The Electoral College has affirmed President-elect Joe Biden's win.

The Electoral College has affirmed President-elect Joe Biden's win. Credit: AP/Susan Walsh

With airplanes, they say any landing you can walk away from is a good one. With an election to choose the leader of the world’s oldest and most iconic democracy, the standard should be far higher.

But this year it wasn’t.

When state electors from across the nation brought President-elect Joe Biden’s win in for a safe landing Monday, they triggered relief that our hallowed institutions held against false claims by President Donald Trump and his supporters, and concern at how battered they’ve become. The resignation of Attorney General William Barr Monday evening via a bizarre letter, and seemingly timed to take attention away from Biden's Electoral College triumph, only drove home that point.

Barr often operated as if Trump and not the nation were his client, drawing rebukes even from federal prosecutors who normally won't make such comments publicly. In the opening paragraph of his letter, Barr promised "voter fraud allegations will continue to be pursued," even though his admission that there are no incidents significant enough to have swayed the outcome seemed to turn Trump against him.

Biden received New York's 29 votes and 306 overall, and although Republican lawmakers and activists in both Pennsylvania and Georgia created alternate slates of electors to vote for Trump, the real-life casting of those votes in line with the wishes of the voters held up.

So now it's over, like a football game in which one team is winning by 65 points with three minutes on the clock. There will still be frantic plays, like the plan of Alabama Republican Rep. Mo Brooks to challenge the congressional tallying of the Electoral College votes of Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia and Wisconsin. But on January 6, the final whistle will blow when Congress certifies the results.

Brooks won’t get the majority in the House needed to disqualify a state’s votes, just as Trump’s supporters could not get the electors to become "faithless" and ignore voters. Brooks may, though, have the aid of Long Island's Lee Zeldin, who has repeatedly and shamefully supported Trump’s attacks on this election and was the only Long Island representative to sign off on the attempt to get the Supreme Court to seize the election for Trump, which had no legal merit.

What Brooks will attempt, however, is not unique to this year, or to Republicans. Democrats tried it, a tad more symbolically, against George W. Bush in 2001 and 2005 and against Trump in 2017. Democracy is messy, which is why our election only now is settled. The outrage from Trump supporters will persist. But on January 20, Biden will take control of the effort to better this very troubled nation.

The dangers we face will be tough to overcome, the progress we desire hard to produce, particularly after battling a devastating pandemic. And while Barr is right to insist incidents of voter fraud be investigated, if the nation remains divided by Trump’s imaginary grievances of widespread irregularities or conspiracies, the difficult will become impossible.

— The editorial board

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