Trump’s refusal to accept election results dampens democracy, but young people’s will to preserve it is stronger

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Adali Leon

President Donald Trump is the first president in U.S. history to attempt to override election results. His refusal to concede betrays the principles of democracy, the cornerstone of American government and liberty.

By Isaac Lozano, Bonita Vista High School

Throughout American history, only one president has openly called undocumented Mexican immigrants “rapists.” Only one president has mocked a disabled person on national television. Only one president has been both impeached and has run for re-election. Only one president has repeatedly downplayed a virus that has reached over 12 million domestic cases and a death toll of 250,000 people. 

And now, only one president in American history has refused to concede presidential election results well after they were called.

That’s our current president, Donald J. Trump. For many young people like me, his refusal to accept the results has begun to dim our faith in the state of American democracy.

Since the election results were officially announced on Nov. 7, Trump has attempted to reverse what has been deemed the “most secure election in American history,” according to cybersecurity officials, and has alleged voter fraud despite multiple failed court cases and a growing void of nonexistent evidence.

Trump has refused to meet with President-elect Joe Biden for a peaceful transition of power and even met with Michigan lawmakers in an extraordinary attempt to subvert the state’s electoral votes. But unlike his grandiose claims, Trump did not win big. He lost — and by a huge margin: over six million votes. Political analysts have branded Trump’s refusal to accept his loss a subversion of democracy with dangerous implications for the president’s power.

As students, we have learned in school that democracy is the cornerstone of a free and fair society. Citizens vote in elections for officials who will represent the interests of the people and abide by ethical and legal boundaries. 

Trump’s refusal to concede is a shameless violation of these boundaries. And this isn’t the first time he has broken the principles of democracy — from firing government investigators because they were investigating him to endorsing the beating and demonizing of journalists. Trump has also delegated numerous advisor and other government positions to his family members and inner circle since the beginning of his presidency. That’s plain nepotism. 

Presidents should serve as a moral beacon for our society, wielding their influence to uplift, resolve and unite. Trump has twisted whatever moral fiber he has into a perverse normalization of all that is illegal, obscene and malicious. He has disrupted our perception of what a president should and should not do. Nothing can rob the trust kids and young people have for their government more than one that cheats and befouls.

There is clearly something resonant about counting the thousands dying every day from COVID-19, which has generated silence from our president. There is something resonant about the inability of working-class families to advance the socioeconomic ladder. There is something resonant about seeing the Black bodies killed on our streets by police — the 21st century’s version of the strange fruit that once hung on America’s poplar trees. 

For many members of Generation Z, including myself, our cynicism and hopelessness amid great tragedies and inequalities is strong — but our desire to overcome them is even stronger.

We’ve seen young people turn to the streets in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests. Many have used their voices online to generate movements demanding social and economic justice, which helped fundraise over six million dollars for Breonna Taylor, an innocent Black woman killed by police earlier this year. And in this presidential election, voter turnout among millennials and Generation Z reached unprecedented levels, with a majority voting for Biden.

Young people have clearly held out their hope, and rightfully so: Biden won the election and he plans to reverse the destructive policies of the Trump administration. Biden’s victory serves as evidence that through our grassroots efforts, our democracy is worth saving. 

Not all of us agree on policies or social issues, but our huge turnouts in activism, I believe, must indicate some collective desire to move forward from the woes of these past four years and have our voices heard. If you look at Trump’s presidency with nostalgia, I don’t know what to tell you. And I certainly can’t speak for you. 

For most of us, however, our efforts to unseat Trump — at least from office — are largely over. New reports find that Trump, though outwardly refusing election results, is preparing for post-presidency life. I think we all know what will happen on Jan. 20 — it is now only a matter of seeing how quickly the idea of a second Trump presidency withers.

In some sense, Trump’s presidency has only ever been about fleeting ideas: about a universe where wronged whites take back their country from an influx of immigrants tainting the racial pool. About a wall south of the border to keep out imaginary criminals. About a return to traditional gender hierarchies where women remain confined to the glass ceiling. About a return to the defects of our country’s past.

These are the ideas our democracy tried to exile throughout the decades — from the 19th amendment that granted women the right to vote to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that outlawed racial discrimination. America set a precedent to abandon the vices of the past and look to civility, equality and compassion for a better tomorrow.

For young people like me, Trump’s refusal to concede — abandoning not only the will of the American people but the legal and moral principles of the democratic tradition — must at least awaken our senses to the fragility of our democracy. 

It is indeed suffocating under the boot of an administration that seems oblivious to the rule of law. But I also believe in the vision young people have forged to preserve our democracy. I believe in the struggle and spirit of working class families, including mine, who grapple with the risks of the pandemic because they believe in the promise of America. I believe in every student enduring the troubles of remote learning, which has upended education and exposed grave inequalities in America’s school system. I believe in the 80 million voters who cast their ballot this month with heart and reason in mind.

And I believe in you. 

Democracy is in your hands. You have the power to shape it with every action you take. I encourage you to consider volunteering for political campaigns, whether local or national, as I have done this year. Attend peaceful protests, though safely, on the streets or online. Talk to family, friends and strangers about what you see wrong in our country. Tweet about it. Do something.

It is up to you and all of us to keep our democracy alive — and I know we will.

This story was originally published on The Crusader on November 25, 2020.