(NewsNation) — Election denialism is an issue. It primarily relates to former President Trump refusing to accept the 2020 election results, claiming mass fraud and insisting that he actually won an election he lost. But looking back is far less significant than looking forward. It’s frightening.
The New York Times recently asked candidates of both parties in 20 significant races in the upcoming midterms and found six candidates who would not commit to accepting the future results. Among the Republican party, Senate candidates Ted Budd of North Carolina, Blake Masters in Arizona, Kelly Tshibaka in Alaska and JD Vance in Ohio declined to commit to accepting the 2022 results. So did Tutor Dixon, the Republican nominee for governor of Michigan and Geoff Diehl, who won the GOP primary for governor of Massachusetts. They’re all Republicans, and one of the common responses is this one.
“Reminder, Brian Kemp stole the gubernatorial election from Georgians and Stacey Abrams. Democrat saying that, is that an election denier? It would be difficult for Stacey Abrams to win because she lost her state bid, but yet she’s still claiming she never lost,” said Kari Lake, a candidate for governor in Arizona.
That’s a common theme from many on the right, and they have a point.
Now, it is fair to ask about Abrams since in 2018, after she lost to Kemp for governor of Georgia, she refused to concede, claiming that supposed voter suppression made the election improper.
It was and continues to be a dumb and dangerous thing to say. And by the way, it was also wrong for a handful of Democrats to refuse to certify Donald Trump’s election in 2016.
But let’s be clear, foolishly claiming an election was improper, even illegitimate, isn’t the same as refusing to accept the results. One undermines faith in elections. The other is a true threat to our democratic voting system.
So it’s important to review what Abrams actually said and didn’t say and didn’t didn’t do to evaluate the comparison. Here’s what Abrams said after losing her race for governor in 2018. She definitely refused to concede.
“But to watch an elected official who claims to represent the people in the state, boldly pin his hopes for election on the suppression of the people’s democratic right to vote has been truly appalling. So let’s be clear. This is not a speech of concession, because concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true or proper. As a woman of conscience and faith, I cannot concede that. But my assessment is the law currently allows no further viable remedy,” Abrams said.
The end of her remarks was important. That part of her non-concession speech has made the rounds as evidence that she is an election denier, just like Donald Trump. Except that clip omits what she said just before that.
“I acknowledge that former Secretary of State Brian Kemp will be certified as the victor in the 2018 gubernatorial election,” Abrams said.
That is a critical distinction. She later tried to explain away her refusal to concede in an interview with the website, the 19th, she said, “My point was that the access to the election was flawed, and I refuse to concede a system that permits citizens to be denied access; that is very different than someone claiming a fraudulent outcome.”
It’s not quite as different as she claims, but bottom line, she should have just admitted she was wrong, because it was wrong not to concede. She lost. But she did acknowledge that Kemp won, which Donald Trump has refused to admit to this day. And that’s a critical difference.
More recently, a clip from a 2019 speech she gave to Al Sharpton’s National Action Committee made the rounds among those who want to make the comparison.
“Yeah, this little election back in 2018. And despite the final tally and the inauguration and the situation we find ourselves in, I do have one very affirmative statement to make. We won,” Abrams said.
We won. That sure sounds comparable, right? Except when you watch the rest of the speech, she makes it clear she was taking a moral victory for the benefits of her campaign, such as engaging the community of Black voters and not saying she actually won the election. Last month, she appeared on The View when and she was asked about that.
“There is this clip that’s going around, and it shows me saying that we won. What I was referring to was that we won in terms of communities that were long left out of the electoral process finally participated. But I’m not delusional … I mean, I gave a speech. I love words, words matter, they have meaning and heft. And one is I’m not the governor,” Abrams said.
Yeah, but words do matter. What she said, I still believe, was condemnable. But it’s also different than what we are seeing, particularly heading into 2022, with candidates simply refusing to say they will accept the voters’ choice.
Too many of the radical election deniers still refuse to admit that Joe Biden won the election at all. For example, Arizona gubernatorial candidate Lake has continued to insist that the 2020 general election was rigged, parroting the ongoing baseless claims made by the former president. Now she’s clearly leaving open the real possibility of refusing to accept the results if she loses in November.
When asked if she would accept the results of the election in November, Lake replied: “I’m going to win the election, and I will accept that result.”
When asked if she loses, would she accept the result, she gave the same response.
Abrams has committed to accepting the results of the election, in which she now finds herself down in the polls. Therein lies the difference between the two candidates.
Vote for who you think best reflects your views. And after any legal challenges or recounts, whoever gets fewer votes, has to concede.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and not of NewsNation.