Perry Bacon Jr. of FiveThirtyEight –
At nearly 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, the morning after Election Day 2016, the Associated Press declared Donald Trump the winner of the presidential election. Around the same time, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton phoned Trump to concede, a call she made at the urging of then-President Barack Obama. That Thursday, less than 48 hours after the election results, Obama met with his successor to help him prepare for the transition to the presidency.
Four years later, nothing like that has happened. More than a week has passed since major news outlets declared Joe Biden the winner, but Trump has refused to concede. Instead, his legal team is pushing efforts to invalidate the results, and his administration won’t work with Biden officials on the transition of power. Top Republicans in Congress and around the country aren’t openly acknowledging Biden’s victory either.
That some Republicans won’t go along with the traditional niceties following a presidential election (like congratulating the victor from the opposing party) isn’t that important. But the sitting president’s refusal to acknowledge electoral defeat is worrisome, as it raises the prospect that he will not uphold a core tenet of democracy: Elections determine who is in power, and those who lose surrender power peacefully. The behavior of top Republican Party officials — subtly acknowledging that Trump must leave office on Jan. 20 but not openly rebuking his conduct — in some ways also violates that core value. And the combination of Trump’s and his party’s behavior raises a serious question: Is America’s democracy in trouble?