As media outlets call the election for Biden, Americans hotly debate who the rightful president is.
By James Molnar
Americans woke up on Saturday to the sight of a blue-shaded Pennsylvania on the electoral maps that they've been staring at obsessively for days on end. Many whooped and cheered, exuberantly celebrating the election of a new president. Others stared in horror at their screens, mouthing wordlessly at the electoral vote count, not simply because their candidate lost the election, but because they believed in their hearts it was complete and utter fraud.
While certain Republicans, such as Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney acknowledged Biden as the winner of the election, they are exceptions to the rule. According to a November 7th survey by Citizens for a Strong Democracy, only 37% of Americans actually believe that Biden won the race, while 18% believe that Trump did. The remaining respondents said that they were still unclear as to who the winner was. Among Trump’s voters, only 10% believe that Biden won, while 37% believe that the president won. Even among Biden’s own voters, only 64% believe that their candidate won the election.
Trust in the Democratic process appears to be in tatters. A YouGov survey performed prior to the election found that if Trump loses, 59% of his supporters believe that “the most important reason will be that ‘Democrats rigged the election.’” A rare moment of political unity is observed in the fact that 58% of Biden supporters believe that if Biden loses, “the most important reason will be that ‘Republicans stole the election.” A similar phenomenon was observed in 2016, when the presidential election was shrouded in rumors about Russian collusion. Even then, however, only about 33% of Hillary Clinton voters thought that Trump had been elected illegitimately (Washington Post).
Why do so few Americans trust the results of the election? No doubt, a major reason for this has been the recent statements from President Trump, who later on Saturday declared unequivocally “I won the election,” citing alleged mail ballot fraud. He has committed to challenging the vote counts in court.
There has been some evidence of voter fraud, including a whistleblower from Nevada’s testimony of illegal counting practices at the polling place he or she worked. It is important to note, however, that these allegations have not yet been investigated, and so it would be premature to make any definitive statement about the presence of nefarious counting practices. Furthermore, even if some accounts of voter fraud are accurate, it would need to be prevalent enough to sway tens of thousands of votes in Trump’s favor. This has of course not yet been substantiated and will be decided based on the evidence that it is presented in the courts.
As we enter the uncharted territory of an election where both candidates have declared victory, Americans brace themselves for a time of heightened uncertainty. There will likely be legal battles over the election which could stretch on for weeks or even months. In the event that these proceedings are not over by inauguration day, it is not clear what will happen. Trump could well stay in the White House until these legal proceedings are resolved. If Biden is declared the winner in the courts, he will technically have the legal right to physically remove Trump from office. Which “president” the government security officers will obey, however, is not self-evident. In addition, much of the public may well disagree on who their rightful president is. The battle for the presidency will likely not reach such an overt showdown as described above, but there can be no doubt that contentious times lie ahead.
Ryan Ford '23,