A peaceful transfer of power is an essential element of any democratic culture. The transition of power in the U.S. remains peaceful, at large, until now; however, Trump has decided to challenge the elections if results do not go in his favor.
Recently, the Republican-based President Donald Trump answered a question in a press conference that the elections have been rigged against him and that “We are going to see what happens.”
Trump’s refusal for power transition can have severe consequences to the peace of the country if he calls for nationwide protests by the Republicans in the aftermath of the elections.
However, senators and voters are of the view that in case of a loss, Trump must not show any resistance while giving the White House to the new president.
Trump’s rhetoric in the first presidential debate:
“If the elections are fair, I am 100 percent on board,” said Trump in the first presidential debate that happened Tuesday night.
He continued making allegations about the election process of the United States by saying that many military ballots have been found with the name Trump on them.
The sole purpose of this rhetoric is to lay a foundation for the crisis that can spark in the aftermath of the November 3 elections. Not only this, but Trump has also said numerous times that the elections will end up in the Supreme Court.
To add fuel to the fire, Trump has also nominated a new conservative justice in the Supreme Court, whose approval is likely to be completed soon by the Senate. If election challenges go to the Supreme Court, it could be favorable for the Republicans, considering the conservative majority of the justices.
How can Trump capitalize on his COVID infection to affect the elections?
Over time, Trump has repeatedly been negligent about the novel coronavirus. However, he, along with the first lady Melania Trump, just got infected with the virus and have started the quarantine. It is all happening with the election coming around the corner in just a month.
Trump has already announced that he is going to quarantine himself. The future of the presidential debates is also in question now.
All of these events can give him enough reasons to open a new Pandora’s box, claiming that he is not getting enough opportunities to campaign for the November elections.
There is even a school of thought that the president is faking the virus just to get sympathy and to cover up his inevitable and imminent defeat beforehand.
With the delay of debates and Trump not getting further opportunities to campaign for Republicans, he can easily blame his loss on his COVID infection and him not getting equal opportunities. What if he does not recover in a period of fourteen days? He will have to take a second quarantine of fourteen days, which will be the last nail in his election campaign’s coffin.
With early voting going on in many states and elections about to begin in a month, it was extremely important for him to make sure that he does not miss any opportunity to get the votes of the undecided and the scattered voters of the country.
However, it seems that he will not be able to do this now, and will only blame the system in the aftermath of the elections to agitate the political crisis. He can even blame democrats for rigging the elections in his absence from the field, sparking more political unrest, and giving him playing field not for a peaceful transfer of power.
How denial to transfer of power will bring political crisis?
In the first presidential debate, when the moderator asked Trump if he will accept the election results peacefully, he replied that he would urge his supporters to go and watch the elections “very carefully.”
The hidden message of Trump is that it is clearly giving the go-ahead to violence. How will Trump’s supporters see these things?
Do they have any authority to oversee the election process “very carefully” and to bypass national security institutions who are supposed to make the elections safe?
The violence can even be worse if somehow right-wing organizations manage to be part of the political protests. For instance, Trump failed to denounce white supremacists and Proud Boys in the first presidential debate.
Proud Boys is a right-wing political organization that has a history of agitating violence in the political protests. The chauvinist group has a pro-Trump narrative and staged massive showdowns after the recent murder of George Floyd.
Their ability to gather masses for violent public demonstrations is not hidden, and their inclusion in the protests in the wake of Trump’s call after November 3 can be detrimental for the peace of the United States.
The protests can become even violent if Democratic supporters also come to the street in favor of the new president. Trump can capitalize on these events to negate the transfer of power peacefully.
Denial of power transition and its repercussions on democracy:
Recently, the top U.S. military personnel said that the U.S. military would play no role in the election process and in settling disputed votes.
However, the situation is not as simple as it seems to be. After the death of George Floyd in May, President Trump threatened to deploy the U.S. military in the cities to curb the protests under the Insurrection Act of 1807.
Even if Trump loses the November election, he will be the president of the U.S. until January. He will have enough time to plan how can he deny the peaceful transfer of power. Will he exercise his power to deploy the army in the cities to curb any ongoing protest?
What if he deploys the military to quell only those protests that are against him and lets those protests happen that are in favor of him?
The United States military is also aware that they can be used after the elections to quell the protests, and the recent comments of Trump have sparked concerns in the top military leadership. For instance, General Mark A. Miley said, “I believe deeply in the principle of an apolitical U.S. military…In the event of a dispute over some aspect of the elections, by law, U.S. courts and the U.S. Congress are required to resolve any disputes, not the U.S. military. I foresee no role for the U.S. armed forces in this process.”.
However, two retired U.S. military Generals John Nagl and Paul Yingling, wrote an open letter to Mr. Milley where it was mentioned that “In a few months’ time, you (Milley) may have to choose between defying a lawless president or betraying your constitutional oath… If Donald Trump refuses to leave the office at the expiration of his constitutional term, the United States military must remove him by force, and you must give that order.” This letter is a clear message to the army that the U.S. military should play an active role to remove Trump from office if he refuses to do so.
As a matter of fact, any involvement of the military in politics is detrimental to democracy, and if Trump denies a transfer of power, the country can go on the path of undemocratic practices. Any such circumstances can also trigger a series of resignations in the ranks of the top military leadership, that can kick off additional crises.
According to the opinions of voters and the senators, the president should abide by the constitution in any case and must not resist the peaceful transition of power.
Republican-based Senator Mitt Romney said that it is “unthinkable and unacceptable not to transfer power peacefully.” Only if Trump obey the rules of transfer of power to the new president easily, the country will continue to be on the path of democracy, which is the need of the hour in recent times.