Who "spent four years refusing to accept the validity of the [2016] election"?



Mitch McConnell, discussing the 2020 US presidential election, was quoted as follows:

On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in Congress, said that Trump is "within his rights" to challenge the outcome, and criticized Democrats for expecting the president to concede.

“President Trump is 100% within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options,” McConnell said. “Let’s not have any lectures about how the president should immediately, cheerfully accept preliminary election results from the same characters who just spent four years refusing to accept the validity of the last election.”

What was he referring to by "spent four years refusing to accept the validity of the last election"? e.g., has he, or other officials previously made statements to that effect in more detail?

Political opponents of President Trump (i.e., Democrats) obviously were displeased by the 2016 election, and some of that might have come from the fact that Trump "lost" the popular vote even while winning the Electoral College. However, displeasure doesn't automatically rise to the level of "refusing to accept" the election results, so I assume the senator is referring to something more specific?


Posted 2020-11-11T15:13:27.117

Reputation: 2 379

1Rank and file liberals everywhere. To use a pair of the man's favorite words, hopefully the "sad" display of a "loser" who happens to be the President doing the same thing will help them feel better about themselves. At least that's my take, this is unanswerable and I've voted to close it as such. – Jared Smith – 2020-11-13T11:07:51.250

1@JaredSmith its a quote from a senator... if he has made other statements elaborating on what he meant then its perfectly answerable... When I read his quote I genuinely felt it was vague and unclear, and that's the only reason I asked the question. So far I've found the answers helpful in explaining at least what his point of view may have been. – StayOnTarget – 2020-11-13T12:39:42.790

@JaredSmith just to be clear and because I'm curious, what VTC reason did you use? – StayOnTarget – 2020-11-13T12:40:25.030

@UuDdLrLrSs the speculative one. Unless somebody kind find a reference where he elaborated you'd have to ask Mitch McConnell what he meant, which we can't do. I think it's an interesting question, and (presumably) like you I'd like to know what he meant by that, but any answer we give is going to speculative. – Jared Smith – 2020-11-13T14:30:12.427



I wondered the same thing as you on seeing the quote from Mitch McConnell. I don't think there's a way to know for certain who he might have been referring to, but I found this article from the Washington Post regarding a September 2019 CBS interview with Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton dismissed President Trump as an “illegitimate president” and suggested that “he knows” that he stole the 2016 presidential election in a CBS News interview to be aired Sunday.

As you noted in the question, I don't know that this comes to the level of "refusing to accept the validity of the last election", but for political posturing this met my close enough litmus test to give the statement a pass.

I don't believe it runs to the same level as the current events in terms of non-acceptance, but it appears that for partisan purposes these two actions, declaring a presidency illegitimate (Clinton), and launching multiple lawsuits to overturn an election result(Trump) are a question of degree rather than kind.


Posted 2020-11-11T15:13:27.117

Reputation: 18 509

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– JJJ – 2020-11-12T10:05:56.483

1Once in 2019 is hardly "spent 4 years". I remember jokes about how she was walking in the woods for all of 2017, not saying much at all. – Owen Reynolds – 2020-11-12T22:56:21.340

5Expressing an opinion versus taking affirmative actions (and in the case of the GSA, refusing to take certain actions) and making objectively false assertions of facts advancing a point of view seem like a difference of kind, not degree, to me. – Acccumulation – 2020-11-13T03:27:49.637

2I believe Clinton’s comment was about the injustice of the Electoral College, not illegal maneuvering to misrepresent the votes of individual Americans at a mass scale, which is what Trumpers are alleging. She promptly accepted the facts for what they were, even though more Americans would rather have her as president and most Americans are against the Electoral College (unless that has changed in recent years). – gen-ℤ ready to perish – 2020-11-14T06:05:46.180


A common complaint Republicans have had over the last four years is that Democrats did not give President Trump a chance to accomplish great things because they were still unhappy that Trump won/Hillary Clinton lost. This is not entirely false, but the Democrat claim itself isn't completely without merit.

“I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton,” [Democratic Representative John] Lewis said.

Considering how close the 2016 election was, the FBI's report of Russian interference could not (and can not) be adequately gauged as to how many votes it swayed, and thus, whether or not the Russian interference would have made the difference in electing Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.

But as the Republican story goes, the mainstream media was so wrong at predicting the winner of the 2016 election that the Democrats felt that the election was somehow illegitimate or stolen. And that by constantly bringing up new scandals and investigating Trump for what Republicans perceive as either made-up or comparatively minor offenses, they effectively forced President Trump to spend his entire term on defense. This, in turn, was what kept President Trump from accomplishing many of the things he set out to do.

This is also the origin of the 'joke' that Trump deserves four more years because his first four were 'taken' by fake scandals.


Posted 2020-11-11T15:13:27.117

Reputation: 13 794

41Didn't Republicans control House, Senate and Presidency 2016 to 2018? – Jontia – 2020-11-11T16:22:35.863

9@Jontia Oh, certainly. That's why I separated the paragraphs. The first has facts, the second has feelings. – Carduus – 2020-11-11T17:10:00.667

10It needs to be added on that many Republicans characterize Pres. Trump's impeachment as "an attempt to overturn the 2016 election," and that surely contributes to McConnell's claim that Democrats "refused to accept" his election. – Seth R – 2020-11-12T15:20:12.957

2@Seth, that's not quite what his claim was, though. Refusing to accept Trump's presidency isn't the same thing as refusing to accept that the election results were valid. – Harry Johnston – 2020-11-12T18:50:05.637

6@HarryJohnston, I don't think Sen. McConnell or any of the other Republicans echoing this rhetoric draw that distinction. Or they are at least hoping you don't. The party line around the impeachment from Republicans was that the allegations charged to Pres. Trump were baseless and only brought about because Democrats still did not accept Trump's election. This statement is consistent with that narrative. – Seth R – 2020-11-12T19:25:47.230

4@SethR: I think it goes further than just the impeachment. To my eye, McConnell's statement is trying to sweep in all the "not my president" protests as well (remember those?). Basically, he's lumping everyone who didn't like President Trump together and mischaracterizing them as having "refused to accept the validity of the election" just because they didn't like Trump. – Kevin – 2020-11-13T01:23:23.273

1@Kevin And funny how much this rhetoric this rhetoric seems similar to general outcry after Trump's win in 2016. – Gnudiff – 2020-11-13T06:59:18.190

2@Jontia Just like Obama controlled all 3 his first 2 years... but... neither had super majorities across the board. Can't do anything without that in both houses. IE: Why didn't Obama fix all the things during his time? – WernerCD – 2020-11-13T08:20:15.903


@Gnudiff funny if you ignore the actual "errors" being found. 2 seats have been turned from blue to red. "Russians interefered (but we have zero evidence of a single vote flipped)" vs "Look at evidence of number irregularities here, here, here and oh look at multiple 'wins' flipped after 'errors' were found". Massive differences between 2016 and 2020. Here's one seat that was blue and is now red after a "mistake" was fixed: https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/oakland/2020/11/06/oakland-county-election-2020-race-results/6184186002/

– WernerCD – 2020-11-13T08:23:49.717

4@WernerCD I am sorry, I am not following US politics in detail. My comment was how it looks to an outsider: bunch of horrible hypocrites on both sides, plenty of politicians, not a single statesman. – Gnudiff – 2020-11-13T09:08:31.970

@Jontia "Republicans control ... Senate ... 2016 to 2018" (really 2017 to 2019) is true with 54 of 100 in the 115th US Congress. Various senators had their agendas too and could and did amplify them. Like the reverse in the 111th. Having all 3 is nice for a party, still not a carte blanche. – chux - Reinstate Monica – 2020-11-13T14:38:49.707

4@chux-ReinstateMonica my point was, if you can't advance your agenda when your party has a majority in all the organs of the state, then blaming the minority party for that is misdirection at best. – Jontia – 2020-11-13T15:13:26.113


There is a key difference between the claims involving the 2016 and 2020 elections.

In 2016 the claims centered around foreign interference to influence voters and there was not claims of voter fraud that would invalidate the election. The only claims from this election around voter fraud came from the Trump camp with claims that he would have won the popular vote without the voter fraud.

In 2020 the claims center around voter fraud with the Trump camp claiming that there was massive voter fraud similar to 2016 but in this case it caused him not only to lose the popular vote but also the electoral college.

Joe W

Posted 2020-11-11T15:13:27.117

Reputation: 4 835

13While I think the statements in the answer are generally true, I don't think this answers the actual question, which focuses on "who is McConnell referring to" and not "is the parallel McConnell draws an accurate/fair one". – V2Blast – 2020-11-12T05:14:40.790

8@V2Blast The problem is that McConnell is not referring to anyone specifically, he's just repeating a claim that Trump has made numerous times during his term, especially during his impeachment. – Barmar – 2020-11-12T14:23:47.013

well, there are general claims of gerrymandering and "rigging" the election (elections in general) by "legal" means mainly addressed at the republicans (and partly well-founded it seems), example: https://books.google.de/books/about/How_Trump_Stole_2020.html?id=fhpYzQEACAAJ&redir_esc=y (i.e. as a small counter-point to "the only claims", though these are general claims, not specific post-election claims asking for the election to be redone or such.)

– Frank Hopkins – 2020-11-12T21:47:33.317

@Barmar: And again, the question's not about whether that claim is true (though it's valuable to address that as well as part of the answer) - it's about who McConnell's making the claim about (Democrats, generically speaking). And this answer doesn't actually address that direct question. I agree that McConnell's just parroting Trump's nonsensical rhetoric, but the answer needs to explicitly state who McConnell's claim is about (e.g. that it's a generic claim about Democrats, and perhaps that it's intentionally vague to avoid mentioning any details that can be disproved). – V2Blast – 2020-11-13T00:23:22.980

@V2Blast IMHO, McConnell is referring to the same unspecified groups that Trump has been referring to for years. Depending on the phase of the moon it can be Democrats, the media (except for Fox News), BLM, etc. – Barmar – 2020-11-13T00:26:18.827

@Barmar: Sure, that seems likely. All I've been suggesting since my first comment on this answer is that the answer needs to actually state that in order to actually answer the original question here. I'm not saying the answer needs to lend legitimacy to McConnell's absurd claims - it just needs to clarify who the claims are about (even if that "who" is an unspecified, imagined boogeyman intended to scare Republican voters into keeping their party in power). – V2Blast – 2020-11-13T00:27:22.970

I think JoeW nailed the question. I think McConnell is a shrewd politician who muddles his words to obfuscate details. Instead of "the validity of the last election.” read "the fairness of the last election.” Democrats have beloved that the election was unfair because of the Russian interference. Trump has consistently denied that the Russian interference had any effect whatsoever on the election. Hard to believe that there wasn't at least one voter swayed. // McConnell is also ignoring the fact that only Trump claimed voter fraud because of illegal alien voting. – MaxW – 2020-11-13T22:06:53.007

1@MaxW Especially when you consider how narrow the margins were in some states. Unfortunately that is something that is pretty much impossible to prove. – Joe W – 2020-11-13T22:20:11.387


It's not an official attempt by the Democratic Party or its members to overturn the results of the 2016 election or to deny them, but it is worth noting that the "Not My President" phrase has been repeated over the past 4 years by some supporters of the Democratic Party. They didn't invent the phrase, but this New York Times article characterizes it as a chorus "that’s been building among the left since the supposed free election of Donald J. Trump".

There were even a series of rallies for "Not My President's Day" in February 2017.

When I hear conversations about people refusing to accept the results of the last election, these are typically the people being referred to rather than official procedures to question the validity 2016 election.

Alexandre Aubrey

Posted 2020-11-11T15:13:27.117

Reputation: 1 134

Huh. That explains why I've seen some Repbulicans very strongly use the phrase "YOUR president" when arguing with Democrats. I always thought that was really weird because it seemed to come out of nowhere. – DKNguyen – 2020-11-13T22:30:18.347


I don't think McConnell is referring to anyone specifically.

Since Trump took office, there have been many calls for his impeachment and removal from office, and one successful impeachment. Trump often referred to anyone who advocated his impeachment as trying to use this method to overturn the 2016 election.

McConnell is simply referring to these all these people, parrotting Trump's bluster. It's pure rhetoric, and it's no more meaningful to ask who he's referring to than to ask who moon landing conspiracy theorists are referring to. He's just trying to justify Trump's challenges to the results of the 2020 election. Since there's little validity to Trump's challenges, the best he can do is vague equivalences like this.


Posted 2020-11-11T15:13:27.117

Reputation: 6 260

1Yep, I think this is ultimately the answer. Trump's/McConnell's intent likely isn't to refer to any specific incident by any specific Democrat, but to simply rile up their base and gain support in order to hold onto power any way they can. I suspect that even if asked for specifics, McConnell would deflect and point to "the media" and "the radical left"... – V2Blast – 2020-11-13T00:41:51.557

2I don't see how impeachment could count as "overturning the election" - it would have just resulted in Mike Pence taking over, right? The Republicans would still be in the White House. No different from when Boris Johnson took over as PM from Theresa May. – Harry Johnston – 2020-11-13T03:04:39.110

@HarryJohnston What does Pence have to do with it -- everything is about Trump. – Barmar – 2020-11-13T04:33:33.347

2"One successful impeachment" followed by one successful acquittal ... and not sure if a 100% partisan "impeachment" counts as "successful" - especially considering the lack of laws broken (compared to say Bill's impeachment) and the 1 or 2 votes that voted against party lines were Democrats voting against impeachment in the house... – WernerCD – 2020-11-13T08:27:04.810

1@WernerCD I was just trying to categorize all the anti-Trump actions more specifically. The fact that the impeachment and acquittals supports his characterization of there being various groups trying to undo the election. – Barmar – 2020-11-13T18:43:45.193