I am often asked to elaborate on the motivating factors that encouraged me to immigrate to the United States. The answer for me is simple: the power of American democracy.
Watching the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to another (especially when they represent different political parties) is one of the most beautiful symbols of our democratic ideals. It is a moment that we can all admire and take pride in regardless of whether our preferred candidate is ascending to power or relinquishing it.
Political scientist Adam Przeworski defines democracy as a system of governance where ruling parties can lose elections. In other words, there must be uncertainty as to who will win the election and the outcome must be respected by all sides. As someone who grew up in an authoritarian state, the tactics of threatening political opponents with criminal prosecution, meddling in conspiracy theories of widespread fraud to question the legitimacy peaceful transition and refusing to accept the will of the people strike me as all too familiar and alarming.
Democratic norms such as close cooperation between outgoing and incoming administrations are the strongest when they are followed every time. Breaking the norms of peaceful transition threatens not only our present, but our future as well. We do not want to create a system where political parties choose to accept alternative realities and dispute the outcome of elections for political expediency. Doing so would be shortsighted at best and undemocratic at worst.
Joseph R. Biden has won the 2020 presidential election. Arguments that there was widespread, system election fraud have failed in the courts of law across the country, and the losing side has been unable to present any credible evidence to support its case. I am not suggesting that the aggrieved party should not have continued access to the courts and due process. However, suggesting that the current administration’s efforts will be successful, absent any credible evidence of systemic fraud, strains credulity.
It is true that openly acknowledging Biden’s win by elected officials can be difficult politically, especially in the deeply red South. Nevertheless, I encourage the elected officials of Louisiana, including our U.S. senators and representatives to put the long-term well-being of our country and our democracy ahead of political expediency. To borrow the words of John F. Kennedy, you should do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard. You are in a position of leadership and should muster the courage to acknowledge reality and lead with dignity and respect for our democratic norms, even when doing so is disadvantageous politically.
Republican, Independent and Democratic leaders alike may have staunch policy disagreements; robust debates on important policy matters make up the essence of our democratic process – they make us better as a nation. There will be a time to passionately dispute these policy preferences and the pendulum of voter preference will always swing back. Transition of power, however, should not be a partisan moment. We must support a peaceful and cooperative transition of power regardless of who wins the election – and in this instance the outcome is clear.
Our policy preferences may label us as Republican, Democrat or Independent. Our commitment to our democratic institutions and norms is what makes us American.
Dmitriy Nurullayev is a Ph.D. candidate at the University.