Rep. Donalds Refuses to Acknowledge Legitimacy of 2020 Presidential Election Outcome

Byron Donalds (R) is the recently-elected Member of Congress representing Florida’s 19th Congressional District. The district was created in 1983 and for thirty years was represented by a Democrat. Since 2013, however, this district representing southwest Florida has been a staunchly conservative, Republican stronghold. 

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL19)

As a constituent, I recently wrote him and posed a simple question. Expressing my deep concern about current polling indicating the degree to which so many registered Republicans believe Donald Trump’s lies that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him, I asked Rep. Donalds this question:  “Do you agree or disagree with the assertion that the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as President and Vice-President was legitimate?”

The response I received (by email, dated Jan. 17, 2021; see below for full text) was … well … wordy, to say the least. The response was addressed to “Dear Constituent” (apparently Mr. Donalds’ staff have not yet mastered the skills required to personalize canned responses), and – to his credit – it spelled out clearly his condemnation of the violent attacks on the US Congress that occurred on Jan. 6, 2021. 

At least three times, however, Mr. Donalds makes claims about the constitutionality of other States’ electoral procedures in the 2020 presidential election. At least three times Donalds asserts that there were “violations of election law” in that election. While he does not directly answer my simple “yes” or “no” question, his response clearly suggests that his answer is “no,” that he does not accept as legitimate the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as President and Vice-President of these United States.

Mr. Donalds is not an attorney.  He has a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University, and a professional background in banking and finance. Despite his lack of legal credentials, he continues to assert – contrary to the judgments of numerous federal judges, including many Republican and some Trump-appointed judges – that the 2020 election was somehow fraudulent. 

Trump and his supporters mounted no less than 42 legal challenges (as of Jan. 5, 2021) against the results of the election outcome in various states. Trump lost each and every one of these challenges. The vast majority of these challenges were unsuccessful for one reason, and one reason only:  the “violations of election law” that concern Mr. Donalds DO NOT EXIST. There was no wide-spread fraud, there were no constitutional violations, there was no steal to be stopped!

Even the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) had its say. SCOTUS refused to hear a challenge brought by the Texas Attorney General and other Trump allies challenging the legitimacy of the Electoral College votes of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Georgia.  Why did SCOTUS refuse to intervene?  While I’m no attorney either, one doesn’t need a law degree to understand that SCOTUS refused to intervene because of “standing.” To us non-lawyers, standing is what a court requires a litigant to have before it can bring a suit in court.  It simply means that you have a say, you have a voice that needs to be heard, that you are somehow involved in the matter at hand. If you’re not involved, if you don’t have a say, it means you have “no standing.” Put bluntly … SCOTUS told Texas: “You have no standing. It’s none of your business!” 

That answer, however, wasn’t good enough for Mr. Donalds. It wasn’t good enough for him that there was no evidence of wide-spread election fraud. It wasn’t good enough for him that thousands of election workers and officials throughout the country worked diligently to ensure a “free and fair election.” And, most egregiously, it wasn’t good enough for him that numerous courts, including the US Supreme Court, have lent no credence whatsoever to the bogus claims of election fraud. And so, because the weight of all this solid evidence wasn’t good enough for Mr. Donalds, he joined 147 other Republicans in the US House of Representatives in a fruitless attempt to thwart the will of millions of American voters. Mr. Donalds wanted to replace their voice with his; he wanted to replace their millions of votes for Joe Biden with his one vote for Donald Trump.

The opening sentence of Mr. Donalds’ response to me says this: “Our republic will stand.” On that, we agree. Despite the attempt of violent insurrectionists spurred on by a defeated president, and despite Rep. Donalds’ attempt to undermine the legitimate process of our elections – on Jan, 6, 2021 (and into the early hours of Jan. 7, 2021), our republic DID stand. 

Byron Donalds’ refusal to state that he accepts the outcome of the 2020 election should give us pause.  His refusal raises serious questions about his ability to look at facts and to make sound judgments. Let us hope and pray he will have a change of heart, a change spurred on not by the political winds of the day, but by the commitment to principle on which he states he stands “above all else.” Let us hope and pray that Rep. Donalds will clearly, unequivocally, and publicly declare that the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris was legitimate and that they are duly elected as President and Vice President of the United States of America.

Here is the full text of Mr. Donalds’ reponse:

The Morality of a Vote

Does my vote mean anything? Does it really make a difference if I check the name of Candidate A or Candidate B? Does it matter whether his/her name has an “R” or a “D” next to it?  If you think your vote has little impact, think again.

Just as surely as every elected official is responsible for his/her policies pursued and official actions taken, so too does your vote, my vote, have a moral impact.  If you voted for Donald Trump and you don’t see the link between that vote, Trump’s election, and the murder of George Floyd, then your blindness is either willful or ignorant. Either way, you bear responsibility.

In his opinion piece today, George Will lays it out pretty clearly.  In part, he writes:

“The person voters hired in 2016 to ‘take care that the laws be faithfully executed’ stood on July 28, 2017, in front of uniformed police and urged them ‘please don’t be too nice’ when handling suspected offenders. His hope was fulfilled for 8 minutes and 46 seconds on Minneapolis pavement.”

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Trusting that All Will Be Well

Demonstrators in front of US Capitol (Dec. 2012)

Demonstrators in front of US Capitol (Dec. 2012)

This week has been hard.

Taking a brief 3-day cruise that began last Sunday, we were at sea and “off the grid” for the final days of the recent election. I did not sleep Tuesday evening, tossing and turning and praying all night. By 6 am we had arrived within sight of Port Everglades and cellular service was returning. While following my morning routine of going to the Deck 5 coffee shop, I was able to get a ful cellular signal. I opened the Washington Post app on my phone and saw the words, “Trump Triumphs.” I felt ill; I sat down for a few moments in the empty lounge I was passing through. I returned to our stateroom (sans cappucino) to share the news with my partner. I don’t think I’m revealing too much when I say that we cried. It remains unfathomable to me how anyone — including some family and friends — could have voted for a man who seems to be without moral compass and whose campaign brought out the worst in the human spirit. This Huffington Post commentary expresses what I and so many millions of Americans are feeling. As commentator Jennifer Sullivan writes, “The entire Trump/Pence ticket’s platform revolves around making other individuals be made to feel less than. It is divisive. It is harmful. And it stands in stark opposition to every ideal this country was founded upon.”  For me, the enduring feeling — as someone on Facebook stated — is as if my neighbors, my family, my friends voted against me.

It Is What It Is

One of the essential elements of mental and spiritual health is the ability to live in reality. And so I recognize and accept what is. Tuesday cannot be undone. Our quirky Electoral College system that allows someone who came in 2nd to be named the winner cannot be retroactively changed. One hundred million voters who decided their vote didn’t count cannot now cast their ballots and have their voices heard, too.

The only option we have is to move forward, reminding ourselves daily of the values we hold most dear and how those values impact our daily lives and daily choices. Like the demonstrators above who were not afraid to demonstrate for peace on the grounds of the US Capitol, we too must find ways of ensuring that our voices are heard in the public square — whenever and however we can.

julian-of-norwichAgain, this has been a tough week. But I took comfort this morning from this passage in Richard Rohr’s Everything Belongs (p. 132).

“Again I quote beloved Julian of Norwich in her famous thirteenth Showing. ‘In fear and trembling,’ she asked Jesus, ‘O good Lord, how can all be well when great harm has come to your creatures through sin? And here I wanted, if I dared, to have some clearer explanation to put my mind at rest.’ And he said, ‘Since I have brought good out of the worst-ever evil, I want you to know by this; that I shall bring good out of all the lesser evils, too.'”

Or, as Julian is famously quoted:  “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”