America: Abandoning Traditions or Creating New Ones

Precedent plays a significant role in how this country is conducted and how we continue to move forward, influenced by the decisions made before. Historically, to establish consistency, fairness, and security in each circumstance, examples have been set to make informed judgments on particular court cases and situations that were substantially similar. However, in recent years, we have witnessed the country beginning to cast aside some of its critical principles for the sake of protest, pure disagreement, and as a result of the polarization of our political parties. 

The 2020 presidential election and Donald Trump’s failure to concede was arguably the first time Americans had witnessed a cessation of tradition of such a severe nature. Beginning first with George Washington’s presidency, it is regarded that one of his “great contributions to the American political tradition” was his ability to willingly give up his position of authority and his presidential powers to the next leader. It is important to note that even when this country has faced such extreme conflict, such as the impending civil war, it is believed that James Buchanan, the 15th president of the United States, never held the opinion that Lincoln “was not entitled to be president” after winning the election. In this way, it was alarming that Donald Trump would refuse to concede and begin claiming that the election was stolen, suggesting a fault in our electoral process. 

While former President Trump’s questioning of the electoral process has put him in a negative light, his decision to abandon this power transfer tradition has had a detrimental impact on this country. Not only was the tradition a sign of good faith, but it also offered a form of assurance to the public, demonstrating the stability of our government and constitution, and setting an example for how the public should accept the election results and welcome the new president. However, Trump’s actions induced the opposite effect, which led to months and years of election denial, political polarization, and party divisions. Ultimately, it “put American lives at risk.” Today, many question whether this country will continue to be defined by this action or carry forward the traditions that have served to keep peace in the nation. 

The lasting impact of former President Donald Trump’s actions and his inability to maintain peace ultimately led to the January 6th insurrection. Succeeding his claims of election fraud, which had already damaged the good faith of many Americans in our system, a speech delivered by Trump prior to the insurrection further encouraged the damage of American tradition and integrity. Trump mobilized his voter base, remarking, “We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” and to  “Be there, will be wild.” However, his encouragement of the insurrection has yielded something so critical that it has been over 200 years since this country has witnessed a similar calamity. Regardless, the January 6th insurrection has proven to be a critical part of American history, as many fear that this will become the norm. As we approach the next presidential cycle, many question whether we will revert to our traditional practices of respecting the peaceful transfer of power or if Trump’s legacy will continue to promote misinformation and political violence in the future. Others question if the losing party will be able to concede and accept election results, as was previously done, or if more insurrections are yet to come. However, even three years later, the impact of Donald Trump’s influence finds itself in the results of the 2022 midterm election, the inability to soundly select a House Speaker, and the actions of the House GOP during the 2023 State of the Union Address. 

The failed “red wave” and the inability to secure the Republican votes necessary to gain desired control of Congress during the midterm elections stem from years of division under Trump’s presidency, which have created more Republican factions. Due to being unable to their members and independents, Republicans lamented at the sight of a “red puddle.” With Republicans fighting each other over election denial, leadership, and key issues, the party has been unable to unify and work toward its own good. This was made apparent after it took a “historic 15 rounds of voting and a dramatic series of eventsto elect Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House. Difficulty in selecting a house speaker in this country has not occurred in exactly 100 years, when in 1923 Speaker Frederick Gillett (R-Mass.) was elected on the ninth ballot. This may become commonplace should Trump’s influence continue to impact and divide the Republican Party.

Though the inability of the Republican Party to unify posed deleterious effects on the party today, and potentially in the future, the political polarization of the parties in the country is also at an all-time high. As Democrats and Republicans have moved farther apart ideologically today than at any time in the past 50 years, the ability for the parties to coexist and collaborate for the sake of the American people has also been damaged. Even though House Speaker Kevin Mccarthy promised that his members would avoid playing childish games during the State of the Union address, it is evident that the parties hold disdain for each other’s policies and achievements and have abandoned the level of respect demonstrated for the president at such political events. For instance, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene shouted “liar” in response to Biden’s accusation of GOP cuts to Social Security and Medicare and bullshit when Biden discussed proposed action against fentanyl. Perhaps the country must begin to prepare for more unprecedented and unpredictable political events in the future. Though incredibly impactful, the precedent that Trump’s presidency has set has become very dangerous as this country awaits many more instances of political violence, instability, and division.