2 Questions for the American People

Every election cycle, the tagline is the same: “THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION OF OUR LIFETIME!” The upcoming elections in 2024 might actually be worthy of the title, however. Not because of the short-term consequences for who wins the presidency or the legislature, but because of the long-term implications for the entire American political system.

There are two questions facing the American people for the 2024 elections. First, will the results of the 2024 elections be widely accepted no matter who the winner is? I don’t have a crystal ball, but my guess is that the answer is no. Whether the Democrats or the Republicans win the presidency, the results will be challenged and unaccepted by the other side, either implicitly or explicitly. The sharp political partisanship and blind tribalism of our day has made widespread agreement on anything, even on the outcome of elections, virtually impossible.

This idea of skepticism regarding election results first came into vogue in 2016 with the election of Donald Trump to the White House. Democrats refused to accept that he was the legitimate president, rushing to place their faith in the “RussiaGate” collusion theory as the explanation for how he cheated his way into the White House. When that didn’t work out, they went instead to “UkraineGate”, alleging that Trump held up military aid for an investigation into Joe Biden. Not as exciting as its predecessor, but they still managed to impeach Trump in the House for it.

Even so, these “scandals” were nothing more than external coping mechanisms. They had nothing to do with any actual crimes — real or imagined — that Trump may have committed, but were all about trying to find a justification for what Democrat voters wanted to hear: that Trump was not actually the president and they they hadn’t actually lost in 2016. In their pursuit to get Trump, everything was made up and the points don’t matter. This is evidenced by the fact that even after the Mueller Report was released, many Americans — and especially Democrats — still believed that Trump conspired with Russia, the very thing that the Mueller Report explicitly denied.

This is far from a Democrat-exclusive phenomenon, however, with the Republicans taking up the mantle of election-denying in the aftermath of 2020. But — as is always the case for the GOP — their actions were far less serious than the Democrats. Trump flailed around wildly in his lame-duck weeks, trying to find someone or something that might save him the election. Republicans also pathetically insisted over and over that he hadn’t actually lost yet, blindly believing that such astute intellectuals as Mike Lindell and Sidney Powell held the secret information that would overturn the election. Predictably, the result was failure and Trump sulked away from the White House back to Mar-A-Lago where he has complained about the whole thing on Truth Social ever since.

For the Republicans, their defiance in the face of the 2020 results is much more implicit. They haven’t produced any more evidence than the Democrats did in 2016 about how the election was actually stolen (I am less than willing to accept Dinesh D’Souza as a trustworthy source), but just as with the Democrats, none of that matters. Its all about being told what you want to hear: Trump didn’t actually lose in 2020 and the election was stolen from him.

While political parties have never been happy about losing, this bi-partisan election denial is a recent emergence in American politics. If you go back to even 2012, Republicans were not happy to see Obama win the White House for second term, but the vast majority of them wouldn’t have claimed that he didn’t actually win the election. In was only in 2016 that the prevailing attitude shifted from displeasure to denial.

If we answer the first question in the negative, there is a much more uncomfortable second question that follows it: if the American people can no longer agree on the outcome of elections, what is the point in having elections? If it all boils down to nothing more than political parties taking turns denying voting results, why even vote at all?

Sure, we have centuries of democratic tradition to make us keep calm and carry on, but is it feasible for us to maintain democratic processes if no one believes in a democratic system? Such a state of affairs seems unsustainable in the long run. This leaves us with two options: either trust is restored in Americans elections or the current American system will be dissolved. Is it even possible for that trust to be restored? While not completely out of the question, I don’t see a path for how this might be accomplished. Both sides have dug deep into their ideological trenches and aren’t willing to give up any ground. The idea that both sides of the country could come together to agree on anything seems unlikely, short of a miracle. That leaves us with the chilling alternative, the dissolution of the American republic as we know it.

What would such a dissolution even look like? Again, no magic ball here, but there are relatively better outcomes we can hope for and relatively worse outcomes we can hope to avoid. We can hope for a peaceful break-up of the U.S. where the states go their separate ways. Confederations and blocs of states would likely still exist in certain regions of the country such as the South, Northeast, Mid-West, etc. Would this be an easy or clean process? Almost certainly not. Most divorces aren’t very amicable, and a marriage that has lasted this long will involve lots of drama and lawyering, I’m sure. Under the circumstances though, it’s likely the best we can hope for. Just like a marriage where neither partner trusts or desires the other, divorce is the best option in the long-run, even if it is messy and hurtful in the present.

However, there are less auspicious outcomes that could result as well. Perhaps each side will take turns trading political punches until the whole thing just comes apart at the seams. The federal government could (under the influence of the party currently in power) try and prevent the secession of states by force. Maybe election-denial reaches the point where an actual coup is attempted to prevent the transfer of power. Lots of things can go wrong in a divorce, and this is no different. Ultimately, we can do little but hope for the best.

It’s possible that I am far too nihilistic and the American people can come together once again without the need for dissolution. Perhaps I am. However, the current state of the American system, rife with its election denial and blind party tribalism, is simply unsustainable. If it persists, the United States of America as we know it, cannot stand. Abraham Lincoln famous said that “a house divided against itself cannot stand”. We are now living in a house where nobody can agree on who owns the house, who should live in the house, what the house is made of, or even what the house is. For that kind of house, I hold very little hope for longevity.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store