America has long been seen as a beacon for the free world, its pursuit of freedom and liberty a shining light for all to follow. But now that beacon is casting a different light, a warning to the world of the fragile nature of democracy.
With the results of the U.S. presidential election clear to any unbiased observer, the path to a peaceful transition of power seems anything but certain. The fact that President Donald Trump refuses to acknowledge the will of American voters is not surprising, but the number of other Republican political leaders supporting his baseless conspiracy theories and desperate attempts to cling to power put the future of the American experiment in doubt.
President-elect Joe Biden will win a clear victory with 306 Electoral College votes (the same number Donald Trump secured in 2016), while winning the popular vote by more than five million (something Trump was unable to do). In historical terms, this election was not even close. But that reality has not stopped Trump from claiming the election was stolen from him and launching legal action and demanding recounts. Those legal claims have been quickly thrown out of court and it is unlikely for a recount to result in a swing of more than a few hundred votes, let alone the more than 10,000 Trump would need to change in several states.
But the ultimate failure of these efforts do not allay the fears they have given rise to. The sanctity of American elections have forever been tarnished. It is the loss of one more of the democratic norms, further eroding the guardrails that preserve a free society. From the attacks on American allies and praise of dictators, profiting off foreign governments, the purge of military and scientific leaders, the call to jail political opponents and pardon political allies, to the endless stream of lies – all of it was met with a shrug by those in his party for fear of offending the millions who voted for him.
And we in Canada are not immune. As in the U.S., the founders of this country could not envision the election of someone so morally corrupt that they would endanger democracy itself in their efforts to retain power. It is a reminder to us all that democracy cannot be taken for granted.