By Jacob Derin
Following Joe Biden’s projected victory in the presidential election, Russia and China have noticeably refrained from congratulating him. This places President Donald Trump, who has refused to concede the election, in the familiar company of autocrats and enemies of democracy abroad.
It should come as no surprise to anyone who has heard Trump’s rhetoric over the last four years that he is disputing the results of an election he clearly lost. He did this even after an election that he had won. But, China and Russia’s support is a glaring statement of what this attitude signifies.
Despite their public rhetoric about respecting the remaining legal challenges to the American electoral process, the Chinese and Russian governments know perfectly well that Biden was duly elected and that all of Trump’s legal tomfoolery is built on sand. They are doing this because it’s an excellent opportunity to sow discord among the American people and weaken their strongest foreign adversary. We should not expect governments, which are manifestly hostile to democracy, to respect its institutions and traditions.
This is not the first time that Trump has placed himself in such exalted company. His fondness for authoritarian leaders is matched, perhaps, only by his fondness for himself.
But it still surprises me that people are treating his reaction as something unexpected. Trump has spent months putting himself in a position to challenge the election’s legitimacy should he lose. His ego will not allow him to accept defeat.
We shouldn’t expect him to concede any time soon, and probably not at all.
China and Russia are seizing the moment because this is a legitimately dangerous moment in American democracy. We are in uncharted territory. Even if Trump is forcibly removed from the Presidency, by legal or physical force, nothing stops him from continuing to challenge the outcome of the election, further dividing an already dangerously fractured nation.
Abraham Lincoln once said that “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”
America has always faced its most dangerous threats from within. The Civil War claimed more American lives than all other American wars combined until Vietnam. Until 9/11, the deadliest terror attack on American soil was the Oklahoma City Bombing, conducted by the domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh.
Today, America faces perhaps its greatest challenge since the Second World War: the COVID-19 pandemic. Responding to it effectively means coordinating vast amounts of economic and social resources. Social and political capital has proven more valuable than the economic variety.
If we are to learn anything from China and Russia’s refusal to recognize the American President-elect it is this; our cohesion and unity are our greatest asset and our most easily damaged.
Biden’s acceptance speech on Monday expressed the strongest possible repudiation of their cynicism and the end of the Trump Era: “There has never been anything we haven’t been able to do when we’ve done it together.”
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