It is safe to say that this presidential election has been particularly stressful on all Americans. On top of the fact that we are living through a pandemic and literally everything about life has changed, the country is going through a very meaningful political metamorphosis. Although there have been many affirmations that former Vice President Joe Biden has won the 2020 election, President Trump has yet to formally concede and begin the transition of power. Many foreign leaders have already made statements regarding the 2020 Election results and are anticipating the shift of power including all other members of the G7 – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom, which have congratulated President-elect Joe Biden. The world seems ready to move, while America waits on the edge of its seat. Given the circumstances of 2020, how can the delayed transition of power affect life in 2021 and forward?
A main concern that President Trump is exacerbating is that he is digging into the American precedence of a peaceful transition of power. Trump has never formally committed to a peaceful transition of power. In fact, when asked about the traditional peaceful transition, he replied that “we’ll have to see what happens,” citing false claims of election fraud. This response is similar to others he’s given where he continuously refuses to commit to a peaceful transition and even jokes about the constitutional two term limit.
The idea that our countries leaders cooperatively and respectfully hand off power to the next generation is largely a foundational component of what makes American government American. This is a tradition which began with our first president. Even in periods of American history with particular unrest, the country’s leaders have been able to recognize transfers in leadership. President Lincoln was respectfully welcomed by President Buchanan in 1861 despite the American Civil war starting months after President Lincoln took office.
President Trump’s behavior following his failure in the 2020 Election challenges historical norms and weakens the American democracy. He has an impact on the precedence set by the 44 previous presidents, opening the opportunity for similar complications in the future.
Trust in the Electoral System
In conjunction with challenging the foundational expectations of this country, President Trump is severely impacting the nation’s trust in the electoral system. Even prior to Election Day, President Trump has claimed widespread election fraud; claims which have gone largely unsupported due to lack of solid evidence. His campaign’s numerous lawsuits and challenges have been outlined here.
President Trump is seemingly refusing defeat despite multiple court decisions and recounts. Georgia has already had one recount which did not go in the favor of President Trump, yet he and his campaign are demanding a second recount. Not only are his claims false, but they are degrading the overall trust in the political system on all sides. Our democracy is already struggling from lack of faith and trust, and these claims are deepening those wounds. Extraordinarily high percentages of citizens believe that the elections were not free and fair – Politico reports 70% of Republicans while Reuters reports 40% of Republicans feel this way. Regardless of the exact number, it is clear that many Americans are losing trust in the characterizing feature of The United States, democracy, largely due to President Trump’s rhetoric and false claims this election year.
This aspect of political influence and democratic degradation may seem very theoretical. What’s the big deal? In fact, President Trump’s resistance to work with the incoming Biden Administration has real world implications. The topic on everyone’s mind, COVID-19, is changed by how these two administrations can work together. More importantly, the success and delivery of the COVID-19 Vaccine hinges on whether or not President Trump and President-elect Biden can collaborate.
Two major vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) have reached at least a 90% efficacy through a continued and arduous effort to return to normal life. These vaccines are awaiting expedited FDA approval and once complete millions of doses will be ready for shipping and administering. This is all set to happen around the New Year and well into 2021, a time when we will be transitioning from one President to the next. As it currently is, President-elect Biden and his administration have not been welcomed into the coronavirus task force. Beyond the formal access to Operation Warp Speed, President Trump has withheld information and blocked communication with the incoming administration. This lack of cooperation may severely impact how Americans receive the vaccine. Currently, the Biden administration is forced to plan for vaccine distribution without any knowledge from the White House regarding the current plan or practices which are in place.
Ultimately, the failure of President Trump to work with the Biden administration negatively impacts American democracy, our electoral system, and importantly, the health and safety of every person living in the United States during the worst public health crisis of the century.