Peaceful Transfer of Power: An Analysis of The President’s Past Behavior and What It Could Mean Now
Updated: Jan 13
In October, President Donald Trump held a rally as part of his campaign in Arizona, a swing state. After two days of counting votes, Arizona is likely to be won by Biden, Trump's opponent in the presidential race. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
The final moments of the election are upon us.
In an ordinary election year, the results would be revealed on the night of the election, or maybe a few days after. But if we have learned anything from 2020, it is that this year is far from ordinary, and the 2020 presidential election is like no other. We are in the midst of a pandemic, the presidential candidates — Donald Trump and Joe Biden — are polar opposites, and America is more divided than we’ve ever seen before.
As of November 4, the day after Election Day, former Vice President Joe Biden appears to be leading the race, with President Donald Trump staggering slightly behind in electoral votes. Nevertheless, the race for 270 is far from over, as the vote count has not ended in a clear winner yet. Additionally, the outcome of the election has been made more complicated by the issue of a peaceful transfer of power.
With his future in the White House uncertain and his opponent Joe Biden carrying the lead, President Trump hesitated for weeks to comply with a peaceful transfer of power in the event that he loses the election. “Well, we’ll have to see what happens,” the president said in a White House news conference.
After weeks of more hesitation, the president finally agreed to comply with a peaceful transfer of power, but made a point to attack mail-in voting, unsolicited ballots, and the validity of the 2020 election. Concerning peaceful transfer of power, the president said in an NBC town hall, “I absolutely want that, but ideally, I don't want a transfer because I want to win.”
The question remains the same: whether or not Trump will abide by the tradition of a peaceful transfer of power in the event that he loses this election.
Trump’s Past Behavior and Personality
After he won the 2016 election, Trump made the unsubstantiated claim that it was because of millions of illegitimate ballots cast by illegal immigrants that he fell short in the popular vote.
“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” said the president on Twitter.
Prior to the 2020 Election Day, when a large number of polls suggested that Biden was in the lead, the president resorted to casting blame and doubt on mail-in voting. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the flood of mail in ballots put the U.S. Postal Service in a difficult position, as the president has refused to pass an additional coronavirus relief fund for the USPS to continue operating at optimal level. As of last night, when the president falsely declared victory, he promoted the idea that this election “is a fraud on the American public [and] an embarrassment to our country,” in response to the lag in his number of electoral votes.
“We were getting ready to win this election ― frankly, we did win this election,” Trump said, in his speech last night as votes were still being counted.
The president went as far as to threaten that he will challenge the results (in the event that he loses) in the Supreme Court. As of Wednesday, November 4, the Trump campaign filed lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Georgia, shortly after mail-in ballots began to be counted in those states, tipping the votes further into Biden’s favor. This validates what we’ve already known to be true: Donald Trump doesn’t like to lose.
The president himself described his personality as always having been aggressive and assertive, ever since he was a child. “In the second grade I actually gave a teacher a black eye — I punched my music teacher because I didn’t think he knew anything about music and I almost got expelled,” Trump wrote in his bestseller book The Art of The Deal. “I’m not proud of that, but it’s clear evidence that even early on I had a tendency to stand up and make my opinions known in a very forceful way. The difference now is that I use my brain instead of my fists.”
Mary Trump, the president’s niece and a clinical psychologist who has been known to critique her uncle’s behavior in the past, predicted how her uncle may react if he were to lose this year’s election: “He’s not going to take it well. Losing is not an acceptable thing in my family. My grandfather set his business up and his family up as a zero-sum game, and that meant only one person could win and everybody else needed to lose.” The president’s niece continued to say that in order for her uncle to win, he “was trained to do everything it took, whether it’s lying, cheating or stealing.”
President Trump has a history of acting in a defiant manner. Take the coronavirus pandemic: Democrat or Republican, no one can deny that the president has repeatedly claimed the virus will go away soon, downplaying the seriousness and threat of the virus. The effect of downplaying the virus? That’s up for you to decide. “It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear,” the president said, in a White House meeting in February.
When health experts began to criticize Trump’s handling of the virus, he reacted with a similar, defiant response. In a phone call with campaign staff, Trump said that “people are tired of Covid. I have the biggest rallies I’ve ever had, and we have Covid. People are saying whatever. Just leave us alone. They’re tired of it. People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots.”
Again, the question becomes clear: if he loses, will President Trump uphold his word and concede to Biden with a peaceful transition of power? Or will he act out in a defiant, assertive manner, as he’s done in the past?
The concept of a peaceful transfer of power has been taken for granted in previous presidential elections. For as long as we can remember, candidates have accepted the fate of their campaign, and moved on begrudgingly, but did so in a peaceful manner. Taking a look at the president’s past, one thing remains crystal clear: Donald Trump doesn’t like to lose. Whether for better or for worse? That remains to be seen.