Is Joe Biden the legitimate president of the United States?
It seems like a simple question. It should have an obvious answer. But in the months after the 2020 election, Republicans have followed Donald Trump’s lead in casting doubt on his loss. They, along with the former president, say the election was fraudulent, with Trump calling it the “crime of the century” in a speech at the North Carolina GOP convention Saturday.
That’s not only false, it’s dangerous.
This week, 100 U.S. government scholars released a statement warning that our democracy is in peril. In part that’s from hundreds of Republican-driven bills chipping away at crucial voting rights. But it’s also because the president and many in his party have sowed doubt about the integrity of elections.
So last week, we asked members of North Carolina’s Congressional delegation that very basic question: Did each think the 2020 election was fair and legitimate? Here’s what they had to say:
All five Democrats — Reps. Alma Adams, G.K. Butterfield, Kathy Manning, David Price and Deborah Ross — firmly stated the obvious: The election was free and fair, and Joe Biden is a legitimate president.
Some Republicans also were willing to take the clear and correct position on the issue. A spokesperson for U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis pointed to Tillis’ vote to certify the results of the Electoral College in January. “I will not oppose the certification of the Electoral College votes, and I will not embolden politicians in the future to appoint our presidents instead of having the American people duly elect them,” Tillis said at the time.
Sen. Richard Burr’s office also referred to the senator’s previous statement on the issue, in which he said “no evidence of voter fraud has emerged that would warrant overturning the 2020 election.”
Others fell short. Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s office said in an email that Cawthorn stands by his objection to the Electoral College results. Rep. Virginia Foxx’s office pointed to past statements which questioned the integrity of the election, although she acknowledged that Joe Biden was, at the time, the president-elect, emphasizing the need for a smooth and orderly transition of power.
NC-09 Rep. Dan Bishop didn’t directly answer the question about the election, instead saying through a spokesperson that Democratic efforts to expand absentee ballot access last year “crippled state law absentee ballot security measures across the country in the 2020 election.”
Reps. Greg Murphy, David Rouzer, Richard Hudson, Patrick McHenry and Ted Budd did not respond to our question.
That’s troubling, especially now. More than half a year after the election was decided, America is still divided over Trump’s lie that the election was stolen from him. Congressional Republicans still question an election that U.S. officials have deemed the most secure in American history. They continue to allege widespread voter fraud, even though courts have determined there was none. And this week, The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman reported that Trump has told people he expects to be reinstated by August.
No member of Congress should allow such lies to fester. No public servant should stand idly by as the foundation of our democracy is threatened. By the same token, Republicans who have chosen to do what’s right in the face of partisan pressure should be applauded.
But as the president continues to allege election fraud, lawmakers from both parties must continue to affirm that the 2020 election was a fair and legitimate one. Anything short of that is dangerous — it sows distrust in our institutions and fuels insurrection. We’ve seen this happen already on Jan. 6. Are lawmakers willing to risk it happening again?
This question may be politically charged, but it isn’t morally complicated. Now is the time to choose principles over party. Conscience over cowardice. Fact over fiction.