Nov 7, 2020 - Politics & Policy

The election crisis that hasn't happened

Election officials count ballots in Pennsylvania's Allegheny County on Nov. 6.

Election officials count ballots in Pennsylvania's Allegheny County on Nov. 6. Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

As hard-fought and drawn-out as the final stages of the election have been, the violence many experts feared hasn't materialized so far.

Why it matters: Perhaps it shouldn't be much cause for celebration that the world's oldest continual democracy managed to get through an election without bloodshed. But as divided as the 2020 election showed Americans are, the vast majority of us respected the process — and each other.

What's happening: While protests have continued over the final tallying of outstanding ballots in battleground states, violence appears to have been minimal.

Flashback: This wasn't the outcome many experts were fearing in the troubled run-up to the election.

  • One analyst wrote — with reason — in June that the U.S. was in a state of "incipient insurgency," facing a growth in organized violence from extremist groups.
  • "American institutions may not prove as strong as we would hope," DJ Peterson, president of Longview Global Advisors, told me in September. He laid out the risks in a report published shortly before the election.
  • Yet so far our electoral institutions, the court system and even social media platforms have performed fairly well through the election and the stressful days that have followed.

Yes, but: It's not hard to wonder what would have happened in an even closer election, or one that — like in 2000 — hung on a single disputed state.

  • Assuming Joe Biden does indeed have enough votes to become the next president, it remains to be seen whether President Trump — who continues to deny the legitimacy of the election in what my Axios colleagues have called his "war against reality and truth" — will ultimately concede.
  • Even if Trump refuses, however, the last few days should give us more hope that American institutions will be strong enough to carry the country through regardless.

The bottom line: Whatever your feelings about the ultimate outcome of the election, we should all be relieved that we still remain a country — for now, at least.

Editor's note: This story was updated to include a report by DJ Peterson outlining election risk.

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