With the election looming, President Donald Trump has been asked repeatedly about how he will handle the election results, win or lose. He has been given every opportunity to commit to one of the cornerstones of American Democracy and ensure a peaceful transition of power.
He has refused to do so every step of the way. First, he has continued his baseless attacks on mail-in voting, claiming that there would be “rampant” voter fraud if people were allowed to mail their ballots instead of voting in-person. Of note, voting in-person is going to be riskier during this election cycle due to the ongoing public health crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic, which Donald Trump has gloriously screwed up. Second, Trump has also refused to accept the results of the election, which Pelosi and Biden have both promised to do. Donald Trump prefers to take a “wait and see” approach regarding the results of the election, likely to make sure that he comes out on top. Finally, Trump has also refused to commit to providing a peaceful transition of power after election day. This is just the cherry on top, leading to growing concerns that he may not relinquish his office if he loses in November. Most recently, he stated, “Look you — I have to see. No, I’m not going to just say ‘yes.’ I’m not going to say ‘no.’ And I didn’t last time, either.”
He’s certainly telling the truth there. He didn’t say yes back in 2016.
It is critical for everyone to note that this peaceful transition of power has happened after every Presidential election in the history of the United States (when a President was not re-elected). This is still the great American experiment. We were the first country to have elections that led to peaceful transitions of power and virtually every developed country has followed our lead; however, when compared to the history of the world, we are still a brief blip on the radar. If President Trump refuses to accept the results of the election, it could break American Democracy.
Of course, this is not the first time that Trump has echoed these sentiments. He famously refused to honor the results of the election back in 2016- which he ended up winning- and has even joked (maybe?) about saying in office past the constitutionally-limited two terms. The only President to win more than two terms was Franklin Delano Roosevelt from 1933 to 1945 and, let’s face it, Trump is no FDR. Even as great as FDR was, the 22nd Amendment clearly prevents that, in case Trump would like to read it.
Without a doubt, Trump’s refusal to guarantee a transition of power that does not include violence is very likely to alarm both his opponents and his allies. For example, Trump has already deployed the National Guard liberally (no pun intended) across the country, using controversial (to put it kindly) to quell largely peaceful protests against police brutality and racial injustice. He even deployed the National Guard in Washington D.C. just so that he could have a photo op with a Bible. With the awkward way he was holding said bible, he may never have held one before. If he has, he certainly hasn’t opened it to learn from its teachings.
For what it’s worth, even Trumps’ Republican colleagues, such as Mitch McConnell and Mitt Romney, have made comments that stand at odds with Trump’s comments regarding the peaceful transition of power. Romney tweeted that, “Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power… Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable.”
There is some speculation that Trump has heightened this speculation on the results of the election to stoke his base, given that polls have repeatedly shown him trailing Biden both on National polls as well as key polls in swing states.
Most alarming, there are reports coming out of Forbes, The Atlantic, and numerous other reputable news organizations that indicate that Trump is considering radical measures to bypass the election results if he simply doesn’t like them. Of course, he has already laid the groundwork to claim that rampant voter fraud was the reason why he lost, even though it is virtually non-existent. Now, there are reports claiming that he is planning to appoint electors that are going to vote for him regardless of what the vote in the state indicates. While faithless electors are a possibility, there is no precedent for this to happen.
Hopefully, Trump will have a difficult decision to make. When the results show that he has lost, he is going to have in bluff called. Is he going to peacefully leave office? Or, is he going to have to be “fumigated out” of office, as Nancy Pelosi suggested? Hopefully, he decides to abide by one of the founding pillars of American Democracy and go out with a whimper.