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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Americans, who are used to being winners, now look around and see a country that can't secure its own seat of government... that struggles to distribute a vaccine... that was cyber-looted by Russia... that was half a year late with a stimulus plan both sides wanted... that can't even orchestrate a peaceful transition of power.

Why it matters: This is weakness, not strength. The democracy that President-elect Biden will take over is tattered, archaic, precarious.

By the numbers: The consent of the governed lies at the heart of American democracy. But Biden will lack that fundamental authority.

  • 40% of Americans and 80% of Trump voters say they believe Biden is not the legitimate winner of the 2020 election — the greatest proportion of holdouts in the history of American polling.
  • 145 members of Congress, including 7 Senators, voted to throw out Pennsylvania's Electoral College votes — a move designed to hand victory to the loser of the election.

The big picture: Presidential democracies (think France and Brazil) are prone to crisis at the best of times. None has lasted nearly as long as America's.

  • It was fragile and old even before Trump was elected, burdened with an anachronistic Electoral College, a dangerously long transition between election and inauguration, and a deeply gerrymandered quilt of state and federal constituencies.
  • "You can't lump U.S. democracy in with Canada, Germany, and Japan anymore," Eurasia Group President Bremmer tells Axios. "We’re now midway between them and Hungary."

What's next: If Trump faces criminal prosecution as a civilian, expect the crisis to get worse. On the other hand, if he doesn't face criminal prosecution as a civilian, half the country will take that as a message that the president truly is above the law, and has broad impunity — even when he incites an attempted insurrection.

Our thought bubble, from Axios' Sara Fischer: The erosion of peaceful democracy in America has not occurred in a vacuum. U.S. adversaries, particularly Russia, have long sought to undermine American democracy through sophisticated state-backed cyber and disinformation campaigns.

  • Those campaigns have eroded trust in the press and have muddled the American information ecosystem, fostering a state of chaotic tribalism in the U.S.

Go deeper

Murkowski: House responded to Trump "appropriately" with impeachment

Sen. Lisa Murkowsk. Photo: Greg Nash/Pool via Getty

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) responded to Wednesday's House passage of a single article of impeachment against President Trump, calling the action "appropriate" in a statement, and adding that she would "consider the arguments of both sides" in the Senate trial.

What she's saying: Though she did not say how she will vote, she noted that "President Trump's words incited violence, which led to the injury and deaths of Americans ... the desecration of the Capitol, and briefly interfered with the government's ability to ensure a peaceful transfer of power."

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden readies massive shifts in policy for his first days in office.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.
  6. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

Alexey Navalny detained after landing back in Moscow

Navalny and his wife shortly before he was detained. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was detained upon his return to Moscow on Sunday, which came five months after he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. He returned despite being warned that he would be arrested.

The latest: Navalny was stopped at a customs checkpoint and led away alone by officers. He appeared to hug his wife goodbye, and his spokesman reports that his lawyer was not allowed to accompany him.