'Desperate attempt to cling on to power': Pence joins Trump in refusing to commit to peaceful transition

'Desperate attempt to cling on to power': Pence joins Trump in refusing to commit to peaceful transition
Norman Solomon
Mike Pence is a reminder that destructive leaders are symptoms of an anti-democratic status quo

Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday night joined President Donald Trump in refusing to commit to ensuring a peaceful transfer of power, dodging a question about how he would handle a Joe Biden victory and parroting Trump's baseless narrative about widespread mail-in voting fraud.

Asked during Wednesday's vice presidential debate with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) how he would respond if Trump "refuses to accept a peaceful transfer of power," Pence offered an elaborate answer that celebrated the president's tax cuts for the rich, regulatory rollbacks, and efforts to boost domestic fossil fuel production and accused Democrats of trying to "overturn the results of the last election"—but ultimately did not directly address the question.

Nodding to the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee's nationwide, multi-million-dollar legal effort to combat expansions of mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic, Pence said he and the president are "fighting every day in courthouses to prevent Joe Biden and Kamala Harris from changing the rules and creating this universal mail-in voting that'll create a massive opportunity for voter fraud."

"So let me just say, I think we're going to win this election," Pence said. "I believe in all my heart that president Donald Trump is going to be reelected for four more years."

USA Today's Susan Page, the moderator of the debate, did not ask a follow-up question. Watch:

Sean Eldridge, founder and president of Stand Up America—one of more than 100 advocacy groups and labor unions preparing to mobilize if the president refuses to accept the results of next month's election—said in a statement late Wednesday that Pence's answer shows the Trump campaign is "desperate" and "trying to bully and cheat their way through this election."

Last month, as Common Dreams reported, Trump said he is "gonna have to see what happens" in response to a straightforward question about whether he would publicly commit to a peaceful transition if he loses in November. Trump has since been given several additional opportunities to commit to a peaceful transfer of power but has declined to do so each time, railing against supposed voter fraud and preemptively casting doubt on the legitimacy of the election.

"The most important thing Americans can do right now to fight back is to make a plan to vote early and help Joe Biden and Kamala Harris win in a landslide," said Eldridge, echoing the argument of prominent progressive writers and academics. "Should Donald Trump and Mike Pence refuse to accept the will of the people, we will be ready to mobilize in unprecedented numbers to demand that every single vote be counted and ensure a peaceful transition of power."

As The Week's Ryan Cooper wrote early Thursday, "the plain fact is that Trump, Pence, and the rest of the wretched Republican Party are currently attempting to cheat their way to victory through legal chicanery, preventing people from voting, wrecking the Post Office, hysterical lies about voter fraud, threats of violence, and so on."

"Pence is clearly on board with the party line that democracy only counts if Republicans win," Cooper added. "Mike Pence may be better at aping the norms of normal politics, but his ability to smoothly lie and dissemble about any subject on cue shows that he would be every bit the threat to America's constitutional government as his boss. In the forthcoming election, I recommend voting against the pair of them."

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