President Donald Trump on Monday demanded an end to vote recounts that are mandated by state law in Florida — and one expert on authoritarian politics thinks this is a horrible development for American democracy.
Tom Pepinsky, an associate professor in the Government Department at Cornell University and an expert in authoritarian politics, writes on his personal website that Trump’s latest actions undermining the legitimacy of American elections will do long-lasting damage to democratic norms.
“It is now the official White House position that constitutionally-mandated recounts are illegitimate,” he writes. “In a month of harrowing news, this development is still almost incalculably bad for American democracy. I now assume that a substantial minority of Americans believe that the results of the elections in Florida, Georgia, Arizona, and California are democratically illegitimate unless the Republican candidate wins. “
What makes this so dangerous, he says, is that elections’ legitimacy is “nearly impossible” to get back once it’s been thrown away.
He also says that this could open the door for Trump to further abuse his power because he could claim that Democratic members of Congress were only installed by a massive voter fraud conspiracy.
“The downstream consequences from the loss of electoral legitimacy are nearly impossible to predict,” he writes. “I suspect that one consequence will be an ever-greater tolerance for executive malfeasance, on the logic that Congressional representatives and state governments lack democratic legitimacy.”