The President has refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power in event of election loss, horrifyingly subverting democracy further in his reign of chaos, lies, and disgraceful conduct.
Trump’s unprecedented action of refusal to commit to stepping down even in loss is a new low for the democratic proceedings of the USA, an action that has never been taken by a previous president in this manner.
The first time in history.
He refused to answer definitively when asked at a press conference at the White House a few hours ago (PST), “We’re going to have to see what happens,” Mr Trump said. “You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster.”
The very notion of refusing to commit to peaceful handover should worry those that hold democracy dear, even if he is not simply allowed to embark on this coup. The President does not have the decree to overrule the election results on his own- but could be aided in doing so due to America’s complex system, albeit the votes would have to place Trump and Biden very closely matched.
Trump has been vocal about sowing of the seeds of distrust in the ballot system in the US roughly since his poll positioning declined, in particular casting doubt over postal votes.
For months, Trump has been rallying against postal votes, which he has claimed are susceptible to voter fraud. This is in spite of the fact that he, his wife Melania, his daughter Ivanka, his vice president, his attorney-general, his press secretary, his campaign manager, his education secretary, his health and human services secretary, his commerce secretary, his son-in-law, and many of his senior advisers, have all voted by mail in recent years.
In relation to the recent passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG), Trump has been incredibly adamant about replacing her on the Supreme Court as soon as possible, citing concerns over election rigging as the primary reason.
In his abject decimation of the electoral process, he has openly stated that the Democrats have a conspiracy against him, and that they are pulling ‘a scam’, tapping into the anti-establishment ranks of his supporters and their social values.
Trump said, in relation to replacing RBG, “I think it’s better if you go before the election, because I think this scam that the Democrats are pulling — it’s a scam — the scam will be before the United States Supreme Court.”
Peaceful transition of power is an essential component of democratic elections; Trump’s refusal is inciting violence between his supporters and both Biden supporters and non voters alike.
With rhetoric flying around for years now about ‘fake news’, ‘false polls’ whenever Trump is criticised, the buzzphrase of this election campaign has been ‘rigged elections’, with Trump not so subtly preparing his supporters to defend him, even if he loses, under the false assumption that the administration to which he is head of is rigging the election.
This ability to distinguish himself to his supporters as being disassociated from the ‘swamp’ of US politics while simultaneously being de facto in control of that ‘swamp’ is perhaps his finest, most bumbling success.
Trump has sown the seeds of dissent-alongside his personnel of which a more revolving cast has never been seen- for long enough that his strong, staunch, supporters may fervently believe this notion of the rigged vote. The lie of the ‘administration’ wanting rid of Trump despite his re-nomination for the presidency by the Republican party is a fallacy many are not able to understand as clear evidence of support from ‘the administration’ and ‘the swamp’.
Trump’s legacy as president of the United States would make even Nixon ashamed. From his bumbling, blustering speeches, outright lies, and propensity for lunacy and violence inciting on Twitter, the president has sufficed to make a mockery of a role that while by no means innocent in world conflict, upheld a sense of decency, presentation, and respectability for the most part when articulating itself on the world stage.
Every leader has to make decisions that can potentially influence the lives of millions of civilians, and by no means would I articulate that previous presidents have not contributed to global conflict, or subterfuge (this is also not just a trait of the US leaders by any means).
However, the sense of decorum and at least veneer of respect for the democratic process on a superficial level has been destroyed in the States by Trump, Pence, and a whole host of Republican figures that seem to have no regard for the truth, systematic procedure, or actual wit and skill to pull off any nefarious behind the scene schemes that occurs in politics constantly.
Quite simply, they do not care about being caught lying, and feel no sense of public obligation, when denial is the order of the day- a trend echoed across history, but more alarmingly, rising across Western democracies over the last decade.
Could Trump legally enforce his refusal to step down?
If it were simply a matter of the president denying the reality of an undisputed election result, Biden and his Democratic aids could simply order the Secret Service to carry Mr Trump out of the Oval Office if need be.
As a result of the American election system is so complex, there are many avenues for a politician to refuse to leave office.
In order to successfully argue that he won even if the ballots say otherwise, Mr Trump would need the cooperation of state officials.
Constitutional law professor Aziz Huq from the University of Chicago illustrated how Trump could delay proceedings, and the options available that he could utilise.
“The realistic worry is that the president will employ a mix of litigation and rhetorical strategies to block counting or block recognition of the count in a closely divided election,” Professor Huq said.
“Because the United States has a decentralised electoral system in which the administration of elections is run by the states, there are many weaknesses.”
A candidate needs more than half of America’s 538 electoral college votes to become president. Part of the problem lies in America’s constitution.
“Absolutely, if the count in the electoral college isn’t close, then this isn’t an issue,” Professor Huq said. “If there are plural states that put Biden over 270 (electoral college votes) then that’s done.”
However the logistics play out over the next 6 weeks, the message of unclear commitment to power hand-over should be a terrifying message to those that support democracy worldwide, particularly in the Western world, where his influence and style of politics is gaining traction across the right.
Feature Image Credit: Oliver Contreras for The New York Times