In the last 20 years, the United States has seen an increasing rise in the lack of trust in election results. Public trust in elections began to erode with the Supreme Court’s decision in Gore v. Bush when the state of Florida misconducts lead to a heavily heated recount. Despite Al Gore winning the popular vote, he did not win enough electoral college seats to get him over 270 due to one state. Florida was a very close race that recount was needed, but the recount was a mess. While Al Gore did concede by asking his party to accept the results despite his rejection of the court’s decision, he believed in the institution in the country. It wasn’t the same story with President Obama’s election victory. A small minority of dire hard Republican supporters refused to believe that President Obama was reelected back in 2012 despite Mitt Romney conceding. Comparing to Al Gore’s loss, this angered spewed around against more of Obama in fears of his policies that eventually accumulated even more hatred to the other party. While nobody disputed Obama’s election at all from the losing candidate nor close enough like Al Gore. Polarization was on the rise in the country, and mistrust was begging to set foot. This start created the main issue today where the rise of the drop in voter confidence has allowed the current President of the United States to use his authority to discredit the 2020 election through rhetoric and the courts and the institutions in the country will be tested to the max if it can hold up free and fair elections.
While these rejections of the other are small, these were the first few signs of a rise of lack of recognition of the legitimacy the other party winning. Before the public trust in the election, results were never disputed nor marginally close. In 2016, another close race that has left multiple swing states having less than 100,000 votes margin and the rise of news of Russian’s influencing the election with the Trump team. The election results left a vast portion of Democrats to believe that President Trump has been placed there by Moscow. You can see rejecting with the “Not My President” protest where democratic supporters protest around the country rejecting Trump’s victory. This could have gotten even bigger, but Hillary Clinton, on the next day, did concede and accept the results. Later, investigations onto the Russian interference started by James Comey onto the president, eventually leading to his firing, but it confirmed to those who believed the conspiracy theory even more. Eventually, as the facts came in, it was clear that Russia was interfering, but President Trump didn’t take any part in working with the Russian state, but the damage was already done.
In 2020, we see the new trend of rejecting the winning candidate continuing, but unlike the previous elections, the losing candidate President Trump isn’t conceding and denying the outcome calling it rigged. This has left a huge portion of his base, rejecting the results. Even before election night, polls were coming out from pollsters about a person who was voting candidate that loses will they accept the election result? The answer most saw was very shocking as both sides had 60% that would reject the other. So even if Donald Trump did win, we would see the other side who, coming out of 2016. believing in the Russian Gate would think that Donald Trump and the Republican Party has rigged the results. But we are not in that reality as of writing this.
What does this mean for democratic erosion? Well, if the trust of the election results is low, this could have led to massive election violence and lack of trust of the institutions that hold up the government. Thankfully, there was no massive election violence happening immediately after the election and when the news media announced that Joe Biden was the projected winner of the election. But lack of trust, in general, has allowed President Trump to make a power move by preventing any money to be used to Biden’s transitional team, but that can only persist for so long until the electoral college votes. Edit: as of the writing of this, the transition has begun under the General Service Administration directive to allow funds to go to President-Elect Biden on January 23rd, 2020. Other areas where the president using this chaos to undermine democracy would be pressuring the Republican State Legislature and Republican Governors to push for faithless electors assigned that would vote for him. While at the same time, his base is protesting around the country pressuring governors to heed his demand for recount and rejection of certification, or else it might possibly harm their reelection in 2022. The last area that President Trump is banking on is the court system. He is hoping if he can get one of his cases to the Supreme Court, they would side in his favor since three justices are appointed by him. If this does indeed succeed, future presidents might take this path to ensure their own electoral victories over the public voice. In turn, the US would return to its old ways before voting by the people was accepted by the state in the 19th century. If not, it shows the strong institutions that still in place, making sure the voter’s voice is heard.
Even if both sides in future elections are going not to accept the results, it seems to be that institution that makes sure who is the victor in the election remains free and fair interventions of party’s influence election results. An example of that would be in the state of Georgia on November 20th, a Republican Governor and Secretary State made a formal announcement to certify the results of the election after a recount. Despite opposition from their party, they did not give in to the pressure and certified the results. Without any hard evidence by the Trump team to prove any form of voter fraud, there is no way without any form of intervention by the governor not to recognize the winning candidate. This is an example of the strong institutions that goes beyond politics and beyond the control of an authoritarian move can ever achieve. But if it keeps on going, there might be a chance where a state might change its election rules for choosing an electoral college voter by the control of the state and not the public, but so far, that seems a long way off before we are in that territory is even concealable. None less, the erosion of trust in elections over the last 20 years has allowed the failed attempt of a one-term president to seize more power to remain in office.