Trump’s Refusal to Uphold a Free and Fair Election Evokes Fear


President Trump has not committed to having a peaceful transition of power should he not be elected for a second term. (Courtesy of Flickr)

In the 231 years of the U.S. presidency, there has never been a president unwilling to accept a peaceful transfer of power. One of the foundations of the United States is democracy, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “a system of decision-making within an institution, organization, etc., in which all members have the right to take part or vote.” The ideals of democracy have guided former presidents on how to govern, forcing them to put aside their egos and listen to what the people want. This precedent was threatened on Sept. 23 when President Donald Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power. 

When asked by a reporter if he would commit to transferring power to former Vice President Joe Biden should he win, BBC quotes the president as saying, “Well, we’ll have to see what happens.” Should Trump lose the election and not accept the results, he would be the only president in history not to concede. 

A recent BBC article reports Trump saying that the results of the election could end up contested in front of the Supreme Court should he not find the verdict of the people favorable. This remark casts a feeling of uncertainty over the American people, who now have to wonder what would happen if Trump took the country into these uncharted political waters. Former Vice President Biden, with 47 years of government experience, believes that if this problem arises, military force would be called to remove Trump from the White House. 

Trump’s remark about appearing before the Supreme Court to contest the results of the election comes just after he pushed for a rushed confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In a recent article for The New York Times, Julian E. Zelizer, an American political history professor at Princeton University, says [Trump’s] clearly accelerating his effort to set up a challenge to an outcome that is unfavorable to him.” Trump is trying to create a Supreme Court majority that will support him should he find the election results unfavorable. 

Many Americans have called the push for a rapid confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice not only disrespectful to Justice Ginsburg’s dying wish to not be replaced until after the election, but also hypocritical. Back in 2016, when Justice Antonin Scalia passed away nine months before the election, Republicans refused to consider President Barack Obama’s candidate, Judge Merrick Garland, and demanded to wait until after the election between Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Now, with less than a month until the 2020 election, Republicans have brushed aside the calls to wait and have moved forward with a confirmation vote. 

Besides being unwilling to commit to the democratic process, Trump has also cast doubt on the American voting system. The New York Times quotes Trump saying, “I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster.” Trump was referring to mail-in ballots, which have become more popular as the means of voting in the 2020 election due to the coronavirus pandemic. He has frequently declared that mail-in voting will induce more voter fraud, although the Brennan Center for Justice found that Americans are more likely to be struck by lightning than commit voter fraud. Under Trump’s poor management, COVID-19 has claimed more than 200,000 lives. Now, he has created a fear of mail-in voting — a safe alternative to in-person voting during the pandemic.   

While Trump was creating doubt in the minds of the American people over a peaceful transition of power, the effects of  confirming Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court on women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights and the security of voting by mail, the Senate unanimously agreed to uphold a peaceful transfer of power. In response to Trump’s refusal to accept the election results, ABC reports Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois saying that such an action “questions the very foundation of our democracy,.” His comments are supported by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts: “Donald Trump’s statement is what a dictator says, although usually dictators don’t announce in advance what their plans are.” 

Trump’s claims have not only been refuted by Democratic senators but Republican senators as well. Senator Mitt Romney of Utah tweeted, “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.” 

Clearly, Trump making statements akin to those of a dictator, not holding free and fair elections and controlling the media doesn’t sit too well with the American people. It is completely unacceptable to refuse a peaceful transfer of power and create fear surrounding the voting system, especially during a devastating global pandemic, due to an oversized ego. Whether or not you have personally agreed with the politics of past presidents, most have been able to put their egos aside and do what they thought was best for the country. Trump has not. Make a plan to vote this Nov. 3 by going to to register to vote or request a ballot.  

Jamison Rodgers, FCRH ’24, is an English major from Silver Springs, Md.