The night of November 8, 2016 still burns in the back of my mind. Like most people, I was stunned to see swing state after swing state called for Donald Trump. Finally, at about 2:30 a.m., I had seen enough and went to bed.
For those of us who stayed up late, we wondered what the next morning would be like. Those who went to sleep earlier in the night, when it still looked like Hillary Clinton could pull it off, were in for a shock. They awoke to a big surprise, one that drastically changed our country.
As I puttered about at school the next day, I couldn’t help but notice the contrasting reactions among my class. The liberals mourned and the Trump-supporting students celebrated. The emotions in my high school that day foreshadowed a tumultuous, divisive, and extremely partisan four years that would define the Trump presidency.
Despite the deep emotions that the 2016 election elicited from us, we could take some solace in the fact that our democracy functioned as designed. Although it was super late in the night, we knew who our next president would be.
Election results were certified and neither candidate disputed them. Hillary Clinton, enduring perhaps the most painful moment in her life, called her opponent and conceded the election. Without any obstacles or major resistance in sight, Trump was set to be sworn in as president in January.
In this election, the peaceful transfer of power is being dangled right in front of our eyes. Since taking office, Donald Trump has launched attack after attack on our election system. Even though he won the 2016 election, he quickly charged that it was fraudulent, claiming without any evidence that millions of illegal immigrants voted in the election for Hillary Clinton.
He has not spared the 2020 Presidential Election either.
With coronavirus gripping the nation, millions of Americans have opted to vote by mail. Despite its importance, especially for seniors and those with compromised health, Trump has repeatedly denounced mail-in voting as fraudulent, claiming that his opponents will use it to steal the election. Citing this “widespread fraud,”
President Trump has not committed to the peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 election. His official response, as reported by FiveThirtyEight: “We’re going to have to see what happens.”
By doing this, Donald Trump has paved a dangerous path, weaving a conspiracy theory among his supporters, and giving himself a fail-safe should he ultimately lose the election.
Unfortunately, the conditions of the 2020 election give Trump’s accusations an alarming amount of life. Because of the unprecedented number of mail-in, absentee, and early votes, we might not know election results from several states for nearly a week. According to FiveThirtyEight’s state-by-state analysis of ballot tabulation, some states will be counting, and even accepting some mailed votes, after election day has concluded.
As we’ve seen, large numbers of votes still need to be counted in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Michigan. Leading up to the election, both parties saw these states as prime targets in their quest for the White House. However, neither candidate swept enough of these swing states to secure victory on election night, which means we might not know who our next president will be for several more days.
The nation will be paralyzed as we watch the remaining ballots in these swing states trickle in. Sudden changes in just one state can change the outcome of the election. This delicate situation may leave the legitimacy of the election in shambles, as Trump conducts total war on the results. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to his supporters either, who have remained loyal through every single scandal, that these mail-in ballots, which tipped the scale and handed the election to Joe Biden, are in fact fraudulent.
The Republican Party has already initiated unsavory strategies to secure a victory. In Texas, Republicans filed a lawsuit to invalidate nearly 130,000 mail-in ballots collected through a dropbox. While the lawsuit ultimately failed, it indicates that the GOP is daring to sift through individual votes and challenge them. However, we shouldn’t be naive about the Republican strategy. In their effort to win the election, the Republican Party is actively engaging in voter suppression.
Nobody should have their right to vote denied simply for partisan purposes. Any attempt at the degradation of democracy should face widespread condemnation and fierce criticism.
While Joe Biden urged supporters late on Tuesday night to remain calm and allow votes to be counted, President Trump’s rhetoric was much darker. Shortly before midnight, Trump tweeted that he was winning, but “they” were trying to steal the election. At 2 a.m, Trump addressed the nation, claiming an overwhelming victory and blasting newly counted ballots as disenfranchisement. Most alarmingly, Trump promised to challenge the counting of ballots in the Supreme Court.
Let’s be clear: Trump’s effort to thwart democracy by turning to the Supreme Court, of which he has directly appointed one-third of the justices, to prohibit the tallying of votes is absolutely disgusting, It is a dangerous descent towards fascism and authoritarianism.
If Trump continues this war on democracy, we must be prepared to meet the moment with the caution it deserves. In a healthy democracy, the opposition party moves to maintain the rule of law and uphold the election. However, the Democratic Party in Congress seems to be stunned at nearly every decision the Trump administration makes. Can they wield their power to preserve our democracy? I am skeptical that the Democrats can withstand this pressure alone.
Should the Democratic Party fail to protect us, we must take action ourselves. Our only option will be massive demonstrations and protests in the streets.