The transition conundrum

By Ian Teunissen van Manen
North America Analyst

It is now almost two months since the 2020 U.S. General election, and there remain serious concerns over the coming transition of power in 2021. Though President-elect Joe Biden has definitively won, and the election results have been certified (Sherman 2020), Donald Trump has not conceded the election. However, the refusal to accept the 2020 election results goes beyond Trump and the White House: more than 100 Republican members of the US House of Representatives will not admit that Biden won the election, and even went as far as to formally ask the US Supreme Court to “prevent four swing states from casting votes for Joe Biden to seal his victory” (Levine & Gambino 2020).

These actions are problematic by themselves, but when factored into the narratives of voter fraud, mail-in ballot fraud, election fraud, and Trump’s lack of concession, it becomes a much larger problem. The fact is, Joe Biden will be the new president of the United States in January of 2021. He won with a record-breaking 81 million popular votes, 7 million more than Donald Trump (Lewis 2020). It cannot be overlooked, however, that Trump also got 74 million votes. 74 million Americans wanted Trump to remain president, and there are many seeds of doubt and mistrust that have been planted in their minds. If that many people believe the election was fraudulent and illegitimate, there is a significant risk of civil unrest and instability.

There is just over a month before Joe Biden is set to take office as the 46th President of the United States. If Trump does not officially concede the election before then, there will be severe consequences for the state of democracy in the U.S. He would be the first U.S. presidential candidate to not concede in the country’s history (McKeever 2020). Concession, though not a legal requirement, has been a custom in U.S. presidential elections since John Adams, the first U.S. president to lose re-election (McKeever 2020). The purpose of a concession is to promote unity, give closure, and signal that a peaceful transition of power is to be made (Elving 2020). Clearly, these are not priorities for Trump.

As Biden vows to bring the country together, Trump continues to be divisive. Although divisiveness has been a staple of the Trump Administration, this is an occasion that requires civility, decency, and humility. Though the moment demands it, a concession does not seem likely, and there will be consequences as the Biden Administration transitions into power, particularly if other elected officials who will remain in office also feel that the election is illegitimate.



Elving, Ron. “The Tradition Of A Candidate Concession Is Far More Than Mere Courtesy.” NPR. NPR, November 8, 2020.

Levine, Sam, and Lauren Gambino. “Nearly Two-Thirds of House Republicans Join Baseless Effort to Overturn Election.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, December 11, 2020.

Lewis, Sophie. “Joe Biden Breaks Obama’s Record for Most Votes Ever Cast for a U.S. Presidential Candidate.” CBS News. CBS Interactive, December 7, 2020.

McKeever, Amy. “No Modern Presidential Candidate Has Refused to Concede. Here’s Why That Matters.” History & Culture. National Geographic, November 8, 2020.

Sherman, Mark. “Electoral College Makes It Official: Biden Won, Trump Lost.” AP NEWS. Associated Press, December 15, 2020.

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