Americans, who are used to being winners, now look around and see a country that can't secure its own seat of government... that struggles to distribute a vaccine... that was cyber-looted by Russia... that was half a year late with a stimulus plan both sides wanted... that can't even orchestrate a peaceful transition of power.
- Why it matters: This is weakness, not strength. The democracy that President-elect Biden will take over is tattered, archaic, precarious.
By the numbers: The consent of the governed lies at the heart of American democracy. But Biden will lack that fundamental authority.
- 40% of Americans and 80% of Trump voters say they believe Biden is not the legitimate winner of the 2020 election — the greatest proportion of holdouts in the history of American polling.
- 145 members of Congress, including 7 Senators, voted to throw out Pennsylvania's Electoral College votes — a move designed to hand victory to the loser of the election.
The big picture: Presidential democracies (think France and Brazil) are prone to crisis at the best of times. None has lasted nearly as long as America's.
- It was fragile and old even before Trump was elected, burdened with an anachronistic electoral college, a dangerously long transition between election and inauguration, and a deeply gerrymandered quilt of state and federal constituencies.
- "You can't lump U.S. democracy in with Canada, Germany, and Japan anymore," Eurasia Group President Bremmer tells Axios. "We’re now midway between them and Hungary."
What's next: If Trump faces criminal prosecution as a civilian, expect the crisis to get worse. On the other hand, if he doesn't face criminal prosecution as a civilian, half the country will take that as a message that the president truly is above the law, and has broad impunity — even when he incites an attempted insurrection.
Our thought bubble, from Axios' Sara Fischer: The erosion of peaceful democracy in America has not occurred in a vacuum. U.S. adversaries, particularly Russia, have long sought to undermine American democracy through sophisticated state-backed cyber and disinformation campaigns.
- Those campaigns have eroded trust in the press and have muddled the American information ecosystem, fostering a state of chaotic tribalism in the U.S.