The story is often told about Richard Nixon, understanding fraud may have cost him the 1960 presidential election, magnanimously refusing to pursue the matter for the good of the American people.
It would cause a "constitutional crisis," he said. It would hurt the country in the eyes of the world and "tear the country apart."
The real story is a bit more complicated. Republican officials did proceed with legal filings, particularly about the returns in Illinois and Texas, though the then-vice president distanced himself from the matter. Fraud certainly occurred, especially in Cook County, Illinois (Chicago), but it could never be proven it was enough to change the election.
As the Chicago Tribune observed, "once an election has been stolen in Cook County, it stays stolen."
Nixon, despite his outward magnanimity, remained bitter about John F. Kennedy, the election winner, and his wealthy family for the rest of his life.
Sixty years later, President Donald Trump, as he is entitled to, filed legal charges that the Nov. 3 election had voting irregularities. Sixty legal challenges were made, according to one organization, with the president winning only one. To date, no new challenges are pending, though some appeals are.
As in 1960, fraud certainly occurred. But if it was a mile wide, it also was an inch deep. To date, no fraud even coming close to changing 7 million popular votes has been found. And yes, it would need to change many million fewer votes to overturn the election, but that hasn't been proven either.
On Monday, the Electoral College votes were filed, the returns in each state having been certified, with challenger Joe Biden winning by the same margin Trump won four years ago.
We believe the country will not benefit from the incoming administration over the next four years as it did from the current one — until the global pandemic set in — but America is strong. It has weathered the coronavirus this year, so it can weather an elderly career politician in its top office.
At this point, we would wish for the country, for the sake of all its residents and for the incoming Biden administration that Trump would acknowledge his loss, signal his desire for a peaceful transfer of power and ask his supporters to do the same.
We don't believe that his refusal to do so thus far indicates any kind of constitutional crisis, as many of his perpetually outraged opponents have suggested. But we do believe it is important that he do so.
Trump's judicial efforts, after all, have been stymied not only by judges appointed by Democrats but by ones appointed by Republicans, and by Trump himself.
Even the Supreme Court, with six of nine members nominated by Republican presidents (three by Trump), turned down what the president's team hoped might be a constitutional case brought by Texas on behalf of four states that expanded their mail-in balloting without the consent of their legislators. The belief was that the balloting expansion violated the Constitution's mandate that legislatures set rules for selecting presidential electors.
Two justices — Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas (neither appointed by Trump) — thought the case was worth filing but did not believe the states' results should be invalidated. So, in essence, a unanimous Supreme Court made the call.
Elsewhere, we believe officials like the Republican governors of Georgia and Arizona, two states where votes were disputed, would love to have seen Trump win re-election, and, if having seen a valid dispute over enough ballots to change the result, would have moved heaven and earth to help. But not having seen such an amount of fraud, they rightly did not act.
The president, speaking to Fox News over the weekend, did not want to accept the inevitable.
"We've proven it, but no judge has had the courage, including the Supreme Court, I am so disappointed in them," he said. "No judge, including in the Supreme Court of the United States, has had the courage to allow it to be heard."
With all due respect, we find it difficult to believe a cabal of judges, governors and election officials — many Republicans among them — has united to deny Trump re-election. It just stretches the limits of credulity.
As we have said before, we are for improved election integrity — created best, if possible, by congressional action making federal elections in states more uniform. That way there is no question about one state counting its ballots one way, and for how long, and another doing it another way.
For the present, though, the country must move forward and play the cards it's been dealt. The president, if he believes in the strength of the country as he says he does, should not sit out this hand.