U.S. government institutions have been tested more in the last four years than they have at any other time in recent memory. The country is led by a corrupt president who is openly waging war against the integrity of the upcoming presidential election. For years, President Trump has shamelessly infected our national discourse with vile talk of “rigged elections,” imagined voting scandals, and baseless accusations that the Democrats are trying to “steal the election.” Trust in our electoral system has been carefully constructed over hundreds of years. President Trump is doing his best to try and destroy that trust, all in the name of his reelection.
The United States was built on the revered tradition of peaceful transfers of power between presidents. This tradition, which began with George Washington, is under threat from President Trump. The president consistently refuses to commit to a peaceful transfer of power. While some believe that the president is not serious or will not follow through with such threats, President Trump is not kidding when he refuses to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.
Leading up to the 2016 election, President Trump spent significant time saying the election was rigged against him. He claimed that everyone from dead Democrats to illegal immigrants were going to be used to defeat him on Election Day. Despite winning the necessary electoral votes to become president, he failed to win a majority of the popular vote, coming up about three million people short of his opponent, Hillary Clinton.
President Trump not only talks like a sore loser, he has also shown himself to be a sore winner. So convinced that illegal immigrants voted against him, or that some illegal action was taken by the Democrats, President Trump organized the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in May 2017. The purpose of this commission was to investigate President Trump’s election fraud claims and produce evidence. After some legal troubles and no success, the commission was dissolved about eight months later.
The president’s incendiary comments about the integrity of the election stokes fire in the hearts of his supporters and threatens to bring down the already weakened trust held by the American people for their government.
Since the 2016 election, the warning signs of a contested or violent transfer of power have been present. In February 2019, the president’s former attorney Michael Cohen made a striking statement when testifying before Congress. He said, “Given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020, that there will never be a peaceful transition of power.”
President Trump plays directly into these fears by tweeting videos suggesting that he will never leave office. Some of his supporters even believe he should be allowed to stay in office for at least two additional years, as payback for the Mueller investigation.
The protests during the Summer of 2020 gave the country the opportunity to see how the president reacts while under pressure. The President demonstrated that he reacts violently. From using secret police to snatch up protesters off the street, to using police to violently clear Lafayette Square so the President could have a photo op, to encouraging police to rough people up more during arrests, President Trump showed that he has no qualms about using violence. It should not be surprising that he refuses to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.
President Trump may be motivated to refuse to commit to leaving peacefully for any number of reasons. One possibility could be that the president sees himself as a winner, and if he loses on Election Day, it may be too much for his prideful heart to take, leading him to refuse to leave peacefully. Another could be that the president faces serious charges related to his businesses in New York and potential obstruction of justice charges he committed during the Mueller investigation. As he cannot be charged while serving as president, Donald Trump may attempt to prolong his term as long as he can to avoid prosecution.
Regardless of his reasoning, President Trump is risking the health of our democracy and Constitution by even threatening to not leave office peacefully. Despite what many of his supporters say, the president is not joking, and he means what he says. President Trump is threatening to commit one of the most unconscionable and unconstitutional acts of any U.S. president by refusing to leave peacefully, should he lose the election.
The American people must be ready to stand up against this tyranny.