Cries of “fraud” and “stop the count” have echoed throughout the country ever since Joe Biden took the lead over President Donald Trump in both the popular and electoral counts. Fervent Trump supporters, both citizens and politicians alike, have rallied across the United States in an attempt to stop Democrats from “stealing the election.” However, their futile attempts have only secured Biden’s lead, giving him the win in several key battle ground states such as Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. After three weeks of press conferences, Twitter storms, recounts, and many failed lawsuits, the transition of power to the President Elect can finally begin. However, President Trump has yet to officially concede. In fact, he has promised to continue fighting the election results in court. So, what does this mean for democracy in the United States?
Simply put, American democracy is safe. It is in quite a precarious position, but it is safe nonetheless. President Trump’s refusal to officially concede has completely undermined the very foundation of democratic institutions, that foundation being the election process. His fanbase has shown that they have little to no respect for the election’s outcome. Oddly enough, in some parts of the nation, protesters have demanded that ballot counting centers “stop the count” where Trump has a solid lead. In other localities, they have demanded that the counting continue if it means Trump could pull ahead of Biden. Their failure to adhere to and vocalize a singular demand exemplifies the desperation of the far-right and their desire to bask in four more years of a Donald J. Trump Presidency.
Despite the fact that more and more Republican government officials are stepping up and voicing their concerns for the safety of American democracy, President Trump has continued to contest election results. This has only made American democracy even more fragile than it was this past summer when President Trump originally launched his initial attack on the security of mail-in voting and absentee ballots. Senator Mitt Romney recently released a statement condemning President Trump’s legal battles, dubbing them “undemocratic.” However, President Trump has continued to dig his own grave by throwing tantrums about the results of the election on his Twitter; those tweets have since been flagged for spreading incorrect and misleading information. The longer he continues to contest the results of the election, the more difficult it will be for Americans to regain confidence in the legitimacy of democratic elections.
Why are Trump supporters okay with his attempt to undermine the American electoral process? Are they turning a blind eye? Are they blissfully ignorant? Do they simply not realize that American democracy is at risk? Political scientist Milan W. Svolik argues that the ordinary man, in this case, non-politicians who support Trump and his legal battles, are “reluctant to punish politicians for disregarding democratic principles when doing so requires abandoning one’s favored party or policies” (Svolik 26). Ultimately, those who still believe that the election was fraudulent and illegitimate do not want to turn their backs on the Republican party. Svolik also asserts the notion that democratically elected leaders who are able to polarize their nations are granted “a structural opportunity: They can undermine democracy and get away with it” (24).
Over the past four years, President Trump’s brash approach to leading the nation has resulted in gratuitous party polarization that has only exacerbated preexisting political tensions. So, it is of little surprise that he has continued to contest the results of the election in courts all across the United States. The longer that President Trump and his legal team continue to fight in courts, the worse the partisan divide in American politics will become.
President Elect Joe Biden has already acknowledged the fact that the United States has been dealing with gratuitous political polarization. In fact, in a recent national address, he claimed that as President he will not see the states as being red or blue. Instead, he will see them as a United States. How exactly he will unite the nation while also rebuilding faith and trust in American democratic institutions is unknown. However, his address was a breath of fresh air, as he showed compassion and empathy for Americans of all backgrounds. In one comment alone, President Elect Joe Biden has shown more initiative to mend the American political divide than President Trump has shown over the course of his four-year term.
Since Trump first entered the political realm in 2015 when he announced his candidacy for president, he has expressed interest in only one person: himself. While his legal team continues to contest the results of the election, he golfs. President Trump is a danger to American democracy and has been since the nascent stages of his political career. His formal concession, should it ever come, is a vital step in rebuilding citizens’ trust in the electoral process.
*Svolik, Milan W. “Polarization Versus Democracy.” Journal of Democracy , vol. 30, no. 3, 2019, pp. 20–32.
*Photo by Tim Mossholder, “What now?” (Unsplash), Creative Commons Zero License.