“We are in an era in which the legitimacy of our institutions is being challenged like never before, except perhaps during the Civil War” (1861-65), explains David Farber, professor of history at the University of Kansas.
Citing “massive fraud” but without providing evidence, Trump and his allies have filed some 50 complaints across the country and have put pressure on authorities.
Justices – including those of the Supreme Court – and local officials, including Republicans, have not relented, and members of the Electoral College will meet today in each state to record their votes. “Americans can be proud of that,” Farber estimates.
However, the presidential speech convinced a section of the population: a third of Americans think that Biden owes his victory to fraud, a figure that rises to 77% among Trump voters, according to a poll by Monmouth University. .
“This type of poison can really seep into a democracy and delegitimize the traditional way in which politics is developed in this country”, considers the historian Farber, who warns of a “danger” for democracy.
Trump’s allegations flourished in a favorable context, says Wendy Schiller, a professor of political science at Brown University.
Due to the pandemic, people no longer have conversations in places of worship, work, or parties. They consume even more content from the media, but choose those that support their views, such as the small pro-Trump Newsmax and OAN channels. “There is no room for counterpoint,” explains Schiller.
“Actually, today you can choose your reality by choosing which channels to watch and which places to visit. It’s not very good for democracy, because it solidifies opinions, “said Thomas Holbrook, a professor of public policy at the University of Wisconsin.
By keeping silent or adhering to the president’s theories, Congressional Republicans further reinforced the doubts of conservative voters.
“No one will stand up to contradict him,” says Michael Nelson, a political scientist at Rhodes College. “They are afraid of angering their voters.”
In this context, Biden is expected to encounter “strong resistance during the first six months or the first year” of his presidency, predicts Wendy Schiller.
For the expert, this tension will decrease when the population is vaccinated against covid-19, the economy rebounds and people realize that “Trump is gone.”
But for Nelson, the concern “is not so much what will happen in the next year”, but “if this continues to happen in the next 10 years or in the next presidential elections”. “We could slowly start to see democracy erode,” he warns.
Holbrook agrees with that concern, noting that “some people feel the election was stolen.”
That could lead to a higher level of tolerance towards “fringe groups” like the militias, he explained.
Thirteen members of a Michigan militia were arrested in October for conspiring to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and last weekend in Michigan, armed protesters staged a protest outside the home of an election official.
In a video of the scene, posted on the internet, one of the protesters vows to “continue fighting to return the election to President” Trump. “This is just the beginning,” he warns.