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Trump’s Refusal to Concede – The New York Times

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The political scientist Brendan Nyhan has often responded to events during the Trump presidency by asking a question: What would you say if you saw it in another country?

Let’s try that exercise now. Imagine that a president of another country lost an election and refused to concede defeat. Instead, he lied about the vote count. He then filed lawsuits to have ballots thrown out, put pressure on other officials to back him up and used the power of government to prevent a transition of power from starting.

How would you describe this behavior? It’s certainly anti-democratic. It is an attempt to overrule the will of the people, ignore a country’s laws and illegitimately grab political power.

President Trump’s efforts will probably fail, but they are unlike anything that living Americans have experienced. “What we have seen in the last week from the president more closely resembles the tactics of the kind of authoritarian leaders we follow,” Michael Abramowitz, the president of Freedom House, which tracks democracy, told The Times. “I never would have imagined seeing something like this in America.”

It is “one of the gravest threats to democracy” the country has faced, Ryan Enos, a Harvard social scientist, wrote yesterday. He added in an email, “The result is crystal clear and, yet, the incumbent is creating ambiguity by baseless claims.”

I asked political scientists and historians for analogies, and they offered a few. The ruling party in Mexico probably reversed the true election result in 1988, as did ruling parties in Zimbabwe in 2002, Iran in 2009 and maybe Russia in 1996, Steven Levitsky, a co-author of “How Democracies Die,” told me. The details were different — the fraud sometimes occurred before the results were announced — but all were cases of politicians stealing an election mostly without military force.

The closest U.S. comparisons are more than a century old. The Federalist Party considered depriving Thomas Jefferson of the presidency in 1800 and used the courts to weaken him. During Reconstruction, parts of the South overturned election results, sometimes through violence. And of course multiple states responded to Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 victory by seceding from the union. (Thomas Edsall’s latest Times column has more details on each of these.)

What happens next? Republican officials seem to be trying to finesse the situation. They want to avoid angering Trump, who remains popular with Republican voters, as Liam Donovan, a party strategist, notes. That helps explain why most Republican officials have refused to recognize Joe Biden as the president-elect and have made vaguely supportive comments about Trump’s false claims.

But this support seems halfhearted. Few Republicans are taking their own steps to reverse the election result.

The two crucial next steps are the certification of state election results and the appointment of Electoral College voters, as Andrew Prokop of Vox explains. Both must happen by mid-December. If Republican officials in some states interfere — say, by trying to appoint electors who ignore the election results and vote for Trump in states he lost — it will be a sign that his attempt to undo the election has reached a more serious stage.

Eventually, Republican officials will be forced to make a choice, The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent writes — between breaking with Trump and breaking with democracy. Democracy seems much more likely to prevail, but in a damaged state. “Millions of his supporters,” my colleague Maggie Haberman writes, “will believe what he says.”

Max Fisher, another colleague, offered the following on Twitter yesterday:

Snout Science: Researchers have developed facial recognition for bears, identifying them through features including their eyes, nose tip and ears. Ecologists hope the technology will help them keep track of the size and activity of bear populations.

From Opinion: It’s time for the N.C.A.A. to pay college athletes, argues John Thompson Jr., Georgetown University’s former basketball coach, in an excerpt from his posthumous autobiography.

Lives Lived: David Toole learned to dance expressively long after his legs were amputated. He performed with various troupes and achieved global renown as a featured dancer in the opening ceremony of the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. He died at 56.

Supreme, a streetwear company, is so popular that fans wait hours in line to buy its gear, like T-shirts stamped with Kate Moss’s face or branded bricks (for show, not construction). The company deliberately restricts the supply of its products, creating hot resale markets. At one point, those bricks were selling for $1,000 on eBay.

This week, VF Corporation — which owns brands including the North Face and Vans — announced that it was buying Supreme for $2.1 billion. The deal is another marker of the brand’s success, and the lucrativeness of the streetwear market in general. But it has also left fans and industry analysts wondering: How will Supreme stay cool when it’s part of a giant corporation?

Supreme and VF hope that part of the answer involves growth overseas, potentially in countries like China. “Rather than saturate U.S. malls, which would certainly hurt the brand, Supreme and VF Corp. appear to have their sights set on areas where they can expand without much effect on the perceived exclusivity in established markets,” Marc Bain writes at Quartz.

Another answer may be that Supreme, which began in 1994 as a single New York storefront geared toward skateboarders, won’t stay cool in the same way — but that nothing does forever.

“Perhaps this simply marks the end of the inevitable journey that comes to all great disruptive brands that begin life as outsiders. They subvert the status quo only to pique the interest of the dominant players, who absorb their strategies and then go on to absorb the actual source,” The Times’s fashion critic Vanessa Friedman writes. “Fashion is great at that.”

Coarsely crushed black peppercorns are key to this beef and cabbage stir-fry. They add a spicy bite to the beef, balanced by a simple rub of garlic, brown sugar and salt.

Hilary Holladay’s “The Power of Adrienne Rich” is the first proper biography of the influential poet. It’s full of fascinating details, from Rich’s beginnings as a child prodigy (she played Mozart on the piano and dictated stories by the age of 4) to her political awakening later in life as a feminist.

The late-night hosts applauded Biden’s comments that Trump’s refusal to concede was embarrassing.

Now time to play

The pangrams from yesterday’s Spelling Bee were grandpop and propaganda. Today’s puzzle is above — or you can play online if you have a Games subscription.

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: 180° from NNW (three letters).


Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David

A correction: On Tuesday, we misstated Emily Harrington’s achievement in Yosemite National Park. She was the first woman to free-climb El Capitan’s Golden Gate route in less than 24 hours. The first woman to free-climb the mountain so quickly was Lynn Hill, in 1994.

P.S. The Times has named Anton Troianovski its next Moscow bureau chief, one of the most storied posts for foreign correspondents.

You can see today’s print front page here.

Today’s episode of “The Daily” is about the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine. On the latest “Modern Love” podcast, the secrets that can end relationships.

Melina Delkic, Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at themorning@nytimes.com.

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