Much has been made about President Trump’s unwillingness to agree to a peaceful transition of power should he lose to Democratic challenger Joe Biden on Tuesday.
As both campaigns head toward the finish line, the candidates have hit key areas in swing states or places to try to shore up support and hold the line. As part of the stretch run, Trump made a visit to Circleville, Ohio, and again brought the issue of a peaceful transition of power into the mix.
“They ask me, ‘If you lose, will there be a friendly transition?’ Well, when I won, did they give me a friendly transition?” Trump asked. “They spied on my campaign, they did all this stuff. That was not a friendly transition.”
To be fair, all examinations of the investigation into the Trump campaign found that it was prudent, based on the relationships some members of the campaign – who were later jailed – had with representatives of foreign adversaries. But that isn’t the point.
Regardless of who does and doesn’t support the president, it must be understood that he has been effective in shaking the public’s confidence in American institutions. The FBI. The EPA. The media. Climate change scientists. Health professionals on COVID-19. Other institutions that have stood in the way of his agenda by their mere existence.
But there is one institution the public cannot lose confidence in just because the president appears to be on the ropes in this election. And that is America’s gold standard election process.
Certainly, like all institutions, there are flaws and mistakes are made during elections. Sometimes technology inefficiencies, poor planning, human error and the like occur. But none of that should overshadow the fact that America has an election system that is among the best in the world.
Local Boards of Elections work tirelessly, not to ensure one candidate wins, or that a particular issue gets passed, of course, but to ensure all votes are counted and that each candidate at every level gets a fair shake. Are there mistakes made by election officials occasionally? Sure. Does the 2020 election present particular challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic? Certainly.
But it is beyond a stretch to think that any mistakes or errors would rise to the magnitude of swaying a national election. I have faith in the people operating our local elections in southern Ohio. I have faith the results from the state of Ohio will determine the winner accurately. I have faith that America’s electoral system – despite a few expected bumps in the road – will do as it has always done … put the correct person in the White House.
Naturally, if there are races in some states that require a photo finish, the results will get challenged legally, as would be the case in any other year, particularly if the overall outcome is in question (see Florida 2000). That would not be out of bounds, but what would cross the line is a blanket dismissal of the outcome – from either candidate – based on exaggerations of the impacts of some routine irregularities that just come with the territory.
Unless there are some rare or extraordinary circumstances, the candidates should accept the results of the election and play their parts to ensure the nation moves peacefully to the next administration, whether that be Trump or Biden.
But it doesn’t stop with them.
Anxieties are high in the United States that civil unrest will occur as a result of the election. That is a sad commentary and suddenly places the U.S. in the same category as some underdeveloped countries where citizens have no faith in the outcomes of their elections.
Is that what we’ve come to? Have we now dropped to the point that we will allow the very fabric of American democracy to come into question because the incumbent is trying to undermine this institution as he has so many others?
Trump’s supporters should do their duty and go to the polls and vote for him. His detractors should do their duty and go to the polls and vote against him. But the freedoms we cherish in America – including our sacred freedom to vote – comes with responsibility.
After this election, we should all do our duty and recognize that to not have a peaceful transition of power – and to not accept a legitimate outcome regardless of who it benefits -– diminishes our standing in the world and violates our responsibilities as American citizens.
Copyright 2020 Rick Greene. Greene is an award-winning columnist and editorial writer, and the editor and publisher of Southern Ohio Today. Green can be reached at [email protected]