The last American president to lose a reelection campaign was President George H.W. Bush in 1992. On election night, Bush conceded to then-Governor Bill Clinton and gave a speech thanking his supporters and wishing the future president well in the White House. Bush spoke of ensuring a smooth transition of power and asked Americans to “stand behind our new president regardless of our differences.” 

The American people have not yet heard such a speech from President Donald Trump, and it is unlikely that we ever will. Instead, the president of the United States has recklessly tweeted, retweeted and spoken of baseless accusations of voter fraud and claims to have won the election. While many individuals may likely understand that there is no evidence to back up these false accusations, it remains true that a large portion of the country believes Trump when he says that he won the election. 

Though Joe Biden has won the requisite 270 electoral votes to declare victory and will become the president on Jan. 20, 2021, it is unclear how many Trump supporters will view Biden as a legitimate president. Some of these supporters are high-profile elected officials, who have not only refused to congratulate President-elect Biden, but also repeat Trump’s rhetoric about the illegitimacy of this election. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, have both appeared on Fox News since Biden was announced the winner to call into question the legitimacy of the election and to argue that Trump still has a path to reelection. 

It is bad enough that so many people believe that Biden stole this election from Trump, but even worse is that people such as Graham and Cruz, two well-known senators, are allowing people to continue believing it. Belief in the electoral system is key to American democracy, and two senators are participating in accusations that reject that belief with no evidence

Regardless of what you might think of Biden or Trump and who you think should be the president, it has become clear that America lost this election. Regardless of partisanship and who would perform better as president, when a candidate announces he won when he didn’t and accuses states of voter fraud with no evidence, and people believe him, that country’s democracy is in trouble. American democracy is in trouble. 

We shouldn’t really be surprised that Trump has refused to concede. He’s said repeatedly that he wouldn’t necessarily accept the results of the election if he lost, and he’s said in the past that he might try to run for a third term in 2024. On the other hand, it’s almost surprising that prominent Republicans, including former president George W. Bush and Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, have come out against this rhetoric and congratulated Biden, considering that many Republicans have spent much of the last four years only condemning the president when absolutely necessary

But elections only work if everyone involved respects the outcome. If everyone who lost an election claimed they won, people would have no faith in the electoral system and would not trust any election. As Americans, we should be appalled and concerned that our president, along with the many who support him, refuse to participate in a peaceful transition of power and instead deny this pillar of American democracy. 

I am worried about the future of America. As the country becomes more entrenched in our political dichotomy and aggressively stereotypes people on either side of the political spectrum, it becomes more likely that our democracy will be in trouble. As long as there continue to be political figures who encourage this type of thinking and cast doubt about the integrity of our elections, we will remain on a dangerous path both in terms of our democracy and in terms of what it means to be an American.

A Biden presidency could help to heal some of the damage that has been done to the U.S. due to rifts between identities like race, gender, geography and political affiliation. But if the Republicans who refuse to condemn Trump’s efforts to remain in power continue to do so, the healing of our nation will be an extremely difficult job, if not an impossible one. If the Democratic Party continues to ignore the thoughts of the white working class, especially those in rural America, people will continue to want what Trump brought to the White House in our government. 

You can either celebrate or mourn the end of the Trump presidency. But you must accept the results of this election and all other elections if you want the U.S. to continue to be a functioning democracy.

Lydia Storella can be reached at storella@umich.edu.

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