In 2020, it became evident that Donald Trump would not accept defeat long before the first ballot was cast. “The only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged,” he told his supporters.
Now, Trump’s preferred candidates in key swing states won’t promise to accept the 2022 election results, The New York Times reported Sunday. Among them is Rep. Ted Budd, who Trump has endorsed in North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race.
A campaign spokesperson declined to tell The New York Times whether Budd would uphold the state’s results, and apparently made the unsubstantiated claim that Budd’s opponent, Cheri Beasley, might try to disenfranchise voters. A similar story published by The Washington Post listed Budd as one of 12 Republican nominees who either refused to commit to accepting the outcome of their elections or declined to respond altogether. The News & Observer didn’t get a straight answer, either.
That’s alarming. Even in the best case scenario, it provokes an ugly distrust in our elections, and discourages people from participating at all.
“For people ahead of time to set up the myth that there’s going to be fraud, that the election is going to be stolen, even before voting has started, is totally irresponsible,” Jennifer Roberts, a former Charlotte mayor, told the Editorial Board Monday.
Roberts and former state Supreme Court justice Bob Orr are leading the Carter Center’s bipartisan effort to restore public trust in the elections process. The Carter Center, a nonprofit organization founded by former President Jimmy Carter, found that purple states like North Carolina are more likely to experience disruption or concern about the integrity of elections, Roberts said.
The Carter Center is asking candidates to pledge their commitment to the peaceful transfer of power and other core democratic principles. Many current and former elected officials have signed the pledge, including two former North Carolina governors and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who Trump famously encouraged to overturn his state’s election results. Roberts said the group plans to ask Budd to sign the pledge in the near future.
“I think it is disappointing that we have to ask the question in the first place,” Roberts said. “This is something that, until 2020, I think most Americans took for granted as a basic tenet of democracy.”
It’s not entirely surprising that Budd would cast doubt on the 2022 election, because he still seems reluctant to embrace Trump’s 2020 loss. As a congressman, Budd objected to the certification of the Electoral College results and spent months echoing Trump’s false claims of voter fraud. Budd did finally admit last year that Joe Biden is, in fact, the legitimate president, but later claimed those comments had been “taken out of context.” He has since reiterated his “tremendous constitutional concerns about how the election of 2020 happened.”
Budd’s campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment from the Editorial Board. Representatives for Bo Hines, another Trump-backed election denier running in North Carolina’s competitive 13th Congressional District, also did not respond when asked if Hines would support the upcoming election’s results. Hines recently scrubbed Trump’s name and endorsement from his website and hung up on a New York Times reporter who asked whether he planned to appear at Trump’s rally in Wilmington this weekend.
Republicans, whether they agree with it or not, are feeding the stolen election narrative because it wins them votes, and it’s dangerous. We know what can happen when a legitimate election is dismissed as “stolen” or “rigged,” and yet we’re staring at the very same threat again.
Donald Trump and his acolytes seem to believe that ascendance to public office is something they are owed, and the only acceptable outcome of an election is the one in which they win. That, coupled with their outright refusal to commit to the peaceful transfer of power, should be disqualifying to any voter who believes that democracy matters.
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What is the Editorial Board?
The Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News & Observer editorial boards combined in 2019 to provide fuller and more diverse North Carolina opinion content to our readers. The editorial board operates independently from the newsrooms in Charlotte and Raleigh and does not influence the work of the reporting and editing staffs. The combined board is led by N.C. Opinion Editor Peter St. Onge, who is joined in Raleigh by deputy Opinion editor Ned Barnett and opinion writer Sara Pequeño and in Charlotte by Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Kevin Siers and opinion writer Paige Masten. Board members also include McClatchy Vice President of Local News Robyn Tomlin, Observer editor Rana Cash, News & Observer editor Bill Church and longtime News & Observer columnist Barry Saunders. For questions about the board or our editorials, email [email protected].