Peaceful transfer of power


President Ronald Reagan delivering his inaugural address on the west front of the U.S. Capitol, January 20, 1981.

Ansley Pounds, Assistant Editor-in-Chief

Democracy. The right of the people over which wars have been fought. The right for the people to have control over their own lives.  The right given to the people to have a say in their government and its governance. Most importantly, democracy is the central ideal around which the United States was built.

This past year there have been many unprecedented events and that did not stop when 2020 was left in the rearview mirror. On January 6, 2021, another shocking event occurred as extremist supporters of former President Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol while elected officials were finalizing the electoral college vote that gave the presidential victory to then President-elect Joe Biden.

A peaceful exchange of power between different political parties after presidential terms is one of the pillars of United States democracy, a pillar seemingly undermined and challenged by the violent events of January 6. 

The first peaceful exchange of political parties was in the election of 1800 when Federalist John Adams conceded defeat to Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson. This was a vital moment in the history of American politics because no government had ever peacefully transferred power to others who had differing political opinions before.

This became a tradition that was accepted by all future presidents as they accepted the cycle of American politics and that the election results were what the people wanted. 

“In the eyes of many in the world, this every 4-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle,” former President Ronald Reagan said at his first inaugural address in 1981.

Other countries admired the governmental respect of the voices of the people in the United States. Now, after this revolt over the upcoming transference of power, the United States has lost the strong democratic image in the eyes of other countries especially because the violence was seen by many as incited by the president himself. 

Although this act of insurgence may be viewed by some as patriotic and exercising their rights, it was unlawful in many ways and disrespectful to the government. The first amendment protects the right to peaceful assembly, but this was not peaceful as many elected officials were scared for their lives and the event left five dead.

Current Republican lawmakers and past presidents have denounced this violence and the role that the president played in it.

“I am appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election and by the lack of respect shown today for our institutions, our traditions and our law enforcement,” former President George W. Bush said.

This event may have just looked like some unnecessary violence at the Capitol but it was much more than that. It exposed the current polarization of the United States and disrespected the peaceful transfer of power, one of the most important traditions in American history. 

“This is America. Just as we fight hard when the stakes are high, we close ranks and come together when the contest is done,” former Vice President Al Gore said in his concession speech.

Elections are meant to bring Americans together through the universal acceptance of the decision of the people, but in this case America is more divided than ever over this election. This is discouraging as America is already in trying times as the Coronavirus pandemic rages on.

American democracy needs to be protected at all costs and hopefully the country will work towards more unity in the near future as that is vital for the strength and survival of the nation.