On Sept. 23 in a press conference, President Donald Trump was asked to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election, and he refused. “Get rid of the ballots, and you’ll have a very — we’ll have a very peaceful, there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation,” Trump said.
The president’s comments violate every principle and letter of the Constitution and threaten the integrity of our democracy itself. The President of the United States would not commit to a peaceful transfer of power. He would not commit to accepting the will of the voters, advocated tampering with actual votes and said he was willing to use violence to stay in power. I am stunned. I have studied, taught and written about American History for over 45 years, the last 30 at Appalachian State University. I teach the Constitution every year. I love the Constitution. I cannot believe that a president would even suggest such a violation of that sacred document.
I have become increasingly concerned at the growing number of Americans who refuse to accept the legitimacy of our presidential elections. Some refused to accept President George W. Bush’s legitimacy in 2000 because the election was decided by the Supreme Court. Some refused to accept the legitimacy of President Barack Obama because he was Black. Some refused to accept the legitimacy of Trump because he lost the popular vote.
The legitimacy of the last three presidents has been questioned by large numbers of Americans, and that should concern us all. Trump is declaring that he himself, the president with the full force and power of the U.S. government at his disposal, is willing to disregard the will of the voters if it does not go his way.
I ask the Watauga County Democratic and Republican Parties if they will commit publicly to the sanctity of the peaceful transfer of power. I ask Cal Cunningham and Thom Tillis if they will commit publicly to the sanctity of the peaceful transfer of power. I ask David Wilson Brown and Virginia Foxx if they will commit publicly to the sanctity of the peaceful transfer of power.
I ask each and every one of us, will we commit to the sanctity of democracy, no matter what the outcome of the election?
Lynne M. Getz, professor of History, I. G. Greer Distinguished Professor of History, ASU