On Jan. 6, 2021, a mob of angry protestors stormed the Capitol in an attempt to interrupt the day’s proceedings: certifying the 2020 presidential election results. Many sat in their homes, glued to the TV screens, watching this fateful day of violence and rage play out. It is one that will go down as a dark moment in American history, leading to the untimely deaths of five people and symbolizing a unified threat to the American democratic system. It should be acknowledged, though, that although the most recent threat, this event is only the cumulation of several attempts over the past few months to delegitimize the system. Therefore, even more so than this, it is those in power who actively encourage such behavior who pose the real threat to democracy.
In the time following the November 2020 presidential election, in which Joe Biden was named President-elect, President Trump and many members of the Republican party participated in denouncing the results, spewing dangerous rhetoric, and ultimately, inciting violence. This does not refer to him demanding a recount, as this is within his Constitutional rights. In fact, the presidential election of 2000 between Al Gore and George Bush II is a prime example of a presidential candidate that felt justified in demanding a recount. It is unconstitutional, though, to try to block election results in specific states on the basis of unfounded assertions while simultaneously fueling a violent uproar from one’s base over them. The main difference between the 2000 and 2020 elections is that after the recount deemed President Bush as the winner, Gore willingly conceded. President Trump, who pursued many legal avenues in an attempt to prove foul play, all of which came up short, did not. He waited the day after the storming of the Capitol occurred to give the closest thing he has made to a concession speech. Even then, he did not outrightly say he was conceding.
The fact that the events of Jan. 6 still transpired even after all of these failed legal efforts by President Trump exemplifies the true danger certain rhetoric presents. Even though all of the votes had been counted twice, thousands of people still arrived in Washington, D.C. in an effort to overthrow democracy (and the election) by trying to stop the certifying of electoral votes solely based on perilous claims that lacked any evidence. Alleging that an election was stolen or fraudulent while presenting no proof, especially by the POTUS, creates an unwarranted paranoia surrounding not only the current election but also future elections. It presents questions surrounding the credibility of all of our elections and, therefore, our democracy.
Although, in this case, democracy has won, and President-elect Joe Biden is set to be inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2021, who is to say that it will win again? The American people deserve the leader the majority of them voted for and the representatives and politicians of this country owe them this guarantee. Representative Will Hurd describes it best, tweeting, “A sitting president undermining our political process & questioning the legality of the voices of countless Americans without evidence is not only dangerous and wrong, but it also undermines the very foundation this nation was built upon. Every American should have his or her vote counted.” The fact that it was merely groundless accusations that caused such an uproar over the past few months and led people to literally try to overthrow democracy poses the question: What does this mean for future elections? Can our democracy withstand such allegations again? We sure hope so, but only time will tell.