The 2020 election cycle has been among the most brutal in all American history and even as I write this, it still is not technically over. Despite losing both the popular vote and the electoral college by wide margins, Donald Trump has refused to concede to Joe Biden, instead opting to challenge the legality of the official vote counts in the courts of several states and throwing the presumed legitimacy of the entire election into doubt for his supporters. Even so, with Georgia having just recently being called in favor of Biden and his appeals to have the voting results of several states overturned failing, the chance that the Trump campaign will be able to successfully challenge the results of the election and secure a second term is becoming more and more unlikely. However, the Trump campaign has continued its assault of the election results and stoking political divisions in the process.
Trumps narrow victory in 2016 over Hillary Clinton and the ensuing years have been emblematic of America’s fracturing political landscape but his performance in the 2020 general election looks to have eclipsed his past performance in its disturbing implications even despite his prospective loss. Donald Trump’s attempts to undermine the results of the election through baseless accusations of voter fraud because of the influx of mail-in votes and conspiracies of dead people casting ballots not only serve to deepen entrenched political divides but threaten American democracy itself. What do we do with a president that refuses to uphold the legitimacy of the election process? This manner of fundamental attack on our democracy is unprecedented in American history and despite it currently seeming as if Trump will fail in his bid to reverse the results of the election, the resolution of this controversy has the capacity for long-lasting ramifications. But regardless of what happens to Trump administration, the question of what we are to do with his supporters is even more pressing. The threat to democracy that is posed by Donald Trump undermining the results of the election is not just dangerous because it is being conducted by a sitting president, but because of the ease by which his supporters have accepted that narrative. Of course willingness of the Trump team to purposefully lie to media outlets and the American people as fragrantly as they do is as dangerous as it is distressingly par for the course, the ability of so many.
To begin delving into outright conspiracism is even more so, but among right-wing voters this has been increasingly common. From the Pizzagate conspiracy, alleging that several high-ranking Democratic officials were connected with a child-sex ring operating out of a Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington D.C., to QAnon alleging that a group of Satanist pedophiles consisting of Democratic politicians and Hollywood actors were plotting against the president, the last few years have been rife with this sort of thinking. Thus far, these thought processes have not significantly impacted the country in the material sense, as in legislators have not been crafting policy to appeal to this contingent of voters, but that may soon be changing as people actively supporting QAnon have become viable political candidates and there is a significant number of voters that believe this election was stolen from Donald Trump. Hyper-partisanship is one thing and surely dangerous in its own right, but when there are segments of the population that legitimately seem to live in a completely separate reality, where does the country go from here?