I think because the normalization of Trump and his erosion of political norms over the last 5 years, many people don’t seem to see just how unfathomably dangerous and downright fascist this entire situation has become.
Donald Trump lost. He lost. That is irrefutable and indisputable. He has refused to concede. Not only has he refused to concede, he’s actively telling his millions of supporters that he actually won and that the opposition STOLE the election from him. He’s not saying there was some counting error or computer malfunction. He claims that a crime was committed. It’s absolutely inexcusable and outright seditious, as many in this subbreddit already know.
The founding fathers, for all their faults as men, were not stupid. Far from it. They understood how critically important it was that the absolute powers of a monarch (or a despot/dictator) needed to be diffused among many, and that those many separate entities would need to act as checks on one another. That’s why there’s essentially three branches of government in every iteration of democracies around the world; they each hold a fraction of the power that was once reserved for a sole monarch. This division is a check against corruption and the inherent nature of power to corrupt those who wield it. The only reason that democracy - any democracy, not just the American version - can survive is through a peaceful transfer of power. Without it, there is chaos. Several thousand years of recorded history taught the founding fathers that when absolute power is concentrated in one individual, when that individual dies or are overthrown, countless people suffer. Endless wars of succession and conflicts over who has the rightful claim to power plagued us for generations. Without a peaceful and legally delineated method to hand diffuse power from one individual to the next, there’s nothing to stop someone from raising an army, crossing the proverbial Rubicon, and grabbing the reins of power by force. That’s the real magic of a democratic system: that we all collectively agree that the power of the state is peacefully and legally passed down without bloodshed or recrimination. It’s something that only works because we all believe it does, much like the inherent value of money. It’s something we take for granted, but it’s really astonishing given most of human history.
There is a method baked right into the constitution for someone who thinks they lost an election if they believe it was unfair, or corrupt, or stolen: You take it to the courts - to the separate branch - for it to be ruled on. It’s the reason why the president-elect doesn’t just assume power the day after the election. If there’s a legitimate claim to malfeasance or miscounting, it goes to the courts, each side presents its case, and the judicial branch has the time to weigh the evidence and make a ruling.
This isn’t just hypothetical - it’s already happened. In 2000 the electoral college came down to one state: Florida. Gore lost to Bush by less than a thousand votes. The night of the election Gore conceded, and then in the following days as the picture became more clear, he retracted his concession and took the matter to the courts. It went all the way to the Supreme Court, and he lost. They made their ruling and gave the election to Bush. That’s the way it’s supposed to happen, it’s how the founding fathers designed it. No civil war. No bloodshed.
Did Gore claim that the Bush stole the election? Did he sulk away to his mansion and call himself the “real” president? Did he whip his supporters into a frenzy, tell them to “stop the steal” and unleash them on the capital building when the votes were going to be certified? No. He conceded. Not only did he concede, he thanked his supporters for their hard work, congratulated Bush, and told his people to throw their support behind the President-elect. Because that’s what you do in a democracy. It’s not because he’s some decent guy, it’s your responsibility as a participant in the electoral process.
You throw your hat into the ring. You run your campaign and try to sway the voters. If you lose, you concede. It’s not just a formality, it’s critically important to the health of the country as a whole. Every candidate knows this. Kerry conceded in 2004. McCain in 2008 and Romney in 2012. Nixon conceded when he lost to Kennedy in 1960, and Nixon was an irredeemable piece of shit. (Skip to 5:50 to hear Nixon describe the importance of concession and uniting around the victor)
Each speech is essentially the same: thanking supporters, officially conceding, and throwing your support behind the new president-elect and urging your supporters to do the same. Candidates, even the irredeemably shitty ones, know that elections are vicious and divisive, so effort needs to be made to try and unite afterwards. No one man is bigger or more important than the whole.
People need to have faith in the process, that elections are fair and free, and that the candidate with the most votes (or electoral votes) wins. If they doubt that very foundational premise some of them will resort to violence. They’ll resort to violence because they’ll believe that the legal channels for peaceful resolution aren’t relevant. That’s why the insurrectionists on January 6th thought they were being “patriots”. It’s a mass self-delusion that was perpetuated and allowed to fester and grow because Trump spent five years gaslighting the country and refusing to concede an election he lost. They might be ignorant authoritarians, but they wouldn’t be storming the capital without Trump and his big lie.
Trump had every legal right to contest the results of the 2020 election in the courts. He did. Over 60 lawsuits filed in multiple states. It went to the Supreme Court. He lost every single one. Those lawsuits failed or were tossed out because there was legitimately zero proof of the massive fraud and theft Trump was claiming.
The recent Vanity Fair interview with Trump is probably one of the scariest things I’ve read in a long while. Among the never-ending predictable lies and bullshit we come to expect from Trump came the fact that he was disappointed in the federal and state judges he appointed that decided against him or tossed out his lawsuits. He was upset with Brett Kavanagh and the conservative judges on the Supreme Court for their disloyalty. THEIR DISLOYALTY.
This is surreal. It’s beyond the pale. The President of the United States is upset that a separate branch of the federal government didn’t show him sufficient loyalty. What the everlasting fuck is this fascist nonsense? The federal government is not a mafia family. Federal judges don’t owe anyone loyalty - regardless of whether they’re from the same party or if they’ve been appointed by someone. Your merit is not judged on your loyalty, especially when your very role is to remain impartial and interpret the law. Judges are loyal to the constitution, not the President! It’s in their very oath of office!
This is why Trump is such a threat. It’s not just his ignorance, his incompetence, his vanity, his vindictiveness, his narcissism. Those are all horrible qualities to have. He’s a threat because he’s willing to completely disregard and tear down the very bedrock principles of democracy (the separation of authority and the peaceful transfer of power) to serve his needs. His ego can’t handle a loss, so the constitution and everything that makes democracy a functional alternative to despotism and authoritarianism can burn.
Trump isn’t just the worst president in history, he’s a threat to the very fabric of the country. Because of the slow crawl of his erosion of norms, the frenetic pace of 24 hour news, the short attention span of our modern society, and a media obsessed with ratings over information, Trump has been allowed to get away with this behaviour. The fact that Republicans are lining up and falling over each other to supplicate themselves before this man should be a stain that should never wash off and should be their legacy. If there is any justice in the world, history will not be kind to these enabling sycophants who actively helped this cancerous growth.
I wish I was being hyperbolic, I really do. But there’s no other way to see that one political party and millions of Americans are not only fine with authoritarianism, but will actively cheer it on and promote its rise.
Sure, a case can be made that this was inevitable given the course of the Republican party for the last 30 years. Trump is a mutated strain of their brand of “conservatism” which doesn’t really seem to stand for anything at this point beyond the acquisition and protection of power. But Trump is still far more dangerous than the original pathogen: he’s a force that wants to ensure that facts don’t mean anything and that loyalty is the only currency that matters.
Sometimes I feel like I’m screaming into the void about some of this, but I feel like Trump’s antics and firehose of bullshit is causing millions of people to lose sight of the forest for the trees. Hell, they’re losing sight of the galaxy for the pebbles of sand on the beach.
The only way I see out of this is if he faces legal ramifications for what he’s done. If he’s permitted to get away with it, and run in 2024, and win? That’s the absolute nightmare scenario.