Historians judge a democracy by how the peaceful transfer of power occurs. At several points in our history, our democracy was challenged but held strong. The mayhem that took place Wednesday at the U. S. Capitol was totally unacceptable; violence and terrorism should never be allowed to defeat the principles and traditions of American democracy. Throughout history, both parties have worked hard to ensure that our democracy survived; however, today, politicians from the losing party must step up and speak up, as they play a pivotal role in stopping the continued threats of further violence and disruption to our democratic processes.
Our nation’s first test of the peaceful transition of power occurred after the election of 1800. The defeated Federalist Party created as many new judges as possible in the hope that the federal courts would protect the interest of the party. The victorious Jeffersonians won the White House and both houses of Congress for the first change in party control in our history. They reversed most of the Federalist actions when they took office, but they stopped short of removing federal judges merely because of their political views. That tradition continues today and has become a bedrock principle of American democracy. The winning party cannot punish the losers in a true democracy.
The next great test of our democratic system occurred after the elections of 1860. After the Republicans won, the losing parties convinced most Southern states to secede from the Union. The resulting Civil War pushed our democracy to the breaking point, but eventually democratic processes were restored. The Civil War should always serve as a reminder about just how fragile our democracy really is.
The 2000 presidential election created another potential crisis for our democracy. There were many unresolved legal issues regarding the elections in Florida that year. Al Gore challenged the results in court, but when the U.S. Supreme Court finally decided the outstanding legal issues regarding that presidential election, he graciously conceded the election. The losing party accepted reality and the winning party did nothing to sanction the losing party for pursuing all possible legal challenges to the election process. Our democracy had been saved from a potentially dangerous conflict because both parties acted responsibly after the Supreme Court handed down its ruling.
Today, we face a situation where a sitting president encouraged his supporters to attack the U.S. Capitol and the politicians working within it. We have always known that a small portion of Trump supporters were far right terrorists. These anti-democratic forces need to be held in check. Many Republicans have opposed the alternative facts propagated by President Trump about the election results, and now more need to denounce those who prefer to use violence as part of their protests. The facts are clear: President Trump lost his reelection bid by overwhelmingly losing both the popular vote and, more importantly, the vote of the Electoral College. Congress has now certified the fact that President-elect Joe Biden won a fair and democratic election process. The Democrats will control both houses of Congress and the White House.
It is time for the dangerous political theatre to stop. When Congress refused to allow the thugs and terrorists to prevent them from certifying the presidential election results, it demonstrated just how resilient our democracy actually is. The voters have spoken. Those who lost the election need to concede to those who won so that our nation can move forward. President Trump needs to acknowledge that his party lost. If the president cannot accept reality, then Republicans may need to consider invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.