Ernest Renan, a 19th-century French historian, once said that “The ignorance of French society gives one a rough sense of the infinite.” There’s a far better example than French society, but Renan never met the 21st-century Republican Party.
I’ve lost count of the number of Republican Members of Congress who have insisted that Joe Biden is not really the President-elect because there is no such official designation (or official position, job, etc.) I found these statements most astonishing when they were defending the General Services Administration’s (GSA) refusal to recognize Biden as President-elect, and thus begin the formal transition process. GSA was on the spot precisely because the Presidential Transition Act (3 U.S.C. 102 note) provides that the GSA “is authorized to provide, upon request, to each President-elect, each Vice-President-elect, . . . for use in connection with the preparations for the assumption of official duties as President or Vice President necessary services and facilities, including the following . . .” (Congress created this mechanism because “The national interest requires that such transitions in the office of President be accomplished so as to assure continuity in the faithful execution of the laws and in the conduct of the affairs of the Federal Government, both domestic and foreign.”) And, in fact, the Presidential Transition Act even defines “President-elect” and “Vice President-elect”:
(c) The terms ‘President-elect’ and ‘Vice-President-elect’ as used in this Act shall mean such persons as are the apparent successful candidates for the office of President and Vice President, respectively, as ascertained by the Administrator following the general elections held to determine the electors of President and Vice President in accordance with title 3, United States Code, sections 1 and 2.
The Electoral College now having voted, it is hard to comprehend how Joe Biden and Kamala Harris can’t be considered “the apparent successful candidates” for their respective offices. Of course, they were the “apparent successful candidates” back in early November. Certainly, they were after states giving them a majority of the Electoral College vote certified their results. Still, some Congressional Republican aren’t going to let facts get in the way of a good Presidential bootlicking.
Nor is the Presidential Transition Act alone in referring to the “President-elect,” or even defining it. For example, 18 USC §871makes it a crime to threaten “the President of the United States, the President-elect, the Vice President or other officer next in the order of succession to the office of President of the United States, etc.” and defines “President-elect” and “Vice President-elect” as “the apparent successful candidates for the offices of President and Vice President, respectively, as ascertained from the results of the general elections held to determine the electors of President and Vice President in accordance with title 3, United States Code, sections 1 and 2.”
In short, “President-elect” is an official position (and has been for more than half a century), and while no one expects Congressional Republicans to get any of the facts about this election right, they could at least try to understand the legal structure of the federal government.