President Donald Trump declined on September 23 to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the Presidential election to Democratic rival Joe Biden and said he expected the election battle to end up before the Supreme Court. “We’re going to have to see what happens,” President Trump told reporters at the White House when asked whether he would commit to transferring power. Trump, who substantially trails Biden in national opinion polls, has repeatedly cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election, asserting without evidence that mail-in voting would lead to fraud and a “rigged” outcome. “The ballots are a disaster,” Trump said. Democrats have encouraged voting by mail as a way to cast ballots safely during the coronavirus pandemic. Millions of Americans, including much of the military, have cast absentee ballots by mail for years without problems. In 2016, Trump also raised questions about whether he would accept the results of the election. He went on to win the presidency.
Overall, the reaction to President Donald Trump’s comments was met with scorn by members of both political parties. Joe Biden, while speaking to reporters in Delaware, said Trump’s comments on the transition of power were “irrational.” His campaign said it was prepared for any “shenanigans” from Trump, and reiterated comments from July that “the United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House.” Mitt Romney, a rare Trump critic among Republican senators, said on Twitter that “Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus. Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable.” Additionally, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, two of President Trump’s staunchest congressional allies, denounced the President’s statements and underscored that there will be a peaceful transfer of power assuming that President Trump loses re-election.
Despite the overwhelmingly negative reaction to President Donald Trump’s comments, they were generally brushed aside by some of President Trump’s political allies. For example, Senator Mike Braun (R-IN), a strong Trump supporter, said that the topic is “preposterous” and no one should focus on the President’s equivocation. “He stokes the fire sometimes,” Braun said. “If you took it seriously it would be alarming. And I don’t think that that’s the case.” Additionally, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), attempted to shift the argument and claimed that Joe Biden will do the same if he loses to Trump. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer chastised Senate Republicans for their response to the president, arguing “this is not a partisan issue” and that “democracy is at stake.”
President Donald Trump, who is moving quickly to nominate a successor to liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, said that he thinks the election “will end up in the Supreme Court and I think it’s very important that we have nine justices.” A Senate confirmation vote before the election would seal a 6-3 conservative majority on the court, potentially spelling trouble for Democrats should it be called on to decide any legal dispute over the results of the election. “This scam that the Democrats are pulling, it’s a scam, the scam will be before the United States Supreme Court, and I think having a 4-4 situation is not a good situation,” President Trump said. Only one US presidential election, the 2000 contest between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore, has had its outcome determined by the Supreme Court.
Overall, President Donald Trump openly floating the idea of ignoring the results of the Presidential election and instead opting to stay in power despite the results may spell the end of democratic governance in the US. For example, a hallmark of any Democratic political system is the peaceful transfer of power. Without assurances for peaceful transitions of power, a democratic system will likely become unstable and ultimately collapse into dictatorship. Additionally, there are some parallels between President Donald Trump’s actions over the course of his Presidency and the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany during the early 1930s. For example, both Trump and Hitler demonized the press, sought to create common enemies to distract their people from their power grabs and failed policies, and promoted nationalism and militarism as a way to “make their countries great again.” It is imperative for the American people to make their voices heard at the ballot box to prevent America from inadvertently sliding into fascism and autocracy, as was the case in Germany during the early 1930s.