It’s been over a month since Election Day, and despite all 50 states certifying the election, there are still some people who are refusing to accept the results. President Trump and his supporters are gathering at rallies and flocking to social media crying “fraud!” and “stop the steal.”
Aside from fraudulent claims of a rigged election, Trump’s focus on dismantling democracy through spurious lawsuits with zero evidence and tweet-storms on how he won the election are more than a thorn in the side of American democracy. In an effort to overturn the election, Trump is trying to woo governors and state representatives to overturn their state’s results. These claims are dangerous and have the power to embolden future candidates to reject their own electoral outcome. While Trump tries to nullify the voter’s will, the Republican party is working concurrently to cast doubt on the integrity of the current election as well as future elections.
Contesting an election is not the same as rejecting the outcome of a free and free election. Election rejection by a candidate who has lost fair and square is problematic for a few reasons. First and foremost, refusal to concede after losing, sends a resounding message that the votes of the people don’t count. Second, it delegitimizes the electoral process which has potential to lead to voter suppression. Lastly, outright refusal of an election outcome has the ability to delegitimize the candidate’s elected status. Since 1845, it has been a long-standing tradition for presidents who lose their re-election to issue a concession speech. The public concession by a president has played a key role in the peaceful transfer of power.
American democracy is built upon the Constitution and maintained by the voters. We are a country that chooses our representatives by voting. When it came to the 2020 presidential election, it was remarkably successful. Two-thirds of eligible voters voted either by mail or in-person in the 2020 presidential election, making it a record for voter turnout with the highest percentage of voters in the past 120 years. However, Trump has tarnished this history-making moment by his incessant disinformation campaign claiming that the election was rigged and stolen from him. Trump’s attacks are steeped in lies and conspiracies, and are devoid of fact or truth.
This is not surprising. But it is damaging.
Throughout our country’s history, elections have taken place, and the outcome has been accepted by both the winners and losers. Watching the president and his party willingly attack the electoral system, its voters, and attempt to overturn the results is not only globally embarrassing for our country, but it has the potential to cause legitimacy issues for Biden’s presidency.
Some supporters of Trump point to the 2000 election as a precedent for Trump to contest the outcome, but this is not 2000. The 2000 election outcome hinged on Florida’s electoral votes, which was decided by 537 voters. The outcome of the 2020 presidential election was not decided by a single state nor by the slim margin of only a few hundred votes, but multiple states delivered Biden the presidency.
In 2000, when Al Gore realized there was not a path to victory, he conceded. Gore recognized the importance of democracy and the need for legitimacy in the presidency, regardless of who was going to occupy the Oval Office.
Meanwhile, Trump does not care about democracy, he only cares about his own interests, maintaining power, and lining his pockets. This very public temper tantrum and glaring omission of facts is problematic for our nation, not just now, but well after the sun has set on Trump’s presidency.
There is no doubt President-elect Biden will have a lot of fires to put out both domestically and internationally, but the last thing Biden should have to be concerned about is his presidency being viewed by the American people as legitimate.
When a leader refuses to accept losing their election and opts to cry wolf instead, they open Pandora’s box for others to make the same odious power grab in the future. Trump will leave office in January, and it remains to be seen which candidate in the future may be brazen enough to a copycat “stop the steal” campaign while lining their pockets to contest a lawfully executed election. Nevertheless, Americans must not allow these dangerous candidates to dissuade them from showing up and voting in every election.