FORT WAYNE – Important fact number one: Al Gore did not concede to presumed President-elect George Bush until Dec. 13, 2000. The political system survived.

Of course, that was Gore’s second concession. He took his first one back until the process went through the courts. Surely the media would not prefer that Donald Trump had conceded and then taken it back after supporters raised issues of fraud?

It is important to establish some more basic points. A president-elect is designated after the Electoral College votes and before a president is sworn into office. It is not anointed by the media. By all evidence presented thus far, and likely to be presented, former Vice President Joe Biden is the presumed president-elect. This isn’t a repeat of 2000, one state with an incredibly close count, but a fairly decisive apparent win though with many narrow victories for Biden: Georgia 0.3%, Arizona 0.3%, Wisconsin 0.6%, Pennsylvania 1.2%, Nevada 2.4% and Michigan 2.6%.

Given the closeness and the extraordinary changes in voting patterns, an election not primarily determined in private voting booths on Election Day, the apparent losing candidate has a right to pursue legal questions that arise.

The fact that the media is demanding an immediate coronation is not professional journalism. Neutrality was lost earlier, but even feigned neutrality – nodding here and there to fairness – has been abandoned for overt cheerleading, complete with tears.

Vice President Biden, on the other hand, has remained publicly calm. He has a commanding lead, understands that no proof of significant fraud looms, and has confidence in the legal system. Biden knows that while political points could be made by highlighting the juvenile behavior of the president in not sharing information two and a half months ahead of Biden’s likely inauguration, he instead chose to point out that we can only have one president at a time. Perhaps the media should take some journalism notes from Joe Biden.

Most Republicans who hold elected office, meanwhile, have maintained relative public silence concerning the even the wildest charges of fraud by the president and those who claim he won. When they defend the legal right of the president to pursue all claims of fraud, real or not, they are trusting the courts to resolve it fairly. Courts are hardly a perfect way to make final decisions but it is far better than the alternatives. What system would people prefer, guns?

The media’s defense of its partisan behavior is that President Trump is undermining the credibility of Joe Biden’s election, which undermines faith in our political system here and abroad.

Oh, how the worm has turned. What goes around comes around. (Perhaps there is a more modern expression to capture that point, but I’m a conservative. Or maybe just stuck in a Biden time capsule.)

Perhaps Trump defenders can take a partisan memo from Newsmax or a comment from Parler as the Democrats did from the rumor-filled, partisan Steele memo. Then have the supporters of Trump’s in the FBI pursue it for the next four years and use wiretaps to see if a President Biden actually coordinated ballots in Detroit or worked with George Soros to rig voting machines.

The Democrats and the media have spent four years exploring, charging and implying that Trump worked with Russia in nefarious ways. They lampooned him as a Russian agent, or at least panting over a potential hotel deal. Or that Putin had something on him. As the storyline went, Trump owed his soul to the Russian devil. That is why the Russians tried to manipulate the election.

Impeachment revolved around the same Russian theme, Ukraine version. All of those efforts attempted to undermine the legitimacy of Trump’s election by the American people.

For the Democrats and their allies in the media, who for reasons ideological and personal felt Trump was a danger to America, there was something missing: Evidence. But, as in alleged election fraud, fearing things happened is not proof that things did happen.

Ironically, by the House Democrats pursuing impeachment over actions in the Ukraine, they brought the issue of Hunter Biden front and center. The response of his father was to not want to talk about his son. But anyone with half a brain knows that Hunter got the job because of his connections, whether they were presumed or real, and whether or not his father actually intervened.

Denying that just fueled constant speculation of a cover-up. Seriously, now that Joe Biden is likely going to be our president, do you think that is going to stop now? The Democrats, in effect, raised it, took the issue to the level of impeachment, and thus created a chimeral monster to torment Biden during his time in office. In politics, that was incredibly dumb and led to a predictable unfair cut to Biden by his own party.

Congressional Republicans have been dealt a difficult hand in how to handle the president’s desperate desire not to be viewed as the loser he is about to become. Court after court is dismissing his claims. The near disaster of local Republicans refusing to certify the votes of hundreds of thousands of mostly African-American Democrats in Detroit was avoided. The vote certifications will continue to occur. All court decisions must be resolved by Dec. 8. The Electoral College will vote on Dec. 14.

Many of those who voted for him, perhaps the majority, found the president personally offensive. But in this country, we have real divisions on big issues: Greater or less socialistic economic policies, how best to avoid war, killing babies through abortion, immigration reform and how to handle border control, criminal justice and respect for minorities, poverty, whether to support and reform law enforcement or to defund and transfer law enforcement money to other social goals, how to improve the environment, how to handle sharp strategy differences in the battle against COVID-19, and many other issues that are extremely important.

The nation continues to be relatively evenly divided on those issues. A party’s loss of the presidency, therefore, is viewed not just through the prism of a political loss, but a loss that impacts the most important things we each believe in. Many people believe, want to believe, and/or want others to believe that the only reason their side lost was because of cheating. Both sides. This desire is not going to disappear.

Adults in the room, on both sides, need to stay calm. Fortunately, thus far, Republicans in Congress and presumed President-elect Joe Biden have. 

Souder is a former Republican congressman.