I worry about what happens to our democracy over the next few months. No matter who you are supporting, you should too.
First published in September 2020.
The President of the United States – our government’s top official who swore an oath to uphold the Constitution – this week would not commit to a peaceful transfer of power. Again.
It’s, of course, not his first time he’s refused to respond to that question. He said it in 2016 too.
Now, a peaceful transition of power in this country does not mean you can’t legally challenge election results in the courts. Of course, if there is a legitimate allegation of a violation of the law, that process should play out. And/but there are deadlines. This is all laid out in our Constitution – Article II, Section 1, Clause 2, as modified by the 12th and 23rd Amendments.
For the record, this election cycle that means that:
- By December 8 any election results must be resolved.
- December 14, electors meet in the states to vote.
- December 23 is the deadline for elector votes to be submitted to the President of the U.S. Senate.
- January 6, those ballots are counted.
- January 20, whoever was elected is sworn into office.
In 2000, the Year of the Hanging Chads Election, former Vice President Al Gore conceded before the deadline to resolve all results, and after the Supreme Court ruled for George W. Bush in the Florida contest. For the good of the country.
“I accept the finality of the outcome which will be ratified next Monday in the Elector College. And tonight, for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.”
Words unlikely to ever come out of Donald Trump’s lips if he should lose the election.
Trump did not officially challenge the 2016 results because he won the Electoral College. He still maintains he also won the popular vote, which he lost by about 3 million votes. He didn’t win the popular vote. And it doesn’t matter. We elect via the Electoral College. He is the duly elected President.
If you want to be totally terrified by all the scenarios experts and lawyers for both candidates are reviewing, read this piece in The Atlantic.
What does Trump mean when he says he won’t commit to a peaceful transfer of power? I don’t know. That question hasn’t been put to him that I know of. We do know, though, how loyal his supporters are. So you can let your imagination run wild. And that, too, is frightening.
If you read The Atlantic piece, you’ll see that at the end of the day – if things play out in their worst-case scenario – lawyers literally will decide the election in one way or another. You’ll also see more clearly why filling that vacant Supreme Court seat is imperative in Trump’s mind.
This all could come about because the President for months has laid out his “belief” that this election is being rigged by the Democrats because of the unusually high number of mail-in ballots expected because of the coronavirus.
There is no way he will concede this election. And, in fact, based on the article, he’s the one who could steal it. Joe Biden is more likely to accept a clear enough loss. Trump will not even accept a landslide against him, I expect. And, there’s likely no landslide coming.
Trump accused Hillary Clinton of being crooked but if she were totally crooked and devious enough (and one would assume with the presidency at stake she would be) why didn’t she rig the Electoral College instead of the popular vote? “Crooked” but not smart? Highly unlikely in her case.
Trump has never indicated anything but that he believes this election is “rigged.” There is no reason to doubt that he will maintain that view until his dying day. In his mind, he can never be a “loser.”
The question is, even if election night is not a landslide, will Trump ever concede the election? The answer likely is no.
And that’s when his loyalists could make sure there is not a peaceful transition.
I have no big concerns that if Biden wins, there will be a transfer of power in January. There are protocols to remove a former president from the White House.
I also believe anything is possible with Donald Trump – except him accepting he lost an election.
If the election for some reason (laid out in that article) is not resolved by Inauguration Day, the Speaker of the House will be sworn in, as the second in line in the succession. There is no doubt in the Constitution that a presidential term expires on January 20.
Still, I do worry about what happens to our democracy over the next few months. No matter who you are supporting, you should too.🔷
B. Jay Cooper, Former deputy White House press secretary to Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Check their Voting Record:
🗳️ Donald Trump
🗳️ Joe Biden
🗳️ Nancy Pelosi