trip, not paying attention to elections whose results you don’t like.
The poster child for being a Good Loser, Al Gore, is teeing it up for you as well. Gore believes the military will eventually have to remove Trump from office. That was the headline. But pay attention to Gore’s whole statement, the part when he said “there’s no intermediate step between a Supreme Court decision and violent revolution. You can always explore the option of dragging something out, tearing the country apart, mobilizing partisans against one another in the streets, but it is not a wise course for our country.” Gore of course is talking about Trump doing that, but I’m talking about you, Joe.
America can’t handle it so please don’t bring it on us. Don’t listen to the voices saying you have to save democracy by refusing to accept the election results. We are so divided that you refusing to go along with the vote, fanning the flames by claiming the popular vote is controlling, insisting racism lost you the election or otherwise playing to the hate could set off something that will be hard to control. It could ruin whatever confidence Americans have left in our system, flawed as it may be. You won’t inspire people, you will inflame them. Your opponent will fight a nasty campaign. Fight hard back. But when it is over, don’t fake losing, own losing. The critical tool for ending of democracy is people’s conditioned readiness to believe it does not work anymore.
Joe, we’re both old enough to love the movie On the Waterfront, starring Marlon Brando at his most perfect. You remember the key scene, in the car with his mobster brother. Brando, a prize fighter who could have gone all the way, took a fall to make the mob money betting against him. Brando realizes giving in, doing what the dark forces wanted him to do even when he knew it was so wrong, ruined him. He made some money, sure. But he knew he was a bum, a palooka, when he maybe could’ve had class, could have been somebody.
Leave Hillary and Stacey Abrams in the history books as bitter losers. Fight your fight, Joe, and then do the right thing for yourself, your legacy, for America.
Peter Van Buren, a 24-year State Department veteran, is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan, and Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the 99 Percent.