Some people are saying that Trump’s contestation of election results is just a way to soothe the pain of defeat and raise money for campaign debts, but the statements of high-ranking Republicans show that analysis to be unduly complacent.
Specifically, I mean secretary of state Mike Pompeo promising: “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration” and senate majority leader Mitch McConnell saying Trump is “100% within his rights” to challenge the election.
Trump appointees are hampering the transition process for the Biden administration, likely with the intent to sap their ability to get anything done in the first 100 days which are considered so crucial to any presidency’s ability to implement an agenda. Meanwhile, US COVID-19 numbers are exploding and raising the spectre that, just as much of the promise of reform under Obama was undermined by the need to resolve the Bush-era 2008 financial crisis, Biden will inherit an out-of-control pandemic and a population half-primed to see medical precautions as oppression.
I think it’s already clear that America has been permanently weakened by the Trump administration, both domestically through their erosion of governance norms and self-dealing and internationally through cynical, short-sighted, and transactional diplomacy. That damage has already been badly worsened by threatening the peaceful transfer of power, and may be still more if a Biden administration gets constantly stymied by a hostile Republican senate. America’s strength depends on the norm that the party that gets defeated in elections accepts the legitimacy of the winners. If the country shifts to a pattern where every change of party is rejected by the other as crooked and illegitimate, the foundation of America as one polity will be undermined and fractured.
The nightmare possibility remains that Trump will exhort his supporters to violence during or at the end of the transition period, or that after they turn to violence based on the encouragement so far Trump will support them. The risk of America’s election ending in mass violence persists.