The Aftermath of the 2020 Election: The Future of U.S. Democracy

Safae Daoudi, Staff Reporter

Pro-Trump mob storms the U.S. Capitol (Photo/ Getty Images)

The violent riot that occurred on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6 was an attack on democracy, suggesting a troubled period of U.S. history, according to a virtual panel held on Jan 26. 

The panel was organized by Georgetown University in Qatar and moderated by Ahmad Dallal, dean of GU-Q, and featured speakers Amanda Garrett, assistant professor of political science; Anatol Lieven, professor of government; Clyde Wilcox, professor of government; and Trish Kahle, assistant professor of history at GU-Q. 

Panelists discussed the aftermath of the 2020 elections and the significance of the latest events to the future of American democracy. 

The speakers first discussed the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol building when a group of Trump supporters breached the building, sent legislators into hiding and left a police officer and four others dead in a bid to overturn the election result.

Panelists evaluated the gravity of this event and what it could mean for American democracy in the long run. 

Dallal started the discussion by emphasizing that Trump’s claim of election fraud was a desperate attempt to cling to power, which in itself was a grave assault on American democracy. “Is the country truly at a historical crossroads? What is at stake and what is the damage, could it be overturned?” he asked the speakers. 

Garett highlighted the riot as proof that the U.S. is undergoing a deep crisis marked by “economic anxiety over jobs, deep social divide, racial anxiety based on immigration but also the changing demographics of the U.S.” 

Lieven explained that the violent mob occupation of Capitol Hill was not on behalf of the Republican party, considering some Republicans condemned the riot and criticized Trump for inciting the mob after making false claims of electoral fraud. “This is a very serious moment indeed, and American democracy has been damaged,” he said. 

The trend of rejecting election results and contesting recounts in presidential elections is not new, added Wilcox, referring to the 2000 presidential election, which culminated in the Supreme Court’s Bush v. Gore decision, more than a month after election day.

Just like the aftermath of the 2000 elections, there is a possibility that “there will remain a doubt about the legitimacy of the election results,” said Lieven. 

Kahle elaborated on this point by explaining that various aspects of the 2020 elections were “unprecedented” and new, but that distrust of the government has only grown since 2000, especially among “white nationalists” who feel as if they have been “marginalized within the country.”

It is essential for politicians to fully reckon and solve these issues if there is to be hope to “go back to the democratic norms of the American political system,” added Kahle. This can be done by engaging in critical discourse to understand the roots of the problem instead of’ “just papering over the unprecedented nature of the events that happened in Capitol Hill.”

“Some people feel as if American democracy doesn’t serve them anymore; it serves other people,” added Garett. 

Garett highlighted that in such a political climate, “there is a need for healing and addressing these problems before they fester and create further damage.”

In the second half of the discussion, the speakers were asked to offer their insights and analysis of the current political landscape of the two-party system and evaluate the impact of Trump’s presidency on the Republican party’s electability in the coming years. 

Lieven explained that it is unlikely that the Republican party will split between Trumpists and Republicans but that there will be “very intense battles inside the Republican party.” 

Trumpism will remain a strong presence but I don’t think it will be uncontested within the party…I think that the Republican party will be a very troubled political animal in the years to come,” he added. 

Wilcox also echoed this sentiment by explaining that even in this deeply divided political landscape, Trump will likely fade from the public eye. However, this will not prevent “a right-wing faction with white nationalist tendencies to remain active for the foreseeable future.”

Lieven discussed how Republicans will have to deal with after Trump. 

“The big question for the Republican party is how far it will make a difference in how to appeal to Latinos. Because one of the surprising outcomes of this election is that many Latinos voted for Trump,” he said. 

Trump’s rhetoric about immigration and issues of minorities did not stop him from garnering support among Latinos and that this is something Democrats should be mindful of, he added.

Lieven also hypothesized that the Republican party will seek to distance itself from white nationalism in order to secure those votes. “If the Republicans feel compelled to appeal to the Latino bloc, then that would compel them to control the group of white nationalists within the party,” he said. 

Addressing the current administration, Lieven highlighted that if the Democrats want to continue garnering more votes in the years to come, using criticism of the Republican party as a political weapon and “not going overboard on the issue of immigration” will help. 

Lieven conceded that there is certainly a need to “reverse the illegal moves of the Trump administration like separating children from their families and so forth” but he added that “encouraging high immigration again in circumstances of a completely uncertain job market in the future looks extremely unwise and a recipe for disaster.” 

One attendee asked if there is any hope for overturning the damage caused to American democracy after the turmoil the country has been undergoing. 

Kahle explained that from now on, politicians should strive for more inclusiveness. “Politics that try to appeal only to white working families will not work anymore especially in healing the divide in the U.S,” she said. 

Moving forward, politicians need to start thinking about addressing working-class communities’ problems, issues of housing, food stamps, and bridging the racial divide, she added.  

“What happened really exposed the fragility of democracy and …I think more targeted programs are needed to bring people into the folds of everyday life democracy,” she said.

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