President Trump’s premature declaration of victory against Joe Biden and false claims of widespread voter fraud by Democrats constitute a dangerous assault on a fundamental principle upon which our nation was founded: the right of the American people to elect our leaders.
The truth is that the president’s baseless threats and lawsuits to stop the counting of mail-in votes are desperate attempts to subvert the values shared by Americans throughout our history. His actions are, to put it bluntly, un-American.
Long after our nation’s founding, the right to vote was denied to millions of Americans. Black people had no rights as slaves and were denied voting rights in many parts of the country for another 100 years after Emancipation. Women were denied the vote until 1920. And other groups, including Native Americans, were excluded from voting for many years as well.
Unfortunately and disgracefully, Republicans in many parts of the country want to turn back the clock and are continuing to engage in voter suppression today — with President Trump taking the lead as the suppressor in chief in a frantic effort to stop mail-in votes in several states from being counted. Why? Because many Democrats voted by mail.
Right now a giant question mark hangs over our nation’s future. Will Trump be inaugurated for a second term on Jan. 20 or will former Vice President Biden become president on that day? The only honest answer is that right now we just don’t know.
But here is a critically important point: There is nothing underhanded, corrupt or fraudulent about the delay in counting votes — no matter how many times Trump falsely says there is.
In a year when we’ve seen record mail-in voting by millions of Americans legitimately fearful of gathering in large crowds because of the coronavirus pandemic, the counting of votes is taking longer than usual. That’s no surprise. What’s important is not how fast votes are counted, but that every legal vote is counted. And if recounts are needed, recounts should be held.
As Democratic presidential nominee Vice President Al Gore’s campaign manager in 2000, I have unique experience with vote counts and recounts. In the presidential election that year George W. Bush was not declared the winner until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Dec. 12 that a recount of votes in Florida had to stop.
Hopefully, it won’t take that long to settle the presidential race this year.
Back in 2000 as today, I wanted the Democratic presidential candidate to win. But even more, I have always wanted democracy to win. And I don’t want any American — regardless of political party — to have his or her vote discounted if that vote was cast by the legal deadline and postmarked by Election Day.
Keep in mind that members of our military — patriotic Americans willing to risk their lives to defend our nation and our right to vote — vote by mail from foreign lands. It would be the height of hypocrisy to deny them the right to vote because they couldn’t cast ballots in person in the U.S.
Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali famously said: “Don’t count the days; make the days count.” In the boxing ring, Ali was patient, diligent, and absolutely thorough in getting the job done and winning the fight. In these tumultuous days following Election Day this week, all of us in the political ring would be wise to apply these lessons from the Greatest of All Time.
Let’s be patient, diligent, and absolutely thorough in making sure we count every vote, so that every one of our votes counts. The greatest voter turnout in American history demands nothing less.
Around the country, Democratic, Republican and unaffiliated state election officials and volunteer workers are making sure that mail-in ballots are being counted. This, my fellow Americans, is a win for our democracy. It’s a win for everyone who voted.
But our democratic system doesn’t truly win until we identify a winner of the presidential election and other elections that still remain undecided.
I know from my long experience in politics that counting ballots for days or even weeks after Election Day is entirely normal. It takes time and it should. In close elections like the Trump-Biden presidential race, it always takes longer to count the ballots because we must make sure the results are correct and complete.
There are many instances — too numerous to count — of elections at the local, state and congressional level taking weeks to be resolved due to close votes. And to state the obvious, before the age of modern communications there was no way of knowing on election night or for long afterward who won races.
To paraphrase the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — who devoted his life to fighting the suppression of voting rights — our votes in this election are, in a sense, cashing a check.
Dr. King said: “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir …. And we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.”
You all know who I hope will win this presidential election and you know why. But when the dust settles on the election of 2020, I will be proud that Americans stood up and spoke out.
As the late great civil rights icon, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., said, we cast our ballots in record numbers to participate in and reinforce our great American democracy.
Dr. King’s crusade for voting rights did not end until he was assassinated. Rep. Lewis was nearly beaten to death fighting for voting rights and civil rights. In the name of these great men and the many brave Americans who fought for the right to vote to be extended to us all — regardless of race, gender or any other factor — we must resist President Trump’s illegitimate efforts to stop the counting of our votes. The future of our democracy depends on it.
Veteran political strategist Donna Brazile joined Fox News Channel as a contributor in 2019. She’s the founder and director of Brazile & Associates LLC, a general consulting, grassroots advocacy, and training firm based in Washington, DC.