by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
We’re reaching a dangerous point in American politics. Many millions of our most engaged and most politically passionate citizens fervently believe that when they lose close elections, it’s because the other side has “stolen” victory. They believe that if elections are truly free and fair, their side will win. And they’re not just getting that idea from the fever swamps of the conspiracy-theory Internet, they get it from the leaders of American political parties. Donald Trump, for example, famously attributed his popular-vote loss to the unlawful votes of illegal immigrants. …
… [L]est you think the Democrats are any better, I bring you 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and 2020 Democratic presidential contender Elizabeth Warren. Two of the most prominent Democrats in the land are injecting their own toxic and false assertions into the body politic. They’re delegitimizing American elections with at least as much gusto as Donald Trump, and it’s just as intolerable. …
… When elections are close, the belief that only your victories are legitimate doesn’t just undermine faith in American democracy — a phrase without concrete meaning. I fear that it may also toss a match onto the volatile kindling of American polarization.
Our nation has been very fortunate since 2016. It’s been fortunate that the congressional baseball shooter wasn’t a better shot — and that Capitol Police officers were able to immediately return fire. It’s been fortunate that the Trump superfan bomber wasn’t better at his craft. But if we keep telling Americans that they’re being robbed by a dysfunctional democracy, we can’t be surprised when more people turn to undemocratic means to accomplish their aims.