For most of the 20th century and into the 21st century, America has served as the world’s foremost promoter of democracy, and we as Americans prided ourselves on a democratic tradition the likes of which the world had never seen.
While that democratic tradition has not yet hit its twilight, the actions taken by President Trump in the lead up to and ultimately culminating on Jan. 6 have seriously tarnished it.
In hindsight, the hallmarks of President Trump’s disregard for democracy and the democratic process were there from the very onset of his presidency. Shortly after winning the 2016 presidential election, Trump claimed he won the popular vote if “you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”
Even in an election he won, Trump claimed that somehow the world was rigged against him and his presidency. From this point forward, it should have been evident that democracy was in no way a priority for Trump, rather his own personal ego. Throughout his presidency, Trump continuously disregarded democratic practices and norms, which manifested in his first impeachment.
In Dec. 2019, Trump was impeached for a conversation with the Ukrainian Prime Minister in which he “allegedly” asked for incriminating information about his soon-to-be opponent Joe Biden. Regardless of what actually occurred or what Trump was truly insinuating, asking a foreign country to “do us a favor” specifically pertaining to a political rival’s son demonstrates a blatant disregard for established norms on election integrity. Whether you supported impeachment or not, even the existence of this situation in the first place proves that Trump valued personal success above democracy as a whole.
Trump’s refusal to concede was the smoke before the fire, an action not taken by a president in modern history, and his continuous claims that the election was rigged despite multiple state courts (some of which were Republican) finding no evidence of voter fraud ignited the flames.
Trump was recently impeached for seeking to incite a riot against the Capitol, and once again, whether you truly believe he directly incited it, his statements on the election created violence. Elections are at the core of our democracy and the votes within them should fundamentally determine the outcome of an election. It seems like an obvious statement, but evidently not to some Americans. When a sitting president asks the Georgia Secretary of State to “find 11,780 votes” this is no longer simply acting in opposition to democracy or challenging democratic norms; it is blatantly attacking democracy itself.
The long term impact of Trump’s actions in America have yet to be seen. Politics going into Biden’s presidency are more uncertain than they’ve ever been. With both parties making potentially significant transitions, American democracy continues to hang in the balance. The next steps after Trump will determine the American political landscape in the present and future. As Trump’s presidency concludes, it is now in the hands of the people to restore our nation and democracy in America.