US. Capitol. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Oped by Maine Senator Angus King

January 3, 2021

We are experiencing one of the most serious assaults upon our country’s democratic system in American history. The President and a growing number of his Congressional enablers are plotting to overturn a legitimate election result, while simultaneously urging their supporters to take to the streets around the Capitol this week to intimidate or worse. These efforts are profoundly unpatriotic and stand no chance of succeeding, but their certain outcome is the undermining of the faith of Americans in their democratic system – and dividing our people for short-term personal or partisan gain.


The President lost the election, decisively. He and his supporters have had two months to demonstrate otherwise—through recounts, lawsuits, and ballot challenge procedures in each state. None of these challenges have resulted in any finding of fraud or miscounting of ballots. None. And yet, with each passing day, the allegations grow more shrill, the misinformation more intense, the threats more explicit.


Allegations do not prove fraud, evidence does, and such evidence has simply not been produced by the President or his allies. This utter failure of proof has been confirmed by the President’s hand-picked Attorney General, the nation’s election security agency, more than 60 judges, Secretaries of State in every state, and thousands of election workers across the country, Republicans and Democrats.


But sadly, it is the president’s ceaseless barrage of lies and unfounded charges that have taken root among his supporters, to the point where some polls show that over 70% of Republicans now believe that the election was illegitimate. This dangerous, baseless campaign is a tear in the fabric of our democracy that will take decades to heal and will make it difficult, if not impossible, to come together and deal with the real issues confronting us—starting with the pandemic which is now killing more Americans every day than we lost on 9/11.


It has become a cliché, but our democracy really is an experiment, and a pretty short one at that. What’s normal in world history are kings, dictators, pharaohs, czars, warlords and tyrants of all stripes—and the people are at their mercy. What we have—government of the people, by the people, for the people—is very unusual, and very fragile. It rests upon trust—in facts, in courts, in honest public officials, and, yes, in elections. Without that trust, all is chaos and the peaceful transfer of power that has marked our nation as rare in world history can readily give way to violence.


It’s tough to lose an election, but in America, there is always another one coming in a few years where the outcome can be reversed—by the simple expedient of making your case and earning more votes.


President-Elect Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States on January 20th. Those who support incendiary, cynical actions to undermine this are putting partisan and political interests above the Constitution and are inflicting untold harm upon the heart of our democratic process.