Where Do We Go After the Trumpist Tantrum?
As Americans deal with the aftermath of the Trumpist riot and invasion of the Capitol on January 6, a difficult question looms for the citizens of a troubled republic: How do you maintain a political system when much of the population ceases to believe in its underlying principles? The problem is not just President Donald Trump—whose petulant refusal to accept his loss at the polls set the grounds for the violence that disrupted Congress’s count of Electoral College votes—but also his cultists who are more interested in maintaining one thuggish politician in power than they are in how power is acquired and used. Beyond them are all too many Americans who have come to believe they can’t afford to lose elections.
This moment didn’t drop out of the blue. The country has suffered growing political polarization, harsh feelings between the political factions, and an increase in political violence in recent years. We saw that in the 2017 ambush of Republican members of Congress and their protective police detail, the violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the litany of riots that started as demonstrations against abusive law enforcement before taking on a life of their own.
Those concerns grew as the election loomed. “We are increasingly anxious that this country is headed toward the worst post-election crisis in a century and a half,” wrote Larry Diamond of the Hoover Institution, Lee Drutman of New America, Tod Lindberg of the Hudson Institute, Nathan P. Kalmoe of Louisiana State University, and Lilliana Mason the University of Maryland in an October 1 piece in Politico. “Our biggest concern is that a disputed presidential election—especially if there are close contests in a few swing states, or if one candidate denounces the legitimacy of the process—could generate violence and bloodshed.”
They had good reason to fear a disputed election. “About three in 10 (29 percent) Republicans say it would be appropriate for President Trump to refuse to leave office because he claims that he has credible evidence of illegal voting,” the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group warned last summer. “On the other hand, 57 percent of Democrats say that it would be appropriate for a Democratic candidate to call for a do-over election because they claim to have credible evidence of interference by a foreign government.”
The election results didn’t exactly sweep in an era of good feelings. Twenty-four percent of likely U.S. voters “think Biden voters are America’s biggest enemy as 2020 draws to a close,” Rasmussen Reports no
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