As Joe Biden prepares to take the White House on January 20th, it’s likely that many will reflect on the Donald Trump presidency as the United States’ guardrails of democracy actually holding up, or preventing a succumbing to authoritarian rule.
Nothing about Trump’s presidency has been democratic. He lies to the American public on a daily basis — both on things large and small. He’s gaslit them on subjects like war, the coronavirus pandemic, and his baseless claims of mass voter fraud. Even in the face of clear evidence, he’s still doubled-down on plenty of conspiracies.
It’s not like his strategic use of dishonesty has been unsuccessful, either. In the 2020 election against Democratic opponent Joe Biden, Donald Trump amassed more than 73 million votes, and millions of Republican voters currently believe Trump’s claims of voter fraud. If anything, even more support him now.
The narrative that a second Donald Trump term was avoided and democracy is secure because of our democracy’s guardrails is a dangerous one. Mostly since Trump and his buddies have been exploiting the system since day one.
In previous decades, the media would usually check and deter the level at which Trump has gone to obstruct justice, but for various reasons, the media is not as well-equipped as it has been in recent years. And moderate politicians are a dying breed. Trump has also taken steps to obstruct the investigation of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. election; he’sattempted to coerce a foreign leader into digging up fake dirt on his chief political opponent, something the House impeached him for. But somehow, through that storm, he’s become politically stronger as a result.
Currently, Trump’s test of how well our democracy holds up lies in not accepting the results of the 2020 election, an election in which he lost to Biden by more than 5 million votes. Has he conceded? No. Have Republicans pressured him to concede? Also no. They’ve humored him instead.
His efforts in overturning the results of the election will likely be unsuccessful. Even if the lawsuit ended up in the Supreme Court, it’s hard to fathom a situation in which even a conservative court saw in Trump’s favor, and if they did favor him, it’s easy to question the current existence of our court system.
Assuming Biden does take office in January, the lesson here shouldn’t be how well our guardrails of democracy have worked, but rather how we narrowly escaped one of the worst disasters in American history. The focus going forward should be how to strengthen the guardrails before a more competent demagogue comes along.